It happened it quite an organic way. I was already working with Rupert but with main focus on editorial matters and one or two projects came along and I thought 'I can do this.' I enjoy agenting and there is a creative element as you work with an author to develop and shape as manuscript that runs alongside the pitching and negotiating that I like.
What are you looking for?
Intelligent psychological thrillers, women's commercial fiction with either an element of suspense or that tackles big themes. Some of the most successful authors in this area such as Marian Keyes and Jojo Moyes manage to combine some of the difficulties people face in life with humour and heart which is such an appealing combination. Crime series especially with a female protagonist although that certainly is not a prerequisite. Historical fiction that treads new ground. Contemporary fiction with a strong hook and original voice. I already represent a number of funny, smart, young feminist writers and am always interested in what this new generation of women have to say (and write).
How important do you think platform is for aspiring writers?
There is no doubt it helps but the quality of the writing and area of the market you are writing for is important too. It is not everything, though and sometimes authors, in conjunction with publishers and agents, can work to develop that platform once the book is out. It is increasingly important for writers to engage in some kind of conversation with readers and that might be through a blog, additional content, Twitter or publicity appearances.
Which book do you wish you had agented?
I loved Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty which was published by Faber & Faber. An intelligent, gripping psychological thriller with a complex female protagonist and a jaw-dropping twist. She also writes so well about a woman in her 50s and all the mixed emotions that go along with that. I also liked The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh (Tinder Press) a lot. Sexy, high-concept writing that also has a twist at the end. Both books were published brilliantly.
My background is in editing so that's always crucial part of the process and needs to be in the current climate so I try to be as hands on as possible. My experience of working with various publishers means that I understand the process at their end and try to tailor any manuscript or proposal so that it appeals as much as possible. We always try to look at the overview and their career as a whole rather than just a book at a time.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Diana Beaumont?
Part of what makes this job so interesting is that no day is ever quite the same. I'll need to check emails from clients, publishers and authors hoping to get published. Then there are phone calls with authors and publishers especially when you're pitching a new project. I meet up sometimes with clients and sometimes have lunch or coffee with publishers as it is important to establish relationships with them and know what they are looking for. There's editing and reading, of course, as well so sometimes I get out my red pen. I work from home as I have twin boys who have now started school so pick them up a few times a week so work often spills over into the evening but I'm trying to get better at switching off my Blackberry rather than incessantly checking it. Launch parties from time to time add a touch of fun and I think it's important to celebrate authors' achievements. I also read manuscripts in the bath and have, so far, managed to avoid any accidents.
What is your favourite book?
There are so many that choosing one feels a bit like Sophie's Choice but Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, Middlemarch by George Eliot, An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan, anything by Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan's earlier novels, ditto Helen Dunmore, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons for laughs, Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love for comfort and Shirley Conran's Lace as it's one of the best blockbusters ever.
Please describe your ideal author and submission.
I like to work with different types of people but it's great to work with authors who are talented, focused, hardworking and ambitious but with a sense of humour. It also helps to have writers who deliver on time and like to work in a collaborative way. The best submissions say what they need to in a few paragraphs and pique your interest straight away. So, a great title, strong concept, excellent writing plus some useful, relevant biographical information. We don't expect anything to be perfect – it's about spotting talent and potential.
What are your top five tips for getting an agent?
1. Write a strong pitch letter with a clear description of what you are writing and for what market is
2. Try to find the right agent for you and do your research – it drives me mad when people write 'Dear Sirs' and can't be bothered to look up your name.
3. Be proactive – I have taken on a client who first got in touch via Twitter or have approached me because they know one of my other clients. You can also meet agents at many literary festivals and Writer's Workshops so get their card or email address.
4. Be courteous – it always helps.
5. Show that you are serious about writing.
You can read Diana's submission guidelines here.