It's a great pleasure to welcome literary agent Diana Beaumont to the RNA blog today. Diana joined Marjacq Scripts in 2017. She started agenting with Rupert Heath Literary Agency in 2011 before moving to UTA. Before that she was senior commissioning editor at Transworld. Diana was chosen as one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars of 2012.
Diana is chatting with Helena Fairfax. Welcome, both!
Hello, Diana! Please tell us a little about the Marjacq Scripts, how long it’s been established, and how you came to join?
Marjacq Scripts was founded in 1974 and is a full service boutique literary agency. There are five agents plus our MD and we all specialise in different areas, although there is some overlap which is incredibly helpful. We work in a very collaborative way and it’s an exciting time to be part of the team as we have expanded significantly in recent years. I joined this year. I have known Phil Patterson – who heads up the book department as far as there is a formal hierarchy – since I was a commissioning editor at Transworld. I like and respect him very much and the same applies to my colleagues, so it seemed like a good fit.
What genres do you represent?
Women’s commercial fiction (although it does annoy me that we have to specify this!), reading group fiction, crime, thrillers and cover memoir, cookery and lifestyle when it comes to non-fiction. As an agency we also cover literary fiction and non-fiction, genre and speculative fiction, true crime, children’s and YA.
What is it you are looking for when a manuscript lands on your desk? Are there any specific plots or themes you’d like to see?
I think the voice always has to resonate with you but the combination of a strong hook and plot is a winner for me. I get incredibly excited when it all comes together in that way. I am interested in motherhood, looking to take on more diverse voices and am drawn towards strong female/feminist central characters, but also like to keep an open mind.
Have you noticed any particular trends in romance in the past year or so, and if so, what do you think publishers are looking for at the moment?
There have been a number of novels coming out that would appeal to fans of Jojo Moyes – they cover dark subjects with a light touch so that humour sits alongside the sadness. They play on the emotions so that you laugh and cry. I am looking forward to seeing How to be Happy, by Eva Woods, launch in February 2018 from Little,Brown which is perfect for that audience. I can’t wait, either, for the paperback publication of Hot Mess, by Lucy Vine, from Orion which subverts the traditional rom com and reassesses attitudes to being single amongst millennials in a hilarious way and is, I hope, ahead of the curve, as well as providing a much needed laugh. Look Magazine said it was even better than Bridget Jones! There seems to be an interest in what could have been: from Kate Atkinson to Kate Eberlen’s Miss You and Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us. Publishers are also keen on upmarket sagas with family secrets or an element of mystery at the moment and the line between romantic fiction and psychological suspense is sometimes blurred, as the latter has been so successful of late. I wonder also whether there will also be a desire for pure escapist fun in such uncertain times.
Do you ever find authors outside the slush pile? If so, how?
Yes. Sometimes clients are kind enough to recommend others but I have also taken on a crime writer, Roz Watkins, who I met at The Festival of Writing in York. When it comes to non-fiction I have approached people direct.
What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Take a look at my list and see if it fits, broadly, with the other books I represent. Follow the submission guidelines. Put lots of effort into your cover letter and make sure that the title, elevator pitch, further information about the book and author biography are as strong as possible – we get hundreds of submissions, so a good letter really makes a difference. It is also important to have a sense of where your book fits into the market. We don’t expect you to be experts but to show professionalism and savvy – it is both a business and creative relationship after all. It’s always worth looking round bookshops and reading as much as you can. Spell my name correctly. And, finally, make sure you’ve finished the book and that it is as polished as it can be.
What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
I have an abiding love for The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford, but must also throw in Jane Eyre and Rebecca for good measure.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I wish I indulged in wildly imaginative pastimes like flamenco, potholing or skydiving but I most enjoy eating, reading, bathing, films, theatre and the company of good friends.
If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
Never the same.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Diana. We love your list of spare time activities!
If you've enjoyed Diana's interview, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!
Helena Fairfax is a romance author and editor. Her latest release is a feel good summer romance called Felicity at the Cross Hotel. You can find out more about Helena's books and her editing services on her website www.helenafairfax.com
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