Q&A with a literary agent



hi everyone this is Jen from RIT moms and we are here today on Brit mums TV speaking with Amanda Preston who is a literary agent with LBA hi Amanda I know we've also got joining us Helen Neil from sticker stars and smiles and Marianne Huli from Morrie's world who's also our brilliant blog editor hello ladies alive so let's start off I mean everybody hears a lot about agents if they are thinking of writing a book there a lot of bloggers out there who are thinking of writing either fiction or non-fiction works tell us what exactly do agents do well agents are the middleman between authors and publishers so we know what publishers are looking for we know all the publishers we know which editors do what regarding fiction or nonfiction and all of that so many people have an agent fury because first of all the best people to place their work somewhere because we know the entry so well we also know about negotiating contracts and getting the best deals whether in the UK or worldwide right so and TV and for rights and all of things but for me in force LBA it's not just about that it's also about the relationship between the author we work very very closely so from the very start for example for a fiction for one of my authors who's now on his 12th novel needs a Sunday Times best seller from 13 14 years ago when we first met it was a couple of drafts before the first book was ready to be sent out and that's what I do we do the editorial process as well polishing tightening up the manuscript before sending it out to the publishers so and then throughout the the course of the life of that book and the subsequent books we are there as a champion so we fight for all this right so for example if an order doesn't like the jacket they don't want to tell the publisher direct they want to use us as a buff before to do it of course we do it and we can we can be we can come down stronger on a publisher because we are an agent so they expect us to do that so that's sort of a roundabout way a lot of what we do so it sounds like it's a little bit it's business stuff but as well its editorial advice and championing of the of the author absolutely it's a very kind of creative relationship an agent and an author we work as I say you know very closely together and we know when we get something that we love straight away we are going to be that authors number-one fan because we are we've seen it we've worked with it we're selling it we are from the very start going to champion an agent it's not going to take on anything that they don't understand believe in a hundred percent feel confident in so there is the business side that obviously I've been in the industry for 17 years so I know of the editors I know that publishers I know how to negotiate a contract I know what the best contractual terms are so obviously all of that side which is very important to an author that's there as well but it's also the creative side the the sort of coming up with our ideas together seeing how a plot trying to make a plot even better even tighter to shape characters to the nonfiction how to really get a proposal across the best way what to put in how to market yourself how to promote yourself all of these so Amanda I mean as somebody like myself who maybe ask my dear what stage would approach you at the moment the idea is that obviously in my head and all the work needs doing I am presuming that would be far too early but that is a bit too early purely because with a book it's the written word so it need to be written down even if it's not the whole book obviously and if it's nonfiction that you're referring to you wouldn't need to write the whole book but you would need to basically put down an overview what the book is about I am I'm right in thinking it's nonfiction yes yes well yeah I have my grandfather my great-grandfather's memoirs and he was part of the austrian-hungarian embassy you know her empire and not a history there's a lot of research it would have to go into as well but his story is just brilliant brilliant so for example with that if you're writing the book but you're including your grandfather's memoirs that is your overview so it gives it's its life from the story of one man and his his experience but including those journals of the time and talking about the time and why that's relevant and all of this then you'd have your chapter break down so you'd have your um your overview then your chapter break down how it's going to go till the sort of end of his memoirs so you'll see by reading that how you want the book to progress and then an introduction and a first chapter the reason why I say the first chapter is so an agent and a publisher can see how you write and because obviously they want you know the level of writing has to be good enough to be published that is that helpful that's fantastic yeah brilliantly any publishers are looking by the way for that sort of memoir all right so it's something to think about put it in because it has that personal touch but it also has things sort of history elements at all in fact that brings me onto another question and because frequently you hear about how difficult it is to get a publisher these also send off their scripts you know the manuscripts to hundreds and thousands we'll never hear anything back and I think for a lot of people at the initial stage think oh god why bother going through it or when you know I may not even get anybody interested it's kind of a stumbling block for lots of people where they're starting out I think if it is tough it is tough it is a the publishing world is changing all the time we know this when we see the amount of e-books out there and all of that but if you look at all the very successful ibaka we tional authors they've all now got agents they're all needing that's a move Paul to do it so to find an agent how to go across and to send it to every agent is going to be different so is a very subjective business so don't just choose one to do a multiple submissions in you know maybe 10 years ago we used to say just do it one by one but I don't think people have that time or the energy to to do that they want to have know if an agent takes six to eight weeks to respond then send it to six people and six different agents and that way you will get the responses where at the same time but you're not it's not taking a whole year to get an answer and but do remember it is a very subjective business just because one agent says no it does not mean that your book is not good enough or doesn't work or it's just that agents opinion I understand how awful it is to get a rejection I understand that you know no one wants to think that their work has something they'd notice their work but if you think of JK Rowling you know a lot of agents said no apart from her Christopher little regarding to the publishers every other publishers apart from bluesberry said no to it and look where she is yeah you have to put it all in perspective but it's just if it's not some one person's thing agents think then try another one and then therefore research look on the right is an artist yearbook get your list of agents and then go on their website have a look at what sort of books they do if for example none of them to historical memoirs at all then don't send it to that agency because they might not know unless unless they put in we are pacifically looking for this and some agents say what they're looking for in that way so it's doing a little bit of research but you can get the writers and artists from the library to get like 2013 edition and in it it is a comprehensive list so it should help you and then go on and pick out and pick out big agency names obviously us out but you know Curtis Brown PFD United agent and then smaller as well we are LBA there's only agents so we're a very small outfit but we've been going on for eight years and we've got a huge client list because we have a current bespoke relationship there might be bigger agencies we have 80 agents and they're all sort of a huge huge company but it's a different relationship they will have with their individual authors so find out that as well approach a whole mixture and that way you can make your best decision lovely thank you well in terms of payment how does that work is that something that you work out on an individual basis is there assembly are we as a agents with the agents association so you know reputable agents because they're all listed under the ADA sociation but and and what how we work is that we just take a commission like and so if we sell your book we then take our Commission which has all been agreed beforehand so an agency agreement has been signed between the author and the agent saying out exactly what those terms are so usually for UK it's 15% so we take our 30% net so we may have worked with an author for a year on their work we do not get paid up front by the author and we do not ask to be paid up front by the author we only get are paid as so to speak or once we saw that books if we do not sell it we do not get commission from it and there are some I think agencies who ask the money upfront that's not that's not how we do it and the majority of agencies that we know that's not how we do it so if you're asked a 250 500 hundred quid upfront to be to read the manuscript that that's not most agents when you look on the Western it and artists year but say that they welcomed us listed manuscripts ie you can approach them and you do not have to pay and I do not have to pay is that the whole relationship between imagine or that you know we would take anyone because we think your works fantastic when we sin 18 if we Selleck that's the only time we get any money's due under the contract that we've negotiated on your behalf so sorry so there's a there's a 15% Commission and then on top of that just very briefly what would you expect to pay a publisher in terms of that or is that again very very well what we mean is when we pay so when we pay when we approach a publisher the publisher will pay the author an advance to take that book on authors never pay the publishers it's not we need we don't approach vanity publishers vanity politics our publishers where you pay the publisher to read your book we work the other way and agents approach the publishers and there's a lot of them – hey the author for their work so for example if the book deal is ten thousand pounds the aging cake for 15 percent 1500 and the author pockets 8 in a half that's how it works okay all of them will not have to actually part with any money from their own pocket hopefully just gets the money from the publishers yeah that makes sense so Amanda what you've talked a little bit about what people looking to write books should put together but what a publisher is looking for now with fiction and nonfiction works well publishers are looking before exactly what agents are looking forward or looking for is fantastic right wing dined out characters a killer concept a really clever unique concept even if it's in a familiar genre like a thriller or a crime it's how it's how the the plot arc how the concept is though that and their plot device is to be for example there's a book out which is not one of us I look like in one of our called the shining girls it's a it's a thriller great concept the concept is it is a serial killer who travels in time so you've got a nice sort of circular who and the main protagonist the main female character is a character who ten years ago this serial killer tried to kill when she was a child and so she tries to go back in time to trade this killer so it's a weight against time it's a fantastic writing but it's a different hook shameful Emma Donahue's the room this is a novel about a young a young woman who is held captive with her four-year-old son in a shed and a bottom of a garden the voices form at the beginning from this five year old son it is incredibly emotive very very powerful and a brilliant brilliant read again not one of my office I'm not promoting any of my office it just so you know it's other but what about in the nonfiction world on the nonfiction it is um you're looking at what else is out there you need to know what else is out there and how yours is different for example how you're going to promote yourself within nonfiction you need to find your hook what you're adding to it so Mary you mean you have your grandfather's memoirs that's lovely because suddenly you've got this personal hook that you can put in for example if you're doing a cookbook what are you going to bring you know to the book that books or audio you know I've done what can you bring to the table skews upon the other authors can't do so it's promoting yourself so if you have a prologue you know your visit you know who's visited who you know how how people are interacting with you what they're liking from you and you tailor it to that for example and this an unsorted name drop this is just one one author whose books coming out in May if somebody I took purely from their blog I saw their blog thought it was fantastic met with the author and now his book is coming out in May and the book is part of his blog plus a lot more what's the blog yes the urban Marja his name is the urban Raja and it's wonderful wonderful engine recipes that he's taken down from his the male side of his family and it's got anecdotes quote a little a few anecdotes recipe and it's just lovely lovely book this is such a great advice um Amanda thank you so much so a man that you're coming along to Brit mom's live which I'm pretty excited about yes so we'll see you there and be asking you a lot more questions about working with an agent Helen Mari thank you for coming and talking about your book ideas and your questions I mean we so that's about all we have time for this will be on Brit mum's live TV I'm sorry Britain's TV on YouTube and we'll be talking to Amanda again soon on a hangout so be sure and tune in again for one of those bye bye bye

1 thought on “Q&A with a literary agent

  1. 8:38–8:40 – you can get WHAT from the library?  I can't make out what she says.

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