Today we welcome literary agent, Lisa Eveleigh to the blog. Lisa kindly gave up her weekend to attend the RNA Conference at Telford. Judging by the number of delegates applying for interviews at the conference acquiring an agent is at the top of most writers’ wish list.
1. Please tell us something about your life as a literary agent?
No day of the week is the same. Obviously my priority is to respond to what comes up for my clients, which can be anything from reading work in progress to editing a finished manuscript, to dealing with their publisher on their behalf over a cover, copy, promotion etc. And obviously contract negotiations for recent sales, which usually involves pretty hectic emailing and phoning.
I make at least one submission a day, and this involves establishing whether the editor I’m approaching is available/interested in principle, then carefully crafting the submission email. But I may also have met the editor at an event or meeting and be following up on interest expressed.
I will very occasionally have a friendly lunch with an editor but try to keep these to a minimum as with travel, they take a big chunk out of the day. I much prefer a drink after work for networking reasons. I also fairly often catch up with other agents – there is not as much rivalry as people might think, and exchanging news and views is very helpful.
Then also, I keep up with the trade press, look at publishers’ websites, and do other forms of research.
Finally, about once a fortnight I update my website with news, and do some social media promotion for the agency, and more importantly, for my clients. I also advise them on how to best utilise social media and pretty much anything else they ask me about. It’s a varied life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For many writers meeting an agent can be a dauting experience. How do you respond in these circumstances?
I feel it would be incredibly impolite not to be as friendly, helpful and constructive as possible, and I’ll have given considerable thought to the submissions I’ve received and written a brief report. I DO realise that there is a general perception that agents are ‘gatekeepers’ and therefore magically powerful – but it was thrust on us when publishers began saying they would no longer look at un-agented work.
But authors, do bear this in mind; we aren’t magicians, and if a rejection comes in then the agent receives it first, and suffers the disappointment initially, then has the thankless task of passing it on to the disappointed author. I have a policy of not telling authors about turn-downs on Fridays, on the basis that it will ruin their weekend, and possibly that of their entire family!
What are you looking for when adding to your list of clients?
The worst question! I’m afraid that the answer really is that I go totally by instinct, and I just do know something good when I see it.
But if I strain every nerve to answer helpfully, then it’s probably something well-crafted, that is the best it can possibly be, whatever the genre. I have a weakness for comic novels; ‘weak’ in that what makes me laugh won’t necessarily make an editor laugh too, but I do continue to look for them. A glance at my website will give authors an idea of my own preferred reading though, so there are clues there.
Can you give an example of common mistakes that authors make when submitting work for consideration?
Don’t want to be too hectoring here, but it is essential to read the agency website thoroughly and follow all guidelines there.
I’m never impressed by being addressed as ‘Dear Richard’…
A really long introductory email is a mistake too; let your writing speak for itself, and write the most salient, clearly expressed covering email that you can.
How do you relax when not working?
The usual creative leisure pursuits of the middle-aged (but not yet decrepit) - cooking, gardening, visiting National Trust properties to look at gardens…
Would love to see more theatre, which is a passion. But I also love music and am going to the Wilderness Festival this year (Burt Bacharach headlining! Oh dear, a bit middle-aged again). I’m also researching a biography of a 19th century socialite so spend time on that at weekends.
Thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions, Lisa.
This blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. We are always interested in blog interviews and craft articles. Please contact us at email@example.com