Sarah Williams, of the Sophie Hicks Agency, began building her list in 2011. It’s largely comprised of debut writers: be it a first novel by the critically acclaimed Sarah Bannan, a debut cookbook by food writer Maunika Gowardhan or a first book by the Times science editor Tom Whipple about how to win games and beat your friends.
I love my submission pile and there is nothing more exciting than finding an absolute gem amongst the hundreds of manuscripts that I’m sent every year. Don’t worry if you’ve never been published before or you don’t know anyone who works in the book business. If you have a great story, characters that make you feel something (good or bad!) and writing that springs off the page, I can’t wait to read your book.
I love books that break the rules. Life is full of rules and I think we read books to free ourselves of that. You can’t write an entire novel in the anonymous second person plural? Sure you can. Weightless by Sarah Bannan did this and publishers were just as knocked over by the emotional impact of it as I was when it landed on my submission pile.
One of the best novels I’ve read in the past few years is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. You are immediately drawn to the central character who is complex and so well-developed, the story is original and quirky and even though you can see from miles away what the twist is, it’s no less surprising when you get there. And emotionally, the novel has huge, huge impact. I’m always on the lookout for similarly paced, engaging stories that surprise and overwhelm me.
I don’t represent science fiction or dystopian novels, simply because it’s not an area that I read within myself. But a sweeping multi-generational family novel like Eugenides’ Middlesex is high on my wish list; as is a good, solidly built thriller. I’d love to find the next Natsuo Kirino. She’s one of the best crime writers writing today and her books are devastating without being too twisted or severe. Smart, dark novels don’t all need to contain a big twist! I see so many thrillers that build towards a twist but aren’t skilled or engaging enough to really satisfy the reader. A good story is always better than a contrived plot point.