It was a great event yesterday with agent, Kate Burke, who gave some brilliant, straightforward advice to our members. Following are some notes from the event:
Kate has been an agent there since January (previously worked on the other side of the fence at Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House) so really knows how the industry works from the inside. Why did she decide to become an agent? She loves the creative process of working closely with an author, her focus is finding new authors – and selling debut writers. Diane came from rights in a publisher and set up the agency 8 years ago – she focuses on non-fiction. Kate works on fiction – she is building up her list at the moment but doesn’t have a specific number of clients – but it can be 10 or so authors a year signed up to her list.
Kate works with authors to ensure that they get the very best deal – and negotiates, on their behalf, the best terms. The agency sells translation rights and film/tv rights in house – rather than using sub agents. This means they can work on author’s global success and can really take ownership of an author’s career. Kate aims to create brand authors with repeat deals.
Diane’s list includes writers of memoir, popular science, cook books, journalism , ghost writers etc. The agency’s commission is 15% for home and 20% for deals done abroad and film/tv rights.
She works closely with writers – and has a great degree of editorial input. She wants any book she sends out to be high quality and pitch perfect. Editors are now insisting on the finished article.
Kate represents 10 to 12 commercial fiction writers – from romance to historical, YA to crime (no children’s books).
If she is interested in a book, she will initially phone the author to discuss any editorial changes which need to be made – she needs to know that the author will put the hard graft in. Her first author sold in five days at auction and she has just sold the 15th translation deal for that novel. Her second was sold, again at auction, and is a historical novel set in the 1830’s.
She is looking for more crime/thrillers. And some serial killers! And sci-fi and fantasy.
Commercial fiction – what is it?
There is no rule – for Kate it is more about the audience/reader. Commercial fiction has mass market appeal. It has relatable characters – the story feels accessible. Literary fiction – which is more focussed on the meaning and has different layers.
What is Kate looking for?
2/Psychological suspense – domestic setting/female central character
4/Detective series – not traditional man in his 40’s etc. Something new!
She has a TWO WEEK TURNAROUND for submissions. The fastest agent in the West.
Think about self-publishing – she plucked her first book, Fractured, from the self-published route on Amazon. Altitudes are changing towards self publishing.