Tonight the winners of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Industry Awards 2017 will be announced at the RNA Winter Party. It’s a special pleasure to welcome Rebecca Ritchie of the AM Heath Agency to the RNA blog today, because Rebecca has been shortlisted for the literary agent of the year award for her work “supporting, mentoring and nurturing authors’ careers and promoting the romance genre and the RNA in particular”.
Many congratulations on your nomination, Rebecca, and thank you for taking the time to come and talk to us!
how long it’s been established, and how you came to join.
literary agencies. It represents established contemporary authors like Hilary
Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell and Conn Iggulden, iconic literary estates, such as
those of George Orwell and Winston Graham, and of course the RNA’s very own,
wonderful Katie Fforde. I joined AM Heath in April 2017, after over six years
at Curtis Brown where I worked alongside Sheila Crowley and had the pleasure of
working on some of my favourite authors – Jojo Moyes, Santa Montefiore and Jane
Costello, to name just a few – and also started building my own list. The first
author I took on was Iona Grey – who I met at a RNA event! – and her debut
novel Letters to the Lost went on to be published by Simon and Schuster and won
the overall Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year award in 2016. I joined
AM Heath to build up the commercial women’s fiction side of the list, which is
an area that the other agents here don’t tend to focus on hugely.
historical, reading group, crime, thriller and psychological suspense.
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?
course, is the writing. As an agent, when you open a submission and can tell
immediately that someone can truly write – that you’re in the hands of a
genuine storyteller – you can relax and let the story transport you with it. Of
course the plot and the characters have to be great too, but excellent writing
is first and foremost. When it comes to commercial women’s fiction
specifically, character is paramount: as a reader you want to really get your
teeth into a protagonist’s character, to really root for them or to love to
hate them. In terms of specific plots/themes, I’d never want to be too
prescriptive, but I’d love to find a really moving love story (heartbreaking,
heart-warming, I don’t mind), and while I’m always partial to some gripping
psychological suspense I do think the genre is saturated and there are enough horrors to read about in the news,
so I’d also love to find something at the opposite end of the spectrum: some uplifting, life-affirming fiction.
agency recently put out a call for pitches on Twitter, under the hashtag
#TellAMH. How successful was this? Did you have any interesting pitches, and
what made them stand out? Is something your agency will be repeating often?
(Lots of questions in one here…!)
us on Twitter (so their pitches had to be concise, 140 characters – not an easy
feat), with each day focusing on a different genre. We received hundreds of
pitches and invited our favourites to submit directly to us, and I thought the
commercial women’s fiction day was particularly strong. The pitches that stood
out most were the ones where the novel had a clear, intriguing hook that made
you want to read on, or where they asked a question that you just had to know
the answer to.
was your role at the Book Fair and how important is this event for you and your
we meet with editors from around the world, pitch our authors’ books and hear
what editors are looking to acquire and find out what’s working in their
markets. While of course we correspond by phone and email throughout the year,
it’s always wonderful to meet with editors face to face and foster those
relationships (and of course there are plenty of parties to attend too!) I met
with editors from the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel and more, and
pitched books by my own and also my colleagues’ clients.
start of your covering letter in an immediately memorable way that just compels
me to read on. I always think it’s a good exercise to be able to complete the
sentence: “My novel is about a woman/man who…” – it really makes you distil the
essence of your novel and what’s unique about it into a single punchy line.
Capture the Castle (a more perfect coming-of-age love story there isn’t), The
Time Traveller’s Wife, Love Story (small but perfectly formed), Me Before You
for starters. But there are so many more.
the most in the past twelve months, and why?
heart-breaking, funny and moving, I loved it.
three words, what would they be?