Tag: agent

Kate Burke

Insights from a publisher-turned-agent: Interview with Kate Burke

Kate Burke is the fiction literary agent at Northbank Talent Management, having joined in 2013, and represents a variety of bestselling and prize-winning authors. Before that, she was a fiction editor for ten years, working at Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House. 

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Interview with Literary Agent Diana Beaumont

Diana Beaumont joined Marjacq in 2017; she started agenting with Rupert Heath Literary Agency in 2011 before moving to UTA. Before that she was senior commissioning editor at Transworld. Diana was chosen as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars of 2012. Here Norah Myers interviews her.

1) What do you most look forward to in your new role?

I am looking forward to taking on new clients, developing my existing list and working with the friendly, dynamic team at Marjacq which has been expanding in recent years. I am also keen to explore the local area as our office is right in the heart of London with so much fascinating history as well as great places to eat.

2) Why is it important to you to find voices that are under-represented?

There has been a lot of talk about diversity (or lack thereof) in the publishing world so it’s important to put our money where our mouth is.  We need strong storytellers and writers who reflect our richly diverse society more than ever. And I want people to feel welcome to submit their work whatever their background.

3) You were an editor before you became an agent. How has that influenced your work as an agent?

I always loved working closely with authors on their manuscripts and it’s an increasingly important part of the role of an agent. Manuscripts have to be as polished as possible before you send them out. One of the things I love about being an agent is being involved in a project from its inception. It’s also useful to have an insight into how a publishing company works  – it can be helpful to authors to understand what happens once you send their book out.

4) What advice would you give your younger self?

I think I would advise my younger self to spend less time worrying about things and just get on with it. What’s the worst that could happen? Really?

5) What advice would you give other agents who would like to find under-represented voices?

I’m not sure that other agents need my advice but social media is useful – putting your intentions out there. I am also approaching people who strike me as having something interest or pertinent to say. But I would say that we could all do with reaching out more.

5 Tips for starting out as an agent

Hattie Grunewald is an agent at Blake Friedmann agency. She assists Carole Blake, handles short fiction and permissions on behalf of Blake Friedmann clients, and has been building her list since the start of 2016. Hattie is looking for women’s fiction, crime and thrillers, and realistic YA and middle-grade fiction. In non-fiction, she is looking for personal development, accessible books about politics, economics and science, and funny and clever narrative non-fiction.

1. Get out and meet writers

Agents are nothing without writers so when you’re first starting to build your list it’s important to meet as many as possible. I’ve been going to writers’ groups, holding pitching sessions and Q&As and taking every opportunity that comes my way to introduce myself to the writing community. It builds my profile, prompts hundreds of polished, high-quality submissions and broadens my sphere of contacts – and you never know when you’re meeting the next bestseller.

2. Say yes to every invitation

It’s not just important to meet writers – agenting is a relationships business and it’s vital to build contacts in publishing houses, scouting agencies and with your colleagues in agenting. Networking when you’re new to the industry and don’t know anyone can be very daunting, but whether it’s coffee with an editor or a huge summer party, it’s important not to pass up any opportunity that will broaden your network.

3. Always follow up and say thanks

It’s vital to follow up with any new contacts via email. Not only is it basic manners to thank people for a party invitation, lunch or half an hour of their time, it also confirms that they have your details and can contact you if they wish, and can reinforce a good impression of you. And it’s not just for the hosts – if you have a great discussion with someone at a party, a follow-up email can take that contact to the next level… and the next time you go to a party, you know you’ll have a friend.

4. Find your own USP

As agents we’re very used to coming up with ‘Elevator Pitches’ for our clients, but often we spend less time thinking about how to pitch ourselves. But agenting is becoming increasingly competitive, with new agents and agencies springing up every week, and it’s important to think about how to make yourself stand out, both to clients and to editors. This is about both the kind of agency you work for – and talking to your colleagues might help clarify this – and your own identity as an agent. Getting a clear idea of your tastes and preferences will not only help you locate new talent, but will also let authors know why they should come to you.

5. Look for the silver lining

When you’re first starting out as an agent, there can be a lot of disappointment – whether it’s a book that doesn’t get sold or a dream author who chooses another agent. It’s important to stay positive, confident and optimistic. You can often learn more about an editor’s tastes from a rejection than an offer, and either way you have made a new contact. Every setback teaches you lessons you can learn from next time round – and when it comes, your success will be even sweeter for it.


How agents handle rejection: Juliet Pickering interview

Juliet Pickering is an agent at Blake Friedmann, representing a list of both fiction and non-fiction authors. Her interests range from literary to bookclub fiction, from memoir and humour to food and gender issues. You can follow her on twitter @julietpickering – here Norah Myers interviews Juliet about handling rejection.

1) Please tell us about a recent submission you made that an editor rejected. How did you use the rejection to determine the next steps?

Manuscripts are rejected all the time! It’s part of the process: if I’m sending a novel to 15 editors, 14 of them may not love it as much as I do but our role is all about finding the one (and hopefully more!) editor and publishing team, that will.

If we don’t succeed in a first round submission then the author and I take stock of the feedback, we might want to edit the manuscript accordingly and then make a fresh submission.

2) How have you learnt to deal with rejection as part of your relationships with publishers?

It’s part of the job. There are some rejections that are harder to accept than others – if the editor loved it too but has been unable to get the support of their colleagues, for example – but it means that the agent and author regroup, take on board the responses from publishers, and think about the best way forward.

3) Has rejection helped you better assess why a book might or might not work?

Absolutely. I try harder than ever to pre-empt any publishing concerns before a book goes to editors (by editing the book with the author), but for each publishing team the concerns will be slightly different.

4) How has rejection helped you become a better negotiator?

I don’t think rejection helps negotiation as much as it’s helped build my knowledge of the publishing industry. The parameters of publishing successfully are always changing, along with the market, so I feel better equipped to send a new book to editors when I know the teams behind them – the teams who express their views on submissions I’ve made and reveal their approach to publishing in doing so.

5) How would you coach a new agent through their first few rejections?

I think it’s very important to trust your instincts: every single agent in the business deals with rejections, but arming yourself with editors’ likes and dislikes, and an effective pitch, means you’re making informed submissions and doing the best you can. You have to keep trying, and be ready to manage the authors’ expectations along the way. I pass on all the responses from editors to my authors, so they know the reasons for a yes or a no. It’s important to be honest and open.

Ultimately, we take on our authors because we believe they’re great writers and have several books ahead of them. If we can’t sell a book, we’ll work with them to find an idea for a book that will succeed.

6) What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through being rejected?

To always treat authors kindly and with respect; the rejections that show an editor clearly read and considered a submission I made, make all the difference and soften the blow.

Five things every Agent’s Assistant needs

Alice Sutherland-Hawes works as assistant to Hilary Delamere at The Agency (London) Limited where she assists on a client list which includes Malorie Blackman and Michael Bond. She’s a Chatterbooks Ambassador and is working up a few of her own picture book ideas.

1) Be able to learn very quickly

My second week was Bologna Book Fair so my boss was away and for the most part, uncontactable. To say I was thrown in the deep end is quite an understatement! Being able to pick things up quickly is a huge advantage in this environment because there will be times when your boss isn’t around to go over something again with you and it’s essential that you know what you’re doing with contracts, invoices and royalty statements, as well as everything else!

2) A great knowledge of your agent’s taste in books

Quite often it’s the assistant who is one who reads submissions first. They have to get through you before their work is seen by the agent. This means you have to know what your agent is looking for, and what they do and don’t like. I know my boss doesn’t go for high fantasy and I know what sort of thing she’s looking for. I get around thirty submissions a week so it makes it far easier when I’m sifting through them to know what I’m looking for.

3) Lists

I mean, organisation goes without saying but lists are your best friend. It’s your job to know what the clients are doing, where they are in their schedules, whether invoices need to be sent and of course, your boss’s diary. So lists, lists, lists. I have my daily to-do list, my monthly to-do list for ongoing projects, a list of all our clients and what they’re up to and an outstanding invoices list, to name a few. It means whenever my boss asks me something I know exactly where to look for the answer and I know what all our clients are doing, how many projects they have and where their payments and contracts are.

4) The ability to work on your own

Working in an agency usually means you’re only working for one or two people. I work for one agent so when she’s busy or away, I’m on my own. You’ve got to be able to handle things and solve problems by yourself. Occasionally that means a stop-gap until your boss is available but there are times when it’s all down to you. Along with this you’ve got to be unflappable. When you’re scheduling Bologna and London meetings at the same time whilst preparing rights catalogues and portfolios, as well as doing everything else the job usually requires, things can feel quite manic. Keeping a cool head and being able to manage everything yourself is essential.

5) An unquenchable appetite for reading

This might seem obvious but I’m not sure it’s clear just how much reading is involved until you’re at the desk. To give you some idea, I read three full manuscripts last Thursday. This isn’t reading for pleasure – this is reading and reporting on manuscripts as well as going through the slush pile which can be…interesting. A lot of the time you’re reading outside of work as well so you really, really need to love reading, whatever the story is.

literay agent

The top 5 skills a literary agent needs

This is a guest post by Rory Scarfe. Rory spent several years as a non-fiction publisher before becoming a literary agent, where he has worked with a range of authors across fiction and non-fiction. Here he lists his tip 5 skills  that an agent needs.

This list is highly subjective. It reflects what I have learned and the skills that I want to continue developing (among countless others). We operate in a fast-changing business but these are the top skills that, to me, will remain at the core of being a good agent.

1) Expectation management

This doesn’t mean setting your sights low. Yes, in part, it’s about protecting your client from disappointment but it’s also about stressing the uniquely wonderful things that publishing can offer. To take a well-worn, but true, example; a Premiership footballer on £100k p/week won’t see much commercial incentive in writing a memoir, yet the magic of publishing a book could be very real and persuasive. We need always to remember the specialness of our industry.

2) An eye for detail

I have to make an admission: as a publisher I was sometimes guilty of overlooking the finer details of a deal (to be absolutely honest, after the excitement of winning a book it could feel boring and secondary). As an agent, that sort of thinking will get you shot, and rightly so. Those details can equate to a substantial difference in an author’s prospects and are as integral to the deal as the top-line figure. When it comes to deal-making, eternal vigilance is the order of the day.

3) Boldness

Remarkable people write remarkable books all the time and if you don’t send that letter you’ll never know. Enthusiasm can be infectious. You just might be the one who persuades that legendary figure to dust off their typewriter and rock the publishing world. There’s nothing to be lost by asking, so leave your shame at the door. The same goes for deal-making: sometimes you have to trust your gut and believe your author can do better, even if that means being prepared to walk away.

4) Resilience

Publishing, for all concerned, is a business of ups and downs and as an agent your job is to play both the cheerleader and schoolmaster. When the publisher’s attention slips (God forbid), or when an author despairs, you have to be there to crack the whip and rally the crowd. As an agent, you seek always to pitch somewhere between approachability and firm-ness. No-one wants to work with an a**hole, but nor does it benefit an author to have a puppy dog in their corner.

5) A collaborative spirit

You hear stories of semi-mythical ‘glory days’ of agenting, when an author earning out meant only that their agent had failed to get them a suitably whopping advance. Of course, today, the object is always to secure your author the best possible compensation, but we’re also playing the longer game. Will a publisher follow through on their promises? Do they have the vision to work with your client to build that author’s career? These are the pressing questions that can unlock the best kind of success.

The first ELT Agent [INTERVIEW]

Nick RobinsonFor anyone who has been reading my previous BookMachine posts you will notice that I’ve been writing a lot about people in the ELT industry. The last post looked at a group of ELT publishing specialists who have set up ‘ELT Teacher 2 Writer’  where teachers register to a database designed to help publishers find new authors and content. They also provide training and development opportunities for authors to help write their materials.
This time I interviewed Nick Robinson about being the first ELT Agent and how he set up his company ‘Nick Robinson ELT Author Representation’.

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