We are very lucky to have a huge number of industry professionals attending the RNA conference in Leeds this year – agents, publishers and editors – and over the past few weeks, we have been hearing from them about what they do and what they are looking for from their one-to-one sessions with RNA members over the weekend of the conference in July.
Today, we welcome Hattie Grunewald, who is an associate agent with Blake Friedmann agency. So, over to you, Hattie.
1. Please could you start by telling us what your current role is and what it involves?
I’m an associate agent at Blake Friedmann agency, representing writers in a range of genres – commercial and book club women’s fiction, crime and thriller, children’s and YA, and some non-fiction too. Day to day, my role involves working with my authors to edit their books, find publishers and then working with publishers to ensure those books find their readers. That ranges from the fun stuff like reading, editing, meeting editors and authors to the nitty gritty of negotiating contracts, chasing royalty and advance payments and keeping our pitching material up to date.
2. What type of submissions are you personally looking for at the moment?
At the moment I’m open to submissions across women’s fiction, general fiction, crime, children’s and YA. I’m particularly keen to find fresh and funny commercial novels about young people in their twenties; epic love stories that pluck at the heartstrings and bring tears to your eyes and contemporary-set young adult romances that are smart and relatable. I also always want to read about characters that we might not typically get a chance to hear from – older heroines, books set outside of London and the South-East, stories about BAME, disabled or LGBT characters.
3. Is there anything you wouldn’t accept right now?
I don’t represent paranormal, fantasy or science-fiction, books for children under 8, poetry or short stories. Otherwise, I’m normally happy to take a look.
4. RNA members are sending you only their first chapter and a synopsis. Can you give them any tips on how to grab your attention in such a short submission?
I recommend getting straight into your story and don’t waste too much time introducing the setting or characters – that can come later. Start with a hook that grabs the reader’s attention, and makes them want to read on and find out what will happen next. If you start with a prologue, make sure it works with the rest of the book and is the best possible representation of your writing – otherwise it can be distracting and not the best advertisement for your book.
5. And what about the synopsis? Do you have any tips for writing a really good one?
Everyone finds synopses hard, so don’t overthink it. I think the key is to start as short as possible. Put your elevator pitch – two or three sentences that outline your entire novel – at the top. Then try and explain the story in a paragraph and slowly expand that, only including the most relevant information. Only include a maximum of four named characters or it can get confusing. The simpler, the better here.
6. What are you most looking forward to doing over the conference weekend aside from your one-to-one sessions?
I love catching-up with my authors and colleagues from across publishing, but also meeting new people and hearing about what fantastic books they have coming up. I also really enjoy hearing what other people think the next big thing is going to be in romantic fiction – often writers and readers are more in sync with this than publishers and agents!
7. Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
I’ve just returned from holiday and really loved two books I read while I was away. The first is HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW by Holly Bourne – I found it a very relatable take on the quarter-life crisis and how to know when to settle down and when to keep searching. I also found the deconstruction of Instagram and social media so refreshing! The second is THE SURFACE BREAKS by Louise O’Neill – a feminist, young adult re-telling of The Little Mermaid. The writing is beautiful and entrancing, and the subversion of a classic love story into something fresh and empowering was just brilliant. (Typically, I seem to have selected two anti-love stories, but believe me when I say that I am desperate for a romance that absolutely knocks me off my feet – any recommendations welcome!)