Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lucy Luck, Lorella Belli and Juliet Pickering: Agent Round-Up

Last week I went to a great talk by agent Lucy Luck at the London Writers' Club (if you're in the London area, you should check the club out; it's a great way to network with other writers and industry professionals). Over the past year, I've also been to talks by agents Juliet Pickering of AP Watt and Lorella Belli, so I thought I'd do a round-up here of all their great advice!

Lucy Luck, April 2010
  • The publishing industry has always been tough; it hasn't really got any tougher
  • Writers generally sign with the agent, not the agency
  • Translation rights, American rights and film rights are the most important things for writers to hang onto, to maximise later
  • There is a real disparity between the 'branded' authors and new authors in terms of what publishers are prepared to take risks on
  • What makes her commit to a book? If she reads the first bit, then puts it away and still remembers it after a few weeks and wants to read more, then she'll take another look. For her, it's all about cadence and voice
  • She works closely with authors to edit their MS but will usually only do three rounds of MS edits with them
  • DON'T begin your MS with a character waking up from a hang-over -- clich├ęd and she sees this loads of times
  • First person and present tense are incredibly hard to pull off
  • You have to practise writing. You wouldn't expect a concert pianist etc to be great right away. You must write because you enjoy it, not just to get published.
  • Personalise your approach to agents. Do research on their websites.
  • Online presence and promotional skills are good (like the icing on the cake), but what's really important is the writing!

For more notes from the session, click here (if you scroll down, you can also read my guest post on organising your writing day).

Juliet Pickering, January 2010

  • It's better to approach in hard copy than email (for her, anyway), as email is easily dismissed.
  • As more editors are taking on more and more work (due to cuts etc), agents are increasingly acting as editors
  • Agents in the UK typically take 15% commission
  • Advances are usually split in three instalments: first instalment after the contract signed; second instalment upon delivery of MS; third instalment upon publication
  • Ultimately, promotion is the publisher's responsibility, not the agent's
  • Book launches happening less frequently now due to economic conditions
  • Royalties generally paid twice a year
  • If your book sold averagely, you can expect to see a return on sales within 12 to 18 months (must earn out your advance first)
  • Most books are not published in hardback anymore: published first in trade paperback then paperback
  • Publishing is changing rapidly due to eBooks - uncertainty as to how publishers are dealing with electronic rights

Lorella Belli, February 2009

  • There are now more than 120,000 new titles published a year.
  • Choosing to become a professional writer is a bit like starting a business and should be approached the same way.
  • There are over 150 literary agents in the UK.
  • Commission charges are pretty standard in the industry: 15% (UK sales); 20% (US sales)
  • Lorella Belli Agency is interested in non fiction, women's fiction - strong memorable characters, original storyline, pace and good story-telling.
  • Reading a novel is like watching a film: when you start watching it, if you think it's boring, you change the channel. That's what agents and publishers do if your work isn't strong enough to engage them


She Writes said...

Ah, I had no idea this was you, until I read your profile :).

Thanks for the sweet comments at my blog.

Ann said...

Great information, thanks.

Marsha Moore said...

She Writes - :) It's me!

Ann - thanks. The sessions were really informative.

Literary Kitty said...

I know this is old but still very helpful, thanks! :)