Q and A with agent, Kate Burke

1/Please could you give us a brief biog.

I’m a literary agent at Diane Banks Associates, a successful literary, TV and film agency and, though I do handle some non-fiction, my primary focus is on finding new fiction writers (for both adult and teen audiences) and getting them publishing deals. I handle book, tv and film rights for my clients, and negotiate deals for them with UK and international publishers. Before becoming an agent earlier this year, I spent ten years as a fiction publisher at Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House, where I published many women’s fiction, historical and crime and thrillers bestsellers.

2/What have you sold recently?

Lots of women’s fiction! I had multiple auctions on the go recently for Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, a hauntingly beautiful historical novel set in two time periods (1890s and 1930s), which will be published in 2015 by Penguin, and I have just sold Polish rights at auction in a high-concept love story,Fractured by Dany Atkins, who is a self-published author that I discovered earlier this year. This book will be published in thirteen countries (so far!) – the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Hungary and Poland – and there is a lot of interest in the film rights too.

3/What are you working on at the moment?

I’m always editing and developing manuscripts with new clients so, at the moment, I’m working with one author on a nostalgic novel set in Bethnal Green, east London, during the Blitz and with another author on a sweeping love story set in England and Greece, told in flashback over a period of three years. I’m also working on a teen novel – potentially the first in a trilogy – set under the sea. Never a dull moment!

4/What author/book would you have liked to have represented?

Tricky one! I adore thrillers and am always looking out for new thriller writers so, if I had been an agent a few years ago, I would have loved to have represented Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson. An original and gripping thriller with a good twist – just my kind of thing.

5/What three authors would you invite round for tea and cake?

Excluding my own lovely authors for a minute, I would invite Stephen King (who I’ve been reading since I was ten), Judy Blume (she helped me through my teenage years!) and Margaret Atwood who is just a genius.

6/Finally, what top tip would you give to an unpublished and unagented author?

Try to get an agent. I promise I’m not just saying that because I am one but I do think it’s so important to have someone to give you editorial guidance on your work as well as being able to explain all the facets of the publishing industry (editorial, financial, publishing process, sales, marketing, publicity, marketplace) to you. There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing – lots of writers have had success with it – but my top tip would be, in the first instance, to send your manuscript to lots of agents in the hope that one will sign you.

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