Tag Archives: bestseller

Part 3: What does a literary agent do?

For my final entry on ‘What does a literary agent do?’ I will address deal making.

Every single day I am negotiating top deals in the UK, US and foreign markets, including film and TV rights.  This aspect of the being an agent gives my writers a platform to be successful.  A writer’s career will grow if they have an agent who is constantly trying to sell rights to their books, for instance selling translation rights to different countries.  I continue to sell rights to my authors’ backlist all the time. I attend all the major international book fairs each year, including the Bologna Book Fair, the London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair. I also make regular trips to the US to liaise with publishers.  At the book fairs I will pitch my authors work to hundreds of different editors from publishing companies all over the world.  I have 30 minutes with each one, starting from 9am through to 6pm with no breaks.  The adrenalin keeps me going.

A lot of work is done between the book fairs .  Sometimes, I like to have sold the UK & Commonwealth rights to a book and then get everyone else interested at the fair; other times I introduce books at the fair; or I will have done a US deal beforehand.  There are lots of tactics involved in creating excitement, and this is how the big advances come into play.  Every deal is important to me, every translation deal, because they can make my authors international bestsellers.

Deal making is very exhilarating but negotiating also takes tons of energy.  Sometimes negotiations go on for weeks.  Auctions are very exciting but it is always important, no matter what the advance, that the agent chooses the most passionate editor for the book and indeed the author’s career as a whole.  It is this passion and commitment from both the editor and the agent that gives the author the best chance of being successful.

The Madeleine Milburn Agency has a long-term vision and an international plan for each author, negotiating significant deals in the UK, the US and foreign markets, liaising with publishers around the world. The Agency works in partnership with film agents, and directly, to option Film & TV rights to leading production companies and film studios in the UK and US.


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The editor – author relationship

 C.J Daugherty first submitted her manuscript, NIGHT SCHOOL, back in January 2011.  We worked on it editorially for the first few months before I submitted exclusively to Stephenie Meyer’s UK editor, Sam Smith at Atom / Little Brown.  From the moment I read the manuscript I knew she would be the right editor and that Christi and Sam would be a match made in heaven.  Never underestimate the importance of the editor – author relationship.  In terms of long-term success it is just as important than the advance, if not more so.  The editor has to be as passionate as you and the author as they will champion the author for years to come within their publishing company winning over all key support and battle their author to the top for years to come.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011, foreign rights in NIGHT SCHOOL were acquired by 14 different foreign publishers from around the world.  The US rights were acquired by Katherine Tegen at HarperCollins in a high six figure deal at auction.

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Agent Buston interviews Victoria Fox

Known as the sexiest writer in the business, Victoria Fox is the author of the fabulous HOLLYWOOD SINNERS, following the lives of four celebrity couples around Hollywood, Vegas and London.  Since MIRA published in  April 2011, Victoria has become a bit of a celebrity herself, from appearing on  The Vanessa Show in May,  building a huge online presence,  to her photo shoot on the red carpet

What does it feel like being a published author?  Vertigo. A nice sort of vertigo. Knowing the book is ‘out there’ for anyone to pick up is exciting but it’s also strange; it’s gone now, you’ve let it go, but still it’s a massive part of your life and a family of characters and storylines you’ve worked long and hard over. So, a bit dizzying. But every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.

 Why did you decide to write in such a commercial genre?  First, because I love those early bonkbusters, so full of style and swagger, and wanted to try my hand at one of my own; second, because I used to work in commercial publishing and felt I knew the market; and third, because the dream is to become a bestseller and I’d like to appeal to as many readers as possible.

 Who is the author you would most compare your work to and who are your favourite authors?  My writing style for Hollywood Sinners definitely draws on my biggest inspiration in the genre: Jackie Collins. Books like Lovers and Gamblers and Chances are packed with outrageous characters and wicked storylines – and they also have this great comedy element which is crucial to a truly entertaining bonkbuster. As well as Jackie, my favourite authors in the genre are Tilly Bagshawe and J J Salem. Favourites elsewhere are Rose Tremain, John Fowles and David Nicholls.

 How long did it take you to write your debut?  Hollywood Sinners took four months to write and two to edit.

 Can you pitch your book in one line?  A sexy, scandalous, full-throttle ride through the hidden lives of the rich and famous.

 How long did it take you to find an agent?  While working in publishing I put together a partial manuscript and sent it anonymously to the Darley Anderson Agency – they were always the big dream. I made sure my pitch was tailored to their list and tried to couch my project in commercial terms, explaining where I saw it in the market, which authors I hoped to sit alongside and so on. I was lucky: very kindly, they didn’t make me wait too long!

 Were you pleased with your book jacket?  Extremely pleased. Jubilant. I knew my publishers ‘got’ the book, the kind of retro vibe I was going for but also the up-to-date celebrity glamour, so I was confident they’d nail it. Even so, when the jpeg landed in my inbox it was even better than I’d hoped. It’s one of the most stylish covers I’ve seen in a long time.

 Do you do a lot of self-promotion?  It’s important to promote as much as possible. The market is very competitive and things like radio, TV and magazine interviews are crucial so I try to do as many of these as I can. Everything’s going online now and it’s good to be as ‘reachable’ as possible: your own website, Facebook and Twitter are great ways to make contact with readers. Hearing from readers is the best thing.

 Have you always wanted to write?  Yes. After university I wanted to work as an editor and immerse myself in other people’s books for a while, but the bug soon caught up with me. If you have it in you, it’ll always be there.

 What tips would you give to new writers out there?  Persevere. Everyone says it but that’s because it’s true. Persevere with your book, see it through to the end (no matter what state you imagine it’s in) then persevere getting it read. There are people who say they’re going to write a book and people who actually write one – decide which you are.

To buy a copy of HOLLYWOOD SINNERS, click on the cover below.  Thank you Victoria!

A juicy tale of glamour, corruption and ambition. -Jo Rees – author of Platinum

A glorious, sexy story of high-octane Hollywood intrigue – I loved it. -Lulu Taylor

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The creator of Jack Reacher

Our bestselling thriller writer, Lee Child, is awarded an honorary degree from De Montfort University in Leicester.  Watch fabulous coverage here, including his advice to students: ‘read now, read 10,000 books then start writing’ and, it’s never too late for the rest of us: ‘You’re looking at a guy who was 40 years old before he figured out what he was supposed to do’.

Lee has just won the 2011 Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Award for his 14th instalment, 61 Hours, in his bestselling Jack Reacher series.  Lee’s books have sold more than 50m copies worldwide, and we have sold translation rights in more than 40 languages.

If you’d like to join my Jack Reacher Recruits group on facebook, click here!

My advice to new writers – create a great character.  Lee has done it with Jack Reacher.   Think James Bond, Harry Potter, all the great superheroes and  all the characters in Shakespeare and Dickens…

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Agent Buston interviews bestselling author, Debby Holt

Debby Holt is a bestselling author of popular women’s fiction, published by Simon & Schuster in the UK.   Her bestselling books have extremely striking titles including The Ex-Wife’s Survival Guide, Annie May’s Black Book, The Trouble with Marriage, Love Affairs for Grown-Ups, Recipe for Scandal, and Friends, Lies and Alibis. It has taken a huge amount of talent, perseverance and drive to get where she is today.  She is married with five children and lives in Bath.

When was your first book published and how long did it take you to find an agent?   My first book, The Ex-Wife’s Survival Guide, was published in 2006. It took me an eternity to find an agent, or rather it took me two years – a very long two years! I’d sold a lot of short stories in the previous decade and in fact my first novel grew from a short story that was far too complicated to BE a short story.

How did you decide what ‘genre’ to write?    I didn’t actively choose to write in a particular genre: basically, I liked to write about relationships in a way that was sometimes humorous and apparently this meant that I was a chick lit writer!  I think what I find frustrating is that I AM regarded as a chick lit writer whereas I am just as interested in, say, familial relationships as I am in romantic ones and I genuinely think my books are suited to readers of all ages

Have you always liked your book jackets?  I think Sarah Gibb who has designed all my covers is brilliant but I worry that they might deter people over thirty from buying them.

Did you ever go to ‘writing school’?   I never went to writing school but I feel I did my apprenticeship in the years I wrote short stories for magazines.

Who are your favourite authors?  I have always read voraciously and my favourite authors are Anne Tyler, Georgette Heyer, Carol Shields, Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Nick Hornby and David Nicholls.

What are your three top tips to getting published?  My three top tips to getting published are to 1) visit conferences or festivals where you can meet agents, 2) make sure you have a superb first chapter and three-line précis and 3) don’t be put off by rejection. To quote Calvin Coolidge, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

Can you pitch your latest book in one line?   My latest book, Friends, Lies and Alibis is based on a difficult dilemma: is it ever right to try to break up a friend’s marriage?

Thank you, Debby!  To buy Debby’s latest bestseller, click on the jacket below:

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A quick piece of advice – learn how to pitch your book in one  sentence.  It is invaluable to get to the ‘core’ of your book when you are discussing your work with friends, writing groups and potential agents.   Agents use them when pitching to editors, editors use them when pitching to sales teams, sales teams use them when pitching to booksellers, readers use them when pitching to friends.

A strong, catchy pitch works wonders.  It needs to be a short description that makes people want to read your book.  Something to hook readers in.

Here’s the pitch for the recent debut, THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker, that was sold to Simon & Schuster UK for a 6 figure sum and Random House in the US for an astonishing 7 figures:

‘THE AGE OF MIRACLES is about an eleven-year-old girl and her family who wake one morning in their modest suburban home in California, to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow  – life is thrown into turmoil and panicked governments dictate that the traditional 24-hour cycle must be followed, regardless of the sun.’

You can shorten this even further to:  ‘imagine if each day started getting longer and longer’

Here is the pitch we used for my author’s debut THE GUARDIAN ANGEL’S JOURNAL by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, now translated into 20 different languages:

‘When a woman dies at forty years old she is sent back to earth as a guardian angel to herself and is forced to re-experience and record her biggest mistakes and fiercest regrets from the beginning of her life to her untimely death – she is told she must not change any of her actions, but should simply learn from them’

You can shorten this to: ‘What would you change if you could live your life again?’

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These tips are surprisingly obvious, but time and time again I read submissions that are weak in one, if not all, of these areas:

KEEP YOUR CHAPTERS SHORT: each chapter should be between 10 and 15 pages long to keep the reader’s attention.  Create a mini drama in every chapter and have a hook at the end of each one so that the reader finds it impossible to put down.  Long chapters can slow down the pace.  With the rise of the eReader, and shorter attention spans, short chapters are even more important.

CHARACTER: it is all about your main character – you have to create a real authentic character that readers can automatically empathise and identify with.  Readers want to warm to your central character.

PLOT : nowadays, a highly original concept works wonders – something you can pitch in one single line that will make people instantly intrigued and desperate to read your story.  Publishers like to instantly see how they can pitch the book to supermarkets and booksellers.

And finally, when I studied creative writing at St Andrew’s University my tutor, the poet and writer John Burnside, gave the class essential advice in three simple words: REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE.  Make sure that every word is absolutely needed.  Any excess words will slow down the pace.  Fantastic dialogue and fairly short descriptive passages work wonders.

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