Write Behind You – Sarah Manning of The Agency Group

I’m delighted to welcome the very lovely Sarah Manning onto the blog today. Sarah is a Literary Agent’s Assistant to Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group and is here to give us insight into her role and some insider info on life in a literary agency. Pull up a chair, Sarah and help yourself to cake!

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Can you tell us a bit about your background prior to working at The Agency Group?

I read History at Durham University. With no real idea what career I wanted to pursue, but aware that I loved books, I luckily landed myself a job at Orion working for their Paperbacks Department. I also interned in script development at Amber Entertainment and worked as a reader for Island Pictures before happily arriving at The Agency Group.

How long have you been working with Juliet at The Agency Group, Sarah, and how did you come to apply for the job?

I joined The Agency Group back in October 2013 and the time has absolutely flown by. I first stumbled across Juliet’s name during our many editorial meetings while working at Orion. I was beginning to realise that there were many exciting careers within the publishing industry that I hadn’t been aware of straight out of university, and so I closely followed Juliet’s career – she was in her twenties, vibrant and her success was snowballing. I found her easy to identify with and I knew I could learn a lot from her. At the time I was on a temporary contract at Orion and so I took the initiative to contact Juliet and ask her advice on how to move my career forward in publishing. Six months down the line Juliet was looking for an assistant and it felt like everything was falling into place. During that time I’d built up my experience and I knew for certain the direction I wanted my career to take.

What’s the best part of the working day for you?

The best part of my working day is reading the full manuscripts that have been called in from the slush pile. I love the creative, editorial side of reading submissions and it is especially exciting when you stumble across something special. But even when a submission still needs more work I enjoy sharing my thoughts with Juliet. I learn a lot from this process and it is always interesting to see how our comments compare.

What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

I have just finished reading Apple Tree Yard and opened The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters on the train this morning. Apple Tree Yard was suggested to me by Juliet and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. With a complex female narrator, and tackling interesting issues about sexual assault, it is an incredibly compelling read. I’ll let you know how I get on with The Little Stranger – here’s to hoping it’s as dark and chilling as I expect.

Could you please tell us about a typical day at The Agency Group and describe your workspace?

My days are pretty varied but there are some things which need to be done regularly. Every day we will have contracts coming in and out of the office, and it’s my job to keep a track of them all. Juliet does her own foreign rights and so we have contracts issued from all over the world, and with no separate contracts department this is quite a big job! I also complete the tax forms for our authors and am the one chasing all the money. Unlike in other jobs I have previously had, I don’t see these tasks as tiresome administration because they are so closely tied to direct contact with our clients, and I’m learning so much about the ins and outs of the industry. Hopefully this will just make me an efficient agent sometime in the future! And then, after all the general office jobs, I will help Juliet with the slush pile.

Our office is lovely, especially now we are slowly filling the white walls with framed book covers. And of course there is an enormous tube poster for James Oswald’s Mclean series.

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Do you find you have a typical day or is each day different?

Each day is different working for Juliet and this is something I really appreciate about being her assistant. I am very lucky that I am welcome to sit in on all of Juliet’s meetings and so I find myself part of meetings with potential clients; existing authors; scouts and the list goes on!

Has anything surprised you about the job?

I was pleasantly surprised by just how fast-paced the working environment is here. There is always something going on and new deals being struck. It makes it very exciting to be a part of.

What was your dream job as a child?

I’m not entirely sure it would count as a job, but for most of my childhood I wanted to compete in the Olympics in synchronised swimming. Unfortunately, you can’t read books while upside down in the pool.

What’s your dream job in the future? Do you hope to become a full-time agent and build your own list?

When Juliet asked me where I’d like to be in five years’ time I replied, “your desk”. Well, perhaps not her actual desk, but one next door as a full-time agent would be lovely. My dream is to build a client list of my own with authors as varied and as exciting as those I get to work with now. My favourite aspect of the job is following authors from their slush pile submission through to their first deal, and championing debut authors is something I hope to take forward when establishing my own list.

Do you read the submissions that come in to Juliet’s slush pile – is this a job you share or do you both read promising submissions?

Juliet will read everything that comes into her slush pile and will decide which submissions to call in the full for. I will then read these full manuscripts alongside Juliet and we share our editorial comments. I absolutely love this process and, although the pile is often very large and somewhat daunting, it is always exciting when you begin reading a manuscript and realise you can’t put it down.

If you do read submissions, what would you love to find in the slush pile?

I have a weak spot for flawed, independent female characters that aren’t defined by the men around them. I would love to find an ‘Amy from Gone Girl’ type character placed in a historical setting: something that turns the male discourse of history on its head in a very modern way.

Who’s your favourite author / favourite book of all time?

Favourite author is a tricky one as, even if there is an author who I generally like the style of, it is always the story itself that I am most passionate about. A Thousand Splendid Suns is my go-to book and got me through my finals at university. There is something so magical about the strength of the characters despite the sadness that surrounds them, that no matter where I am it always manages to transport me. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for something that makes me cry!

Thank you so much, Sarah!

 

 

Who’s Your Daddy?

Listening

In honour of Fathers’ Day, here are a few random Romaniacal thoughts on the whole complicated Dad issue.

Dads are a mixed bunch. They might be absent by choice, around all the time (but somehow not really there), dearly departed members of the family or all round good eggs who do nappies, wash the floor without being asked and buy flowers when it’s not even your birthday. Whichever category your dad falls into, he will have contributed in lots of ways to the person that’s reading this post, and not just in the way your hair sticks up in the mornings, your worrying tendency to miss deadlines and your passion for Toblerone.

‘Who’s your daddy?’ has come to mean a lot of different things over the years. Mostly, it’s got nothing to do with genetics – it usually means ‘Right, that’s shown you who’s boss around here,’ or ‘In your face, sucker!’ Does your dad fall into the bossy category or can you wrap him around your little finger? Would you change anything about him, or is he/was he perfect just the way he was made?

These are my top ten qualifications for a Superdad, in no particular order.

A truly great dad -

  • Reads stories, and does all the voices, even Piglet
  • Makes you laugh until your ribs ache
  • Provides huge, comforting hugs
  • Doesn’t mind looking daft in a good cause
  • Makes your mum happy (or at least doesn’t make her want to smother him in his sleep)
  • Helps with nasty homework, especially maths
  • Likes cooking, and knows where the dishwasher/sink is afterwards
  • Listens, even when you know you’re talking complete rubbish
  • Can tolerate a house full of sprawling, half asleep hungover friends
  • Loves you. Always. Whatever you do.

My own Pa managed nine out of ten. He never could get the hang of that cooking malarkey.

Hat

Gramp

Roving Romaniac – Lucie hits Milton Keynes!

Last weekend it was my turn to go roaming the streets and this particular Romaniac was let loose in Milton Keynes.

Saturday 7th June was the annual agency day for the Kate Nash Literary Agency and, having signed with Sarah Taylor in January, I was invited.  

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This was our ‘selfie’ for the Online Romance Festival which was on the same day.

I can’t tell you how excited I was. It has been quite some months since I last attended a writing event so I was looking forward to seeing other writers in the flesh – and knowing that there are still other crazy people Out There.

The day was amazing. Lots of useful and essential tips and information was on offer both from Kate and Sarah, and also fellow writers, too. Ranging from industry trends, to the latest bestsellers, to marketing. Throw in lots of laughter and lovely food and you get a jist of why I had so much fun.

After a day of talking – and sipping back on the free tea, coffee and biscuits – we retired to our rooms to get ready for an evening out. The agency day coincided with Jane Lovering’s publication day. Falling Apart celebrated its birthday in true, author style.

It went out and PARTIED!

For a more in depth look at Falling Apart’s antics – pop over to my blog, here. *WARNING* Not for the faint hearted …

We had a lovely evening out in Milton Keynes. Dinner, cocktails and lots of dancing. Kate and Sarah put together a fantastic day and I am sure I am not alone when I say a massive THANK YOU to them both for a wonderful weekend.

*Kate and Sarah are both accepting submissions at the moment, so If you would like to submit to either of them, please do! You will find submission guidelines here. *

 

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

 

And now to look forward to the RNA conference where a number of Romaniacs will be let loose … don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

Meet Tracy Tappan: On The Romaniacs’ Couch.

Please welcome to Romaniac HQ, author Tracy Tappan, who has kindly joined us to explain her fab concept, The Character Couch.

Mr and Mrs Smith is one of my all-time favourite movies. You’ll see why I’ve mentioned this in a moment. If you don’t know the film, I recommend watching it before reading Tracy’s brilliant post below :-)

Take us away … sorry … take it away, Tracy.

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the action-packed movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” are a husband and wife who don’t know each other are assassins. The movie opens with these two sitting in front of a therapist, squirming with discomfort; we guess this is as much from the possibility of having to bare their souls—something an assassin can’t do—as from the idea of talking about a marriage that has obviously been filled with lies. Either way, it’s going to be entertaining. And, oh, yes, the therapist kicks off the session with a bang.

“How often do you have sex?” he asks.

“I don’t understand the question,” Angelina Jolie returns, dead-pan.

“Is this on a scale of 1 to 10?” Brad puts in.

“So is 1 very little,” Angelina continues, “or is 1 nothing? Because, technically speaking…zero would be nothing.”

So it seems that Brad and Angelina haven’t been having sex for a while.

We can hardly believe it.

The episode is funny, touching, and intriguing, which is exactly the tone of my reader-focused website, The Character Couch (www.charactercouch.com), where fans can suggest their favorite romance couple to be brought into a therapy session. Yes, this is therapy, but these sessions are anything but angst-ridden. They are written in the same spirit as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” drawing us in to be a fly on the wall and peek at something we normally wouldn’t be able to see.

Will there be amusing bantering in these sessions, a sense of firm, quiet resolve, poignancy? Sure. All of it. Every session is different, but always attention-grabbing.

Don’t you find that the best books always stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page, leaving you hungry for more? I know I go crazy waiting for the next novel in a series to come out, and I figured other readers felt the same. So I came up with an idea that would combine my two loves—of doing therapy and writing romance—in a way that would provide innovative, free entertainment for fans.

Today, I share about my unique endeavor.

What could we expect to see if you had “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on The Character Couch?

LOL. Well, I think first you’d see the therapist secretly getting moon-eyed over Brad Pitt! And could we blame her?

Therapist Regan Malloy has been so exciting to create. I’ve already morphed her to fit a multitude of romance sub-genres. She’s been a French ex-pat from a time travel romance, a bespeckled Brit from a contemporary racehorse romance, a saloon mistress in America’s old west, and a wizened crone facing down a couple of vampires.

Regan also brings her own struggles into the session, whether that’s fear or uncertainty, confusion about her clients, or maybe just a verbal blunder of some sort. So, each month, the therapist is as different as her clients.

It’s all about keeping the site dynamic and entertaining!

That does sound like a great deal of fun for readers.

Oh, definitely. I always pose questions at the end of the session, too, because fan involvement adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience. Readers get a chance to join the “analysis” and tell me and the participating author what they think. This month for Zoe Dawson’s New York City based contemporary romance, COLLARED, the debate is flying about the dissimilar backgrounds of the hero and heroine, and the possible effects on their relationship. I’m impressed at how thought-provoking and insightful people’s comments have been.

It’s a fantastic time.

It seems that this site could also benefit authors.

Without question. The commentary I was just talking about offers an excellent way for authors to increase their social reach; comments are laterally posted on Facebook, so that the discussion can be seen by all of a fan’s friends—which means thousands!

The Character Couch is an innovative way for authors to market their books, and they’ve been really creative with their use of it. Many authors run contests, where fans are asked to vote on which couple from one of the author’s romance series they’d like to see go into therapy. Several lucky participants win prizes, and the book with the most votes earns a session on The Couch. This kindles fan enthusiasm even before the session is posted!

The procedure for readers is very user-friendly: people just click on the “Suggest A Book” icon in the side bar of the site and input their choice—anytime!

Readers don’t have to wait for a contest to make a suggestion!

This month, the award-winning author of COLLARED, Zoe Dawson, has done something very clever. Her characters, New York City cop, Caleb Shaw, and wealthy socialite, Harper Sinclair, have some issues that still need resolving (is it any wonder, considering he’s a cop and she’s an heiress?!). So Zoe got the ball rolling with Caleb and Harper’s problems in The Character Couch session…then left the issues to be settled in a follow-on wedding novella, CAPTURED. By doing this, she stirred up readers’ excitement more than ever to read her novella.

And yet, you write the sessions, don’t you?

I do. It’s a process that requires a great deal of attention to detail on my part in order to represent absolutely correctly another author’s characters. Not one word goes onto the site without an author’s full approval (authors can go to the FAQ section on the site for more detail).

And so far, so good! The testimonials page glows with the praise from alumni authors.

This has been one of the most satisfying parts of this endeavor for me; it means I’ve succeeded in honoring their stories, and that feels terrific.

How does a session typically end?

Oh, there isn’t a “typical” with these sessions; that’s another fun part. Every month, it’s a new journey, and you never know at what point you might laugh or get a clench of emotion in your chest. Or where a surprise might pop out at you.

Like the ending to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

During the course of the movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have discovered that each other are assassins. With the truth out, there’s hope for their marriage now. They end up in front of the therapist again, recapping, still spouting off to each other, but in a way that makes us chuckle; we know they’re going to be okay. The therapist seems to agree, talking about how marriage takes work, but—

Brad interrupts to say, “Ask us the ‘how many times did you have sex this week?’ question again.”

“John,” Angelina Jolie scolds quietly, while Brad Pitt proudly flashes ten fingers outside of Angelina’s sight lines.

Oh, yes, expect fun surprises!

 

*          *          *

Tracy Tappan Bloodline War 600 wide 72dpi

Tracy is the award-winning author of gritty romance, her books spanning genres across paranormal (The Community series), military suspense (The Wings of Gold series), and Historical (The Baron’s War trilogy). During nearly a quarter of a century spent as a military wife, she lived all over the United States and in Europe, enjoying seven years overseas in the diplomatic community, first in Rome then in Madrid, until she settled back in San Diego. Tracy holds a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling, and has used this background to create a fan-based website called The Character Couch, where romance’s favorite couples are brought into a fun session with therapist, Regan Malloy. Her debut paranormal novel, THE BLOODLINE WAR, is a Bronze Medal winner for romance of the prestigious Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), available now on Amazon. FREE from June 10-14th 2014.

To learn more, please visit her website at http://www.tracytappan.com/

 

Thank you so much, Tracy, for this fascinating insight in The Character Couch. I’m convinced my heroes and heroines could all do with a dose of Regan Malloy. One day …

Laura.

 

Book Launch: The No-Kids Club by Talli Roland

Today we help celebrate the launch of the fabulously talented Talli Roland’s latest novel ‘The No-Kids Club’

 

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Blurb:

At almost forty, Clare Donoghue is living child-free and loving it.

Then her boyfriend says he wants kids, breaking off their promising relationship. And it’s not just boyfriends: one by one, her formerly carefree friends are swallowed up in a nonstop cycle of play dates and baby groups. So Clare declares enough is enough and decides it’s time for people who don’t have children to band together. And so the No-Kids Club is born.

As the group comes together—Anna, who’s seeking something to jumpstart a stale marriage, and Poppy, desperate for a family but unable to conceive—Clare’s hoping to make the most of the childless life with her new friends. But is living child-free all it’s cracked up to be?

 

 

Congratulations, Talli,  and very best of luck from us all! Xx

Follow Talli on Twitter : @talliroland

Oops! Typo Alert …

At HQ, we often cringe or have a giggle at various typos we’ve either seen or made. In some cases they’ve even been for the best. After all, our very own blog name derived from one and it’s hard to imagine us being called anything else.

Here are a few of our finest …

Jan : 

“Sweat ‘n’ Sour Chicken.” (Eeeew! Thanks but no thanks!)

“Brianstorming Session.” (Poor Brian!)

“Thanks for the fiend request.” (Ooh, you little devil, you!)

Celia :

“Blinty” is my all-time favourite Romaniac-page blooper. I meant to say “blimey” at the time but much prefer blinty these days. Also like the times when one of us gets a word wrong in a thread and then everyone continues to use the typo for weeks afterwards. As they say, you don’t have to be insane to be a Romaniac, but it certainly helps …

Laura:

Pooked. I have no idea what I was meant to be typing, but it ended up as pooked. I pook, he pooks, we pook, they pooked. Answers on a postcard please … One of my main typos is if, when I want it to read of. ‘Oh, what’s become if …?’.  When I was a wee, young thing, I’d often muddle things up. We read the paper news and put the vase on the sill window. Finally, slightly deviating, we had to correct our son, who mistakenly believed the attack on Pearl Harbor happened in Poole Harbour. STOP PRESS. Yesterday, as we passed the beach and noticed the traditional seaside puppet show, my son asked, ‘Who is Punching Judy?’

Clearly, it’s in the genes.

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Vanessa:

My most recent typos have been in emails rather than the work-in-progress – I sent an email to Dear Lousie instead of Louise. Funnily enough, I never got a reply…  I also wrote headlice instead of headline in another mail (luckily I caught that one before it went out). Hmmm… my typos seemed strangely related *scratches head*

Debbie:

I reckon I can trump Jan’s use of ‘sweat.’ My mum once wrote to me, ‘sweat dreams.’

And on this topic, there’s a quote that makes me smile:-

“There are two typos of people in this world: those who can edit and those who can’t.” ― Jarod Kintz

 Sue:

Whilst I can’t think of anything specific, and there has no doubt been many, I do have one I regularly make. Since a child I have always had a tendency to get the letters ‘m’ and ‘p’ muddled, or should that be puddled up? Usually, I spot it straight away, but there has been the odd occasion when it’s got through. This doesn’t make for great reading when I’m trying to say something like, ‘She was missed.’ or ‘I miss you.’ or ‘He had been missing for a week.’  

I have to say, out of all the typos, ‘Romaniacs’ and ‘Blinty’ are my favourites.

 

 

What are the funniest, most toe-curling typos you’ve ever seen or made?

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Go on … you know you want to tell us!

 

 

 

 

Winning Ways With Words

There are lots of writing competitions out there for short stories, and unpublished novels, etc, often with an entry fee. They are well worth entering and any success that may come with them will really add to your writing CV.

I love entering competitions to the point I’d class it as my biggest hobby and I’m not just talking about writing competitions, I’m on about all sorts. I can pinpoint the exact moment I found out filling out forms and entering was really worthwhile. It was back in 2007 when we went to a wedding fair. At a budget talk they mentioned trying to win wedding prizes to try and save money. I went home, looked up wedding competitions and came across a website that linked to prize draws. I spent a few evenings entering. Six weeks later, I had a phone call, which to this day, I’m still stunned by. First the radio station rang to check I was available to answer the phone and reminded me I’d entered to win a holiday to Australia, and that could I wait by the phone because they would ring me back within ten minutes to let me know if I’d won! When they did ring, I was so sure they would ask me a question which I would get wrong, I was stunned into silence when they told me I was off to see Gwen Stefani in concert in Sydney. (Silence: Not the greatest sound on radio!) That was the first of many great experiences entering competitions has bought me. For that particular competition, I had to tell them why I should win so it involved a small amount of writing effort.

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It was later on I found out any competition involving any kind of effort, be it writing, photography or creative effort, it will attract less entries. So even if they may not bring the same accolades as winning a short story competition, as they don’t have an entry fee, I enter competitions that require some writing effort and I’ve won some amazing prizes as a result.

The top one has to be a car. Yes, you read that right, A CAR! Now this was slightly unusual in that it required you purchased a car in order to go into the prize draw and then you needed to write 150 words as to why you liked that brand of car. We’d upgraded our car when I found out about the competition, and as it required effort, I pushed the boat out and wrote a poem. When the garage called me to say I’d won, I did remember to scream (not too loudly) about it this time!

Car

Of course not all prizes are that big, but even a smaller win can be a real boost. Back in July last year, I was in hospital for two weeks after the birth of the twins and I received an email letting me know I was the runner up in a princess for the day competition. The main prize had been a £500 shopping spree in London, on a specific date, and if I’d won that I would have had to turn it down. The runner-up prize was perfect as it was £50 worth of Palmer’s goodies and as I was rather run down at that point it was a wonderful pick me up. And it all came about because I’d taken the time to write in about how Catherine Miller’s and Catherine Middleton’s pregnancies had differed, and that all mum’s needed to be treated like a princess.

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I haven’t updated my writing CV in a while, but when I do it will include being a mum to twins and winning a car with a poem. Perhaps not traditional items to have on your CV, but certainly talking points. So when you next enter writing competitions, don’t forget to consider non-conventional writing effort required competitions as well. You never know what you might win, and if you twist my arm enough, I’ll share my secrets about how to find out about them.