We have an author who wrote a wish-list – covering everything from money to passion to PR – and gave it to us, saying ‘this is what I want from my publisher’. It got me thinking what my wish-list would be for the ideal author. NB all agents’ wish-lists would differ; such is the beauty of this creative-business. What are the points on my wish-list?
1/Brilliant writing – I want the writing to be original and I want to be completely absorbed when I read it. Distractions are a constant – especially as I work from home – but when I have a great manuscript in front of me, I close the door and that’s it, til I finish. I read Marcus Sedgwick’s new book this morning – his work is always wonderful and a gift to sell.
2/Passion and commitment to writing – I want my authors to love writing and to be wholly committed to being a writer. This doesn’t mean that they have to give up their day jobs, some people truly write ‘on the edges of the day’ (Toni Morrison) – check out Twitter to see who is up at 6am hammering away at the computer. The minute the writing becomes a chore, it ceases to be a fun – this doesn’t mean there won’t be tough times, writing a book is really hard – but the passion has to be there.
3/Professionalism – I love a bit of maverick-behaviour. I love the creative spirit but it’s a business at the end of the day and I need writers to respond to emails and phone calls, to sign agreements and to be professional.
4/Seeing the bigger picture – I represent the journalist and author, Suzy Greaves, who is currently writing her next book. But she’s not just writing the book, she’s working on the bigger picture. This is easier to do for non-fiction, than fiction, but she’s already set up a slot on BBC Radio Kent, is about to launch a blog and website connected to the book and is pitching articles and columns to national newspapers. She bubbles with ideas and I love that.
5/Flexibility – I don’t edit my authors’ manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb but I do offer comments here and there, that I consider important. Whether these comments are taken on board or not, are always the author’s decision but I’d like to think they are considered – if eventually ignored!
6/Looking into the future – authors should always be aware of what they will be writing next – the second book is always, I think, the hardest book to write – and sometimes takes the longest so it’s good to be thinking of the future. Publishers will ask the question: what is she/he writing next? So I like authors to be thinking long-term.
7/Likeability – quite simply I need to like all my clients. Publishing and agenting is a curious mix of business, creativity and people and to get the blend right, for me I need to like not just the writing but the person.
If you are a writer, ask yourself what are the seven points on your wish-list that you truly want from an agent or a publisher? Be honest – what are your priorities – money? Recognition? Someone to champion you and your writing? Have your list handy – well, in your head – when you meet agents. Be clear about what you want and you will be far more focussed and ready for when an agent comes your way.