Literary Agency Interview : AP Watt Part 1 of 2

The View From Here Interview:
Juliet Pickering from AP Watt

Interview by Mike

Founded in 1875, A P Watt is the longest-established literary agency in the world. It's clients include a Nobel Prize winner, four Booker Prize winners, three Orange Prize winners, several Whitbread Prize winners, and the first Children’s Laureate.
Juliet Pickering joined A P Watt in September 2003, and became an Associate Agent in 2007. Prior to joining the company, she studied English Literature at the University of Surrey before becoming a fiction buyer for Waterstones. In 2004, Juliet began to work with Derek Johns and his client list, and now handles all audio and journalism rights in their titles.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I’m 28 years old, have lived in London for nine years and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, and am an Associate Agent at A P Watt Ltd.

What's your ideal night out/in?

I’m all for not making concrete plans and simply having spontaneous fun, whether that be quaffing G&Ts in my local, dressing up and going dancing, or catching some obscure French film in the tiny cinema down the road!

What is your favorite book?

This is an impossible question to answer irrevocably. There are so many books I love, and so many I have yet to love.

Here is a Top 5, in no particular order, which I’ll change my mind about in two minutes: The Darling Buds of May by H E Bates, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Pastoralia by George Saunders.

What was it like being a fiction buyer for Waterstones?

It was a great introduction to the publishing industry, and taught me valuable lessons about publishing trends which have stood me in good stead ever since. One of my favourite things about Waterstones (which was true when I was there five years ago, at least) is that its staff are often made up of writers, artists and struggling creative types who need a job to pay the rent, so you make friends with very interesting people. It was a good time, and cemented my interest in fiction publishing.

Can you tell me what the role of an Associate Agent is?

As an Associate Agent I work both with Derek Johns, one of the top literary agents in the UK, and independently. In other words, I work with all of his authors and am also building up my own list of writers.

How do you go about building your own list? Do you have to spot them or are recommendations made to you?

Both – I work my way (slowly!) through my slush pile and see if anything looks promising, and I actively pursue my own book ideas and go to meet new writers at various events (i.e. students from creative writing courses, etc.)

What kind of books are you personally on the lookout for?

My main interest is fiction, particularly literary fiction or well-written commercial fiction; I’m on the lookout for a really sharp, funny novel at the moment. And I enjoy narrative non-fiction but it has to read very accessibly. I’m open to most ideas – if something sounds interesting and is well-written, then I’ll read it regardless of what genre it may fit into. (Having said that, I don’t deal with children’s books or science-fiction/fantasy.)

What would you like to see happening in the industry over the next few years?

Things are just starting to heat up on the issue of electronic books so I think we’ll see some very interesting developments in that area. And from a personal point of view, I’d love to see some of my own, debut authors succeed in selling their books and achieving worldwide acclaim!

What authors do you currently have on your own list and can you tell us something about them?

I currently have a few writers signed up who have reached the stage where I’m looking to submit their work to publishers, and I am also working with a few more on their writing, trying to get it to the best it can be before sending their books out. I’ve a few fiction authors – both literary and commercial - and a couple of non-fiction ideas I’m developing, and am constantly finding more.

Often it is hard to get out of the slush piles for agents and many publishers don't accept un-agented submissions. With the rise of small independent presses do you think that the route for new talent is shifting towards the independents or do you think there is still a reasonable chance for an unknown author to secure a deal with an agent?

The rise of small, independent presses is something to be really pleased about. However, I don’t personally think that there is any more or any less chance for an author to secure a deal with an agent in terms of new talent. If a book is impressive enough then a mainstream publisher will want to pick it up just as much as an independent press would.

Part 2 of this interview on Friday, where Juliet talks about tips for submitting work and some bizarre submissions.

For Part 2 of this interview click here.
For AP Watt's site click here.

1 comment:

Lakshmi Raj Sharma said...

The best thing about this interview is the agent's clarity about what she wants. She calls a spade a spade and knows exactly what she's doing. Thank God we still have agents like her looking after literary fiction, a category that could easily slip into an extinction hazard.
Lakshmi Raj Sharma