1/How would you describe your taste in books in three words? Distinctive, relevant, entertaining
2/What books have you worked on in the past? In various different guises: Jean Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Stephen Clarke’s A Year in the Merde and the rest of the merde series, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, Tash Aw’s Map of the Invisible World. Books due to be published in the coming months include a brilliant debut Mr Peanut by Adam Ross, and a new novel from Wendy Law-Yone called The Road to Wanting.
3/Tell me a little about your agency? We’re a boutique agency with a broad reach – we have offices in London, Paris and New York. The list is small, but eclectic and international, and we try to keep it that way. If there’s a project that we love, and believe we can sell well, it benefits from the enthusiasm and expertise of the whole team.
4/What book would you have liked to have agented? Anything by Sarah Waters
5/What inspires you in a writer? Talent, passion, commitment, authenticity – and when the chips are down an ability not to take themselves too seriously…
6/What top tip would you give to an unpublished writer? Be persistent and determined but realistic in your expectations. Email means that everyone is permanently swamped by material and there is only so much anyone can respond to. If your work is good and you keep going you will eventually find a home for it. In the meantime do everything you can to expose your work to readers and the editorial process – any internet or hardcopy magazines, competitions etc.
7/What are you looking for at the moment? Adult fiction with a strong voice and good story, literary and popular non-fiction.
8/You know a huge amount about international rights – what qualities does a book need to become an international bestseller? Some sort of universality – a novel may be domestic in its setting, but if the themes are far reaching and the story is good it can still travel. Non-fiction is more straightforward – a book on British trees, however lovely, is going to be a tough sell internationally. Being very renowned or uniquely positioned to write the book helps – if there is someone in a country who can write a similar book in their own language which will be better suited to the national sensibilities, a publisher will probably commission that rather than undertake a translation.
9/What are you working on at the moment? A non-fiction proposal on Iran, a beautifully written and disturbing literary novel, and a fabulously funny commercial novel about the fashion PR world… Quite a range! But they are all projects that I love and that I believe in absolutely. Then there are books already under contract: Stephen Clarke’s 1000 Years of Annoying the French, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s next book Nomad, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir…
10/How do you see the publishing industry changing over the next five years? The million dollar question. From a writer’s point of view there are more and more ways for them to take their work to market themselves, and I’m sure we’ll see growth in the self-publishing route. I’m bound to say this, but I do believe that, in whatever format, the process of selection and refinement that comes with an agent and an editor has great value. I think we’ll see paradigms turned on their heads and new ways of doing things but I don’t think it needs to be all bad, if we can avoid a single player becoming too powerful. As a publisher said recently: It’s never as bad as it seems and it can always get worse!
Kerry Glencorse studied Classics at Oxford and Political Science in Paris. After a brief stint as a management consultant, she worked for Susanna Lea Associates in Paris for several years, then for David Godwin Associates in London, and now runs the London office of Susanna Lea Associates. www.susannalea.com