Jonny Geller, best known literary agent in London, talks about 2018

Literary Agent

Jonny Geller is Joint CEO of Curtis Brown and Managing Director of the books division. He tweets at @JonnyGeller. Here, Norah Myers chats with him about being named in 2017’s Bookseller 100 and his plans for 2018.

1. Congratulations on being chosen for the Bookseller 100! Tell us how the last year has been for you.

Thanks. It was a busy year – as CEO of Curtis Brown, we expanded into live events (acquiring Fane Productions), expanded our comedy and presenters agency by acquiring Debbie Allen’s agency and acquired Ed Victor’s magnificent agency after his sad passing.

As an agent, my year was filled with very different type of books being published. The new le Carre’ was clearly a highlight, not just because it sold 100,000 hardbacks in the UK, but because the author brought back his beloved characters from the Smiley series and produced a masterpiece worthy of its place next to Tinker Tailor. Gordon Brown’s autobiography was a wonderful project to work on, as was the Mandela sequel to Long Walk to Freedom which was finally published after years of planning. Seeing Lisa Jewell hit the number 1 spot after 15 books was brilliant and to see writers like Howard Jacobson, Tracy Chevalier and Sam bourne and Nigella have new books out was a treat. My literary highlights were Jane Harris’ brilliant Sugar Money and short stories by William Boyd. Jane Fallon, Adele Parks, Fiona Neill all had bestsellers and Alice Feeney crashed through a 100,000 sales with her debut thriller, Sometimes I Lie.

2. What will you do differently in 2018 that you might have not done in 2017?

Tough question. An agent should always try different things each year! As so many big books came out in 2017, I hope I’ll have more time to discover new writers in 2018 and concentrate on the big publications coming up – Ruth Jones’ debut Never Greener will be big and Tony Parsons has a thriller out which is always exciting. I would most like to wean myself off email and turn twitter off!

3. What will be most important for your sector of publishing in 2018?

Keep sending out new writers and not listen to the cautious noises we keep hearing from publishers. Keep pressing publishers to prove they are capable of exploiting the rights they are buying – so when they buy audio which has become the battleground of rights at the moment, they must publish it with the same energy as the main format.

4. What are some goals you’ve set for this year and how have you planned to reach them?

More of the same, but better.

5. What advice would you give others in reaching their 2018 objectives?

Relax and don’t worry. Over stressing about goals takes all the energy away from actually achieving them. Ultimately, we are not doctors, so we have nothing to lose but take a few risks, turn up on time and work hard.

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