Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Hunting for Agents

At a guess, I'd say that the thing that writers (needlessly) fret about more than anything else is their synopsis - that boring, opaque document that plenty of literary agents hardly bother to read.

But running that particular chore a close second is the search for a literary agent: a headache which (unlike that darn synopsis) genuinely does matter to every budding author.

And in the old days that agent search was typically somewhat haphazard. Sometimes you found who you wanted/needed (assuming that your book was any good, of course). Other times - well, you got who the Fates determined you should get. For better or worse, indeed.

But now, thanks to the magic of the Writers' Workshop, a new system is born. Agent Hunter: a system which covers every literary agent in the UK and which actually gives you the information you are likely to want. What genres do they cover? What is their background? What do they love and what do they hate? What are their submission requirements? And what (shallow, maybe, but it somehow matters) what do they look like?

Agent Hunter provides all this and makes it searchable. So you can look out for "literary agents who represent women's fiction, are seeking to build their client lists and who work in a smaller literary agency". Or, heck, you can search for "the literary agent who represents Maeve Binchy" (or whoever else floats your boat.)

The system is, I hope, intuitive, fast, easy - and cheap. Certain annual directories cost £19. Agent Hunter, beautiful thing that it is, costs just £12. And I know which one I'd rather use ...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

No Lady - No Lamp

Gosh and a-golly. These congrats notices are just pouring in at the moment.

Jane Yeadon's wonderful memoir, No Lady - No Lamp, is to be published by an independent Scottish publisher, Black and White, this September. B&W is a well-established house with strong local connections and an excellent list. I think (and hope) they'll do a terrific job for Jane.

It's also so nice to hear from Jane that we were able to help. She wrote (to her principal editor, Diana Stainforth): I couldn't have done it without you, Diana. I held onto your words of encouragement and advice like talismen and of course Harry's input was fantastic too. Made me feel so supported. Of course, I don't need to tell you about the solitariness of writing but you both made great companions along the way.

It's really rewarding to hear things like this. Very often, with our more talented clients, we feel that all we're doing is giving them a little nudge in a direction that they'd probably have been heading anyway. And perhaps that's true. But writing is a solitary old game, and those little nudges - at the right time, and delivered in the right manner - can be live-savers. I know that well enough from my own experience.

So big fat congrats to Jane. And take a bow, Diana, for your help along the way. Best of luck with the publication process!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Future perfect

Congrats to Tony Bayliss, whose Past Continuous - a sci-fi romance for young adults, if you can get your head round that - has just been taken on by a new publisher, Sparkling Books.

A couple of interesting points. The first is that Tony's book was certainly helped on its way by its success on HarperCollins' site, Authonomy. The book rose to the top of the all time rankings for Romance, and #2 in the all-time rankings for Sci-Fi. HarperCollins itself didn't want the book, but that record was obviously a persuasive factor in Sparkling Books' acquisition decision.

Secondly - and this is something we're coming across more and more - SB isn't offering a load of money upfront and is requiring Tony to work hard on marketing his work. Some authors are concerned that a bigger publisher might have a different working method.

The answer to that puzzle is both yes and no. Of course, the big guys have more money and more resources. But the truth is that authors were badly paid five years ago and are much worse paid now. Zero advance deals from commercial publishers (that is: not vanity publishers in any shape or form) have become more common. Equally, authors jolly well should be working hard to market their work. The bigger houses certainly expect the same.

So well done Tony. Hope SB does a terrific job for you. A genuinely original premise with some very thought provoking development. It deserves to get read.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Congratulations - Roy Carter, Lata Pattni & Leigh Ferrani

It's been a bit of a day today.

First up, monster congratulations to Roy Carter. His MS - a Vatican thriller, yes, but not in any way a Dan Brown knock-off - has been taken on by David Smith at the Annette Green Agency. David loves the MS and is planning to race it straight out to publishers next week. Massive fingers crossing involved in that.

Roy has really done a lot of work on this MS. He had a stunning plot and premise to start with, and the resultant novel has really done justice - more than justice - to that original conception. I think it's got a searingly clever concept and denouement and could do really well. I hope so.

Secondly, massive congrats to the double act of Lata Pattni and Leigh Ferrani. Leigh has ghosted a book proposal for Lata based on Lata's own remarkable story of adversity and triumph. That book proposal has been taken on by a top London agency and will be going out to publishers before too much longer.

Lata is both a very nice person and a very courageous one, so thoroughly deserves success. Leigh has done a wonderful job with the story, so she'll have jolly well earned whatever comes her way as a result of this. Also, it's a good illustration of how a really positive collaboration between subject and ghost is essential to producing a good work. Wherever that collaboration falters or is uncommitted or has the wrong chemistry, the resultant MS is always flawed.

Fingers crossed for all concerned.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Tears of a Stranger

And more congrats are in order. Alan Chance's Tears of a Stranger - a very tight, efficient thriller with a strong premise and plenty of good incidental invention - has been taken on by agent Jonny Pegg.

I've read published books - including some that have sold for loads of £££ - that aren't as proficient as this manuscript, and I think it has a topical, market-friendly feel into the bargain. I certainly hope so. best of luck from here on, Alan - and congrats not just to you, but to Debi Alper, who did her normal excellent editorial job with this. I hope for a big announcement on this front before too long. Fingers crossed, as ever.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Making a Splash

MS sufferer - and cross-Channel swimmer - Mike Taylor has got an agent for his memoir / self-help book. Sam jordison helped with that one, so big congrats all round.

on the whole, we tell clients that the manuscript is everything and not even to think about drafting a cover design. That's strong advice, of course, and it's right 99.99% of the time ... but when the draft cover design in this instance showed a man in speedos, on the shore of the English channel, and using crutches to stand, you know you've got something pretty special.

We wish him well with the next phase of things - whatever happens, it'll be a breeze compared to that Channel crossing.

Monday, 22 February 2010


Just heard that Kathy Bagley - who worked with the great & wonderful Susan Davis - has just signed up with Juri Gabriel, who's a terrific agent with demanding taste & high standards, so well done you Kathy. Fingers crossed that publishers line up to buy your MS!

Kathy says: Catch Me is set in Cornwall and tells of how a family strives to cope with fifteen year-old Jaz, their brilliant but impossibly difficult youngest child.

Promising material that, but today's market is (to use a technical term) a real bugger, so we'll be keeping fingers crossed ...