For those unfamiliar with exactly what a literary agent does, could you describe what your job involves?
A literary agent is an author’s representative. We negotiate deals for our authors, draft contracts, troubleshoot tricky situations, sell rights internationally, sell film rights, manage an author’s career, offer a listening ear as well as many other varied tasks.
Who are some of the authors you represent, and what are a few of the things you have helped them do in the past year?
Personally, I have people like Nick Earls, Libby Gleeson, James Phelan, Scot Gardner, Sarah Wilson, Sally Rippin and Kylie Ladd. The agency looks after people like Christos Tsiolkas, Markus Zusak, Tom Keneally, Fiona McGregor, Andy Griffiths, Mia Freedman and Pamela Allen.
What kinds of fiction do you most enjoy reading and do you have some favourites?
Hmm, I like all sorts of fiction! Generally speaking, however, I tend to be drawn more to books with big hooks, written beautifully that linger with me for a long time afterwards. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is a huge favourite of mine, as is One Day by David Nicholls. It really does depend on what mood I’m in though!
How should a new author go about getting an agent?
They should research agencies and agents, see who would be right for them and then submit according to the agencies guidelines (which are often on their websites).
What do literary agents tend to look for in fiction authors?
Well written well told stories! More and more, however, we have to be extra cautious about what sort of new fiction we take on as it’s very hard to get up in this current difficult market.
What are some of the most common things which prevent writers and their stories from being accepted by agents and publishers?
Often, it’s the writing or the story, and a lot of the time it can be because people haven’t put a lot of time or effort into either of those things. Sometimes, too, people have different views of their writing and what the market realistically wants and needs. It’s a tough business!
How does someone become an agent (or how does someone become an effective agent who can make things happen for their clients)?
There’s no specific training to be an agent. To be a good agent it’s important to be a diplomat, have a keen eye for new writers or illustrators, be aware of ever changing developments in the industry, be persuasive (!), available to your clients and have good relationships with publishers.
What should a fiction author look for in an agent?
Someone who ‘gets’ them and is passionate about their work. That’s the first and most important thing.
Should an aspiring author with a fiction manuscript they are hoping to sell approach a publisher or an agent first, and why?
Well, of course I’d say agent wouldn’t I?! But there are plenty of authors who don’t have agents who approach publishers themselves. It can be hampered by the fact that a lot of publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts but a few do. Often, too, people might know someone within a publishing company or a published writer that can point them in the direction of an appropriate publisher.
For more on Curtis Brown literary agency in Australia go to http://curtisbrown.com.au.
The Australian Literature Review