At the AuthorLounge, The London Book Fair 2013: How to get a literary agent

April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

The publishing industry is changing fast and the role of everyone in it is changing too. Everyone has to do more. The writer must do more than write, and the literary agent must not only prepare a book for showing to the publisher but a package also.

What is the package that the author must sell? Henry de Rougemont, media manager, of The Hanbury Agency considers that the package consists of the book, the author, author profile and the author’s media presence. (Media Manager is a new role in a literary agency.) A novice writer can establish a media presence on facebook, twitter or in the blogsphere.

The book should be good, as good as the writer can make it. And even so the literary agent is unlikely to simply re-parcel your submission and send it out. He must work on it too. Charlie Brotherstone of AM Heath particularly enjoys nurturing authors. He helps authors realise their potential.

What will Charlie Brotherstone look for? Initially, a good cover letter. If the author can write a good cover letter, he may well be able to write a good book. One attendee asked how important an MA in Creative Writing was. An MA would indicate that the author was serious but would not be crucial. Ultimately, a well written cover letter might prove more important. A writer must be able to write. And despite all changes, the most important thing for a writer to do remains: the writing of a good book.

Is the literary agent the first door to knock on? My own view, increasingly, is that you might be well advised to seek some editorial advice before you submit to an agent. It is not at all easy to get an agent.

Of course, agents are not essential. However, agents, Charlie Brotherstone says free up the writer’s time, for writing. It is hard for a writer to wear so many hats. As it is, he must wear more than one. It seems we must all be prepared to face challenges we would rather not. We must be less passive. We must take control.

Writers, come down out of your ivory towers. It may no longer be enough that you write a book, you may have to become something of a performance artist too. Even writers themselves have adopted the language of live performance, usually reserved for musicians: they talk about doing gigs.

The times are changing. And many of us will have to change with them or be left behind.

Authoright is curating the Authorlounge at the London Book Fair.

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