to welcome literary agent Kate Burke to the RNA blog today for an interview with Helena Fairfax. Kate is with Diane
Banks Associates and worked previously at Headline, Penguin,
HarperCollins, and as Editorial Director at Century (Random House). Thanks
so much for joining us, Kate!
tell us a little about Diane Banks Associates, how long the agency has been
established, and how you came to join.
set up the agency in 2006 after a career in publishing on the rights side. I
head up the fiction side of things for the agency and we also have a
non-fiction agent, a children’s/YA agent and a broadcast agent, so we are a
full-service agency, handling all rights (translation, film & TV, audio,
speaking engagements, etc) in house.
joined five years ago and also came from the publishing side – I had been an
editor for ten years, publishing all types of commercial fiction and editing
lots of bestselling authors (Marian Keyes, Fern Britton, Lisa Jewell, Jane
Fallon, Jane Green, Cecelia Ahern, Penny Vincenzi to name but a few!) I loved
my time as an editor but what I really wanted to do was seek out new writers,
so switching sides and becoming an agent was the perfect solution. From my
experience at four major publishers, I know what editors are looking to acquire,
what they want to see in a submission letter, how they want a book to be
pitched to them and, above all, I know that a manuscript needs to be up to
scratch before an editor can consider it and share it with their team, so I offer
my clients extensive editorial feedback before submitting their manuscripts to
genres do you represent personally?
main areas of fiction are women’s/contemporary romance, historical,
psychological/domestic suspense, crime, thrillers and sagas. I’m always looking
for new writers in these areas.
had extensive experience in commissioning and publishing commercial fiction. What
is it about a book that makes you decide it will sell well? (Difficult
question, I know…!)
probably sounds a bit basic but I need to be gripped by the writing and want to
read on! It’s all about engaging the reader – I can work with a writer to fix a
plot, timeline or structure of a novel – but that writing quality – the flow of
words, the telling of the story, characters that feel real – needs to be there
from the outset. What’s also needed (for me to see its selling potential) is an
original storyline/hook, one that I can pitch to editors in just a couple of
you noticed any particular trends in romance recently, and if so, what do you
think is going to be big this year?
wish I had a crystal ball to predict what will be big this year! Sadly, I
don’t, but dark women’s fiction (often labelled domestic or psychological
suspense) continues to sell well and I think that trend of exploring the darker
side of relationships and romance isn’t going away. That said, I think there
has been so much dark and thrillerish romance published over the past few years
that readers are now ready for something more uplifting! I think we will see
more romantic comedies coming out over the next year or so – warm, romantic, life-affirming
reads that will provide a nice balance to all the darker, creepier novels out
you ever find authors outside the slush pile? If so, how?
but it does happen. Sometimes I’ll meet authors at literary festivals or
conferences and they’ll pitch their novel to me or sometimes a friend or
contact of one of my authors will send their manuscript in. The slush pile is
usually where I find most of my clients though.
advice would you give someone submitting to you?
your audience and read widely in the area in which you’re writing. It really
helps to know who you’re writing for and which genre your novel would fit into.
I like it when writers can position their novel in terms of genre and
comparable authors, and they know who they are writing for.
would also advise that writers check out our submission guidelines on our
website before submitting and that they send over clean chapters (ie, not ones
riddled with mistakes!) Also, it helps if they get my name right on their
submission email (if I had a dollar for every time I received an email saying
your favourite romance novel of all time?
so hard to choose! Not strictly romances, I know, but it’s a tie between The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
and The History of Love by Nicole
Krauss. Oh, and I love Jane Eyre.
Sorry – this question is impossible to answer!
do you like to do in your spare time?
have two small children so very little spare time these days but reading is my
favourite past-time and I love the cinema and theatre too.
you could describe your working day in just three words, what would they be?
edits and negotiations. (Sadly, there’s no time for reading at my desk so that
gets done outside of the office!)
so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions,
Kate. It’s been a great pleasure getting to know you. Wishing you and Diane Banks Associates all the best for 2018!