Q and A with masterclass speaker, agent Sarah Such

Q/Please could you give me a brief biog.
A/Sarah Such has worked in publishing for over 20 years holding senior positions across editorial, marketing and publicity. She began her career in 1990 at Random House in the Children’s division, moving to Chatto & Windus as Press Officer then Marketing and Publicity Manager. She was appointed Publicity Manager at Penguin Books, becoming Head of Publicity and ultimately Publicity Director of Penguin UK, with corporate responsibilities. She later joined 4th Estate as Commissioning Editor, becoming Senior Editor at Hodder & Stoughton and Editorial Director of Duckworth Publishers.  She founded Sarah Such Literary Agency in 2007 since when she’s been shortlisted twice consecutively for Literary Agent of the Year at The Bookseller Industry Awards 2013 and 2014.   sarahsuchliteraryagency.tumblr.com
Q/What are you working on at the moment?
A/ Under submission to publishers with three different projects across fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. Reading and assessing several new proposals from existing authors and potential new clients.  Two are outlines for two new fiction series.  One is a memoir (i.e. non-fiction).  Reading the new manuscript of a major commissioned non-fiction work by one of my authors.  Negotiating a new novel book deal for one of my clients.  Assessing exact global sales of bestselling writer Vina Jackson as royalty statements and sales figures officially come in from around the world.

Q/How would you sum up your tastes in books?
A/One of the reasons for starting my own agency was that I have very broad reading taste. I’ve worked in literary and commercial roles and my list reflects this.  My authors and their books range from literary biography (Syd Barrett biography, Faber & Faber); (Art of Camping by Matthew De Abaitua (Hamish Hamilton) to literary memoir (Bluebird by Vesna Maric (Granta) longlisted for the Orwell Prize, BBC Radio 4 book of the week) and from very commercial ‘women’s’ writers such as Vina Jackson (Eighty Days Series, Orion, translated in 23 languages) to contemporary literary fiction novelists such as Nick Barlay.   I represent quality commerical writers such as The Bookseller’s Caroline Sanderson who wrote the bestselling biography of Adele recently. On the other side of the story telling spectrum there is my author graphic novelist John H Dunning, who together with Paul Gravett has just curated the major retrospective exhibition at the British Library, Comics Unmasked.   On the children’s side, I represent million-selling Horrible Science illustrator Tony De Saulles, and Antony Johnston who adapts Anthony Horowitz’s  bestselling Alex Rider series into graphic novels.  Both are the best in their field.
Q/What are you looking for at the moment?
A/ I’d like to find a really exciting thriller that made me gasp.  I’m also looking for a big love story for the 21st century. As well as original and exquisitely written non-fiction on intriguing subjects.  Primarily I’m looking for originality and work that excites me whatever the genre.

Q/And your top tip for an unpublished author?

A/Hone your craft.  Try your best to build up a readership/platform to support your work. Don’t submit to an agent until it is in the possible best shape. Keep writing and sharpening your skills while waiting for responses to all submissions.  It’s an ongoing process and will take time. While not for everyone, accredited creative writing courses can be really fruitful for many new writers.  And introduce writers to the business.   In my view, if a writer is serious about their work and is original and good enough their work will surface despite huge competition.

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