Advice from a Literary Agent (Part 2): What Do Agents & Publishers Want?
In today’s post, Karolina Sutton (a literary agent at Curtis Brown) reveals what agents and publishers are looking for in a novel.
These are some highlights from her presentation at Royal Holloway, University of London.
- Agents and publishers want something extraordinary, something with an original concept.
- Imagination and good ideas make more money than beautiful writing.
- Short story collections are a bad idea – they are really hard to sell if you are a first time author. Instead, try pitching them to magazines.
- It is very difficult to ‘launch’ literary fiction without getting listed for a prize. It can be the difference between selling 300 copies and 2,000.
- Women’s/’reading group’ fiction = holy grail.
- Don’t write ‘coming of age’ novels – they aren’t original enough!
- 80% of rejections are because the novel is ‘too quiet’ and not distinctive enough.
- Titles are extremely important. Sometimes, novels can be accepted for publication solely on a fantastically brilliant title!
(One last interesting point: Publishers are only allowed to put forward a few books for prizes, so the smaller your publisher, the more chance you may have…)
Agents do want to fall in love with your work. But if you want to be published, good writing is not the only thing you need. There are a lot of considerations to be made about the state of the market and the saleability of your novel. If you’re pursuing publication through this route, these are some important factors to consider.
Next week: How to write great titles.