Our brand new Writers' Tuesday Series, What An Agent Wants, begins today!
We'll be asking our esteemed agent panel a question a week for the next ten weeks and publishing the answers right here for you guys. This week...
What DOES an Agent want?
Please describe your perfect women's fiction author and book submission
Madeleine Buston of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency
I really want to read something original with an extremely compelling voice. I want an author who has a long-term vision of success and plans to write book after book after book. I have a space for an author like Maggie O’Farrell.
Laura Longrigg of MBA Literary Agents
An agent wants an author who can win the Costa Prize and be a bestseller of course.
Seriously…authors are perfect when they produce a wonderful book, on time, with minimum editing needed.
A book submission should follow the guidelines laid out on an agent’s website/Writers' and Artists' Yearbook entry. A short synopsis, a bit of information about the author, some comparisons/influences among published writers, and any useful hooks, like creative writing course attended, short story competition success, published journalism etc . Other non publishing achievements like walking the length of the Amazon or presenting a TV programme always welcome.
Hannah Ferguson of The Marsh Agency
Firstly, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘perfect’ author or book submission, not in terms of something a different author can aspire towards anyway, all authors and submissions are different and unique, and that’s what makes them great. I think what helps make a good submission though is a clear and concise layout and an honest and personable approach. An author that can grab my interest and make me feel enthused to read more is what generally makes me want to ultimately jump on the project.
Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow Literary Agency
This is quite tricky to answer because I have truly eclectic taste in fiction written for women. I love novels by Jilly Cooper, Katie Fforde, JoJo Moyes Marian Keyes and my client Grace Wynne-Jones just as much as books by Helen Dunmore, Raffaella Barker, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Esther Freud and Julie Myerson.
But if I think about what attracts me to all these writers, it has to be that they all create strong, memorable characters, describe the natural world convincingly, and have an acute sense of time and place. So I’m looking for all those qualities in a submission, and if I’m made to laugh or get a bit teary then that’s a good sign too.
Sarah Lutyens of Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency
The material would be clearly and straightforwardly presented with enough backgound information but not too much. My perfect author is a wonderful writer (naturally), who really wants to make a career as a writer, has a very well-developed sense of humour, a sense of proportion, respect for boundaries and a resilient spirit!
Diane Banks of Diane Banks Associates
First and foremost, I'm looking for a plot and characters which are relevant to today's market. I'm instantly turned off by the phrases “romantic comedy”, “glamour novel” or “feelgood romp”. My list is one of the most commercial around, but these subgenres are outdated. It never ceases to amaze me how many aspiring novelists have failed to do any market research before writing their novel. Secondly, you'll need to have taken care to follow our submissions guidelines if you want us to look at your submission favourably.
Sheila Crowley of Curtis Brown
Perfect to me is when I begin reading and my neck starts tingling and I am immediately drawn into the story. I want stories with emotional pull and where I really care for the characters. As I represent Crime as well as ‘Women’s Fiction’ the same would apply here. Also, in the current climate Readers are looking for inspiration in the books they read and something that may have a dilemma at its core.
Author/Agent connection is most important and I always try to meet up with authors before I take them on, hence the majority of my Clients are based in the UK and Ireland. By meeting in person, one gets a good feel of how the working relationship will develop.
Do let us know what you think of our new series and our agent answers in the comments below.
Next week we ask the agents if Chick Lit is dead...