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I don’t represent all genres despite reading extensively simply because I don’t read them or understand them. It would be loathe of me to take on a book which was strictly fantasy or sci-fi, when I don’t read those genres and so have no context for how this works within that cannon. It wouldn’t be fair to the author and I wouldn’t know how to position it for that kind of reader. Reading is ultimately an act of empathy and so I have to empathise with the situation and characters. Ultimately that is what I look for, regardless of the label of genres – but I know from my experience, what kind of reading experience I am looking for and I find it in one side of literature than another. I used to say I would never read a zombie apocalypse novel – that just isn’t interesting to me. But then I read World War Z  and I was blown away but it, because it wasn’t about a zombie apocalypse; it was about the psychology of humanity when it feels like the world is ending. That I could empathise with.

I do consider unfinished manuscripts because ultimately I look for potential, but only if I am seeking them out. If I meet someone at an event or read their work in an anthology and like what I have seen, I will reach out to them, knowing that they may not have finished the work. However, if it is a submission that I has come through to me it is different. I would be very annoyed to receive an unsolicited submission for a novel that wasn’t finished, simply because I have given time and effort to something which the author hasn’t taken the time to complete and yet has still sent it out for feedback and representation. It would have to be exceptional writing and have a very detailed synopsis of how the story would play out for me to take it on.

Despite the increase in self publishing, I do feel authors need representation. There is so much about the industry they don’t understand – not just contracts which protect their rights rather than the publisher’s but to know what about the publication process they need to be aware of – when to fight back on something, when to know this is the best you can hope for. They also need an agent to guide their work, to tell them why their idea won’t work or needs finessing to attract attention in an increasingly overwhelmed market. It’s about protection and progression and why wouldn’t you want someone in your corner fighting that for you, so you can go and do what you do best – write?

The industry has certainly changed since the rise of the internet but we are still playing catch up to its potential in my view. On the publication side, social media for advertising books is incredibly important – it starts that anticipatory buzz that is so needed. Bloggers also have a great sway and of course the rise of e-books has completely changed the industry landscape. With things like Goodreads, Amazon View and Book Bub, people have the power to really make a book break out. But at the same time, I don’t know if I feel publishing has fully harnessed the power of digital publishing yet. We still treat it as an addition to the HB and PB whereas I feel it should be positioned completely differently, as a format in its own right with its own sales, marketing and publicity strategy.

 

I give a great deal of support to my clients through the editing and publication process. I read everything, I give tonnes of feedback on what is working or isn’t – suggestions for how to improve, countless redrafts all treated exactly the same as if they had just come through the first time. And I always remind them of their potential and to be kind on themselves as they figure out this challenging process. When it then comes to submitting their work, I keep them as involved as they want to be. I tell them the strategy; the editors and why I think this is the best course of action. I provide them with feedback and options and information every step of the process. Essentially they are trusting me to guide them and use my best expertise – but that doesn’t mean disappearing on them and leaving them in a vaccum. I believe if a relationship is about trust, it also has to be one of transparency.

It’s not just about getting published though. I strongly believe in order for a writer to progress, they need to be published globally and have their rights exercise across as many different formats as possible. We have an amazing rights department at PFD who sends out the submission simultaneously to other territories at the same time as in the home market. And I also do US rights which has been a real eye opener. We treat every country as if they are the primary territory in their own right. It is so important for us to do this because foreign rights is imperative for an author’s income and future success. We also have a very proactive broadcast and Film/TV department who actively try and get all our books optioned for film and television. It’s so wonderful to be able to tell an author that something they’ve seen in their mind will become something they can share with a wide audience. After all – who is writing if not to be read and experienced by as many people as possible?

 

Nelle Andrew is an agent at Peters Fraser + Dunlop. Her list spans Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers; as well as Richard and Judy Book Club picks. In 2016, she was also one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars. A published novelist in her own right, she worked at Pan Macmillan before joining PFD in 2009. She also now handles American rights on behalf of the agency with their international rights director.

 

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