Working as a literary agent, no two days are ever the same. You can’t predict what might happen to de-rail whatever was planned – a email from an editor who is interested in a book I’m sending out to publishers, a call from an author who wants to talk through some editorial notes, a new submission that looks promising that I know I have to take a look at straightaway. Our days and weeks never look the same, but the span of our work breaks roughly into three different areas:
- The creative side: we’re always on the hunt for new clients, and we read every submission that comes in, and request the full manuscripts of promising ones. We also often do editorial work on our authors’ manuscripts or proposals before sending them to editors, so that they’re as good as they can be before they go out into the world.
- The people side: this covers everything from meetings with editors to find out what they’re looking for, to events such as book fairs, book shop readings, book launches and literary prize ceremonies, to calling editors to submit books and create a buzz around new work, to keeping in touch with our authors and the day to day management of their careers.
- The business side: this is the actual process of signing new clients, submitting and selling books, and drawing up contracts. It’s not just chatting and shaking hands! In the process of drawing up a contract, we make sure we negotiate every nitty-gritty deal point, so that we get the best deal for our authors.
In the morning, the first thing I do is go through all the emails I received overnight, prioritising anxious authors over everything else. Author care is paramount, and my clients deserve my attention first. After that I reply to other emails, which could be about anything and everything – meeting requests, conversations with potential clients, updates on books from their editors to keep me and the author in the loop. I look over the submissions that have come in via email from writers who are seeking representation, log them so I make sure I get back to them within our 6-8 week window, and print out anything that on first glance looks particularly interesting that I want to make sure I look at sooner rather than later.
If I have any meetings that day with an editor or author, I’ll make sure that I’ve done all the required prep for it. If I don’t have a lunch meeting, I’ll spend my lunch hour reading whatever outstanding drafts I’ve got in, or submissions if I’m up to date on everything from my clients. In the afternoon I might draft a pitch letter or blurb for a book I’m about to go out with, or make or return phone calls from editors or authors, or type up editorial notes if it’s a quiet day. In the back of my mind I’m often thinking about new ideas for non-fiction projects, based on the news/social media/anything interesting that crosses my path. There’s always paperwork to do as well – drafting contracts, talking to our contracts manager about anything particularly knotty, or updating our systems and keeping our authors in the loop when we receive payments from publishers on their behalf. PFD has a big team of frontlist agents and agents who represent subsidiary rights, such as translation rights, broadcast rights, stage/film/TV rights, audio rights, etc. It’s important that I keep the sub-rights teams up to date on what’s going on with my clients, so there’s a lot of in-house communication and the occasional internal meeting throughout each week too.
Every day is different, but every day is based around promoting and protecting the interests of our talented authors, which is a delight and a privilege.
Laura Williams is an agent at Peters Fraser + Dunlop, where she has been working since 2011, after completing a degree in Classics at Oxford. She is actively building a fiction list and a small non-fiction list.
She is currently looking for literary fiction, edgy commercial fiction, psychological thrillers and high-concept contemporary young adult.
Find out more about Peters Fraser + Dunlop