When I was submitting, I was all about googling questions for agents. I wanted to know what would make me stand out from the pack? What makes an agent cringe? How do I approach an agent? Do they actually read the synopsis and how much of my manuscript would they read before passing? I wanted to know what percentage of the day they spent reading submissions and whether they read on the weekends or during work hours. Literally, I was obsessed with researching. And I think you should be. Agents are the gate-keepers to the publishing world and as my agent, Jade Kavanagh from Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency tells us, most publishers won’t look at a debut writer without having an agent.
I honestly feel so fortunate to have Jade. She’s my wing-woman. She’s my champion who one hundred per cent believes in me and my story and my writing as much as I do. And that’s what you NEED! Someone who will not give up on you, who will keep you motivated, uplifted, strong and excited about writing. Because it’s a loooooooong slog. And you need someone other than your mum or partner to boost your morale. But Jade does a lot more than stroking my ego. As you’ll see below, she handles all the legalities of publishing. She negotiates the contracts, handles the rights and ensures that I get the best deal possible. She basically manages everything so I can write. Pretty cool huh? Here are my questions that I used to google, along with some questions you have asked. Thanks Jade and Camilla for answering these!
What would happen if an author skipped past you and went straight to a publisher?
This does happen and works great for some people, but I think very few publishers take on authors directly without an agent. From our side, an agent acts as an advocate for the author and our goal is always to get the best possible terms and support the author at every step of the process.
What is the likelihood of someone getting an agent?
This is really hard to say. It’s so subjective – huge amounts of the big brand authors all got loads of no’s at the beginning. It happens all the time. We get about 100-120 submissions a week and Camilla tends to take on about 2 authors a year and Holly you’re my first and only client so far so the chances are quite low if you look at it that way. The key is that there is no point having an agent that doesn’t LOVE your book because they won’t go above and beyond for you and be the advocate you and your work deserve.
How polished does the manuscript have to be?
For submission to us it should be in the best condition the author can get it at that point on their own. It’s agent by agent and everyone is different – some agents hate grammar errors, but the small things don’t tend to bother us, if we love it we love it! Mainly for us, all an author needs to do is be sure they are 100% happy with the manuscript as it is and don’t feel they can do any more on it.
Does it matter where a writer lives?
No not at all! I think you and I are testament to that Holly – being in Australia and London! The Agency has authors from all over the world such as Canada, Dubai, the US, Thailand and now Australia!
Especially now with life how it is it’s even easier, with virtual meetings being the norm it really has no negative impact on how an agent and an author can work together.
What does an agent mostly do during the day?
Anything and everything! We have such a varied role, and we cover most of the things in that role every day. These include talent spotting, reading submissions or authors manuscripts and ideas, editing, author care, contract checking and negotiation, keeping an eye on the market, meetings, liaising with editors on all things strategy/sales/marketing/publication plans. In fact, Camilla and I have done all of that today and it’s only 2.30!
Your pet peeve when it comes to submissions?
I don’t really have any and neither does Camilla. Sometimes authors send to agents in one big bulk and you can see all of the email addresses which can be slightly annoying, and it might mean it’s not prioritised but generally we don’t get bothered by the details and if we love the pitch and the writing that’s all that matters!
Do you need a large social media following to grab the attention of an agent?
Absolutely not! The submission is about your ideas and your writing. We read your cover letter of course but we’re not looking for social media following or anything like that. It’s about the story, if we’re connecting with your writing that’s all that matters to us.
What do you look for in a debut?
What I look for in a submission stays the same whether debut or not – I want to open that first chapter and be engrossed and not want to put it down. It’s after the chapters that I look at the covering letter and learn about you, so the main thing is the sample you send us. I want to care about your characters and care about what happens.
How do agents feel about authors writing in multiple genres?
Multiple genres is a tricky one – if it works it works! It depends on the story and the writing. For example, a thriller with a magical realism twist can be very tricky to get right but it’s possible and it could be phenomenal. I’d say as long as you’re sure of what your story is, even if it falls between genres, then you’re in a good position. For example if you can say, the story is (insert genre) with elements of (insert genre).
Thank you, Jade and Cam! I really hope this has been helpful to submitting writers out there. I know how helpful these posts were for me personally.