Q and A with top agent, Cathryn Summerhayes

London Writers’ Club asked Cathryn Summerhayes, agent with the William Morris Agency, some quick fire questions:

1/How would you describe your taste in books in three words? Contemporary, innovative, quirky

2/What is the best and worst thing about your job? Best- meeting authors, getting out and about to literary fairs, readings. Worst – contracts.

3/What are you working on at the moment? Lots. Superfreakonomics just published so boys are touring the UK. Final edit on debut author, Naomi Wood’s novel, the Godless Boys, Richard Milward’s film deals for Apples and Ten Story Lovesong, half a dozen American book deals, two rock star autobiographies. The list is kind of endless! 

 4/What book would you have liked to have agented? The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

5/What inspires you in a writer? A totally unique voice, bravery, inventiveness, ability to let go of their work and let editors help them, ability to read their work aloud. 

6/What top tip would you give to an unpublished writer? Get out there as much as possible. Go to every literary event you can, in bookshops, bars, libraries. Meet people who will read your work in the future – make a name for yourself before you even have a book deal.

7/What’s the most common mistake writers make in submission letters? Telling you whose writing they think their work is like. We don’t need a new Martin Amis, we need a totally new voice. 

8/What writer would you like to have round for tea? Haruki Murakami

9/What could writers do to promote themselves and their writing? Enter short story competitions, write for journals, go to open mic reading nights and bookslams – start a writers’ group where you all share and comment on each others’ work. 

10/How do you see the publishing industry changing over the next five years? I don’t believe the digital revolution will take over totally but there will certainly be an increase in people reading books on ‘readers’ or hand-held devices. I’d like to think that the cult of celebrity will collapse and we will emerge from the recession into a world that is hungry for new literary talent. 


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