Meet the Agents: An interview with Kate ShawHarry Bingham
This is an interview with literary agent Kate Shaw. Kate has been a literary agent since 2001, working first at Aitken Alexander before joining the Viney Agency in 2009. She works very closely editorially with my clients, helping them to shape proposals and manuscripts before submitting them to publishers and has a client list of 26. Kate’s Twitter feed is here, the Viney Agency page is here and of course, her Agent Hunter Page is here!
Q. What books/authors do you love in commercial fiction? (Crime, women’s) Give us some examples and say why you liked these books/authors.
I loved Gillian Flynn’s first book, SHARP OBJECTS, probably more than GONE GIRL, because of its queasy atmosphere. Marian Keyes and Nick Hornby always make me smile and THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion tickled me; I love a romcom. I enjoy a lot of crime generally but I am a particular Jo Nesbo nut, because his characters, especially Harry Hole, are strongly drawn and the sense of place in his novels is vivid.
Q. What books/authors do you love in literary/historical/book group fiction? Examples and reasons, please!
This answer could go on and on as these are the areas of adult fiction I read and am most passionate about. As a snapshot, I adore Ali Smith and Kate Atkinson for their playfulness; Anne Tyler and Maggie O’Farrell for their characters and heart; Margaret Atwood for her fierce intelligence and creativity; and in historical fiction my two favourites are probably Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel. Oh look, I’ve listed no male authors! Well, to name just two, I think Jonathan Coe and Mark Haddon are peerless at what they do.
Q. How about sci-fi/horror/fantasy/paranormal/YA dystopian/erotic? What would you be interested in, and what’s a big no?
Almost always a no unless the books transcend the genre, e.g. I have always been a fan of William Gibson, whom I once worked with.
Q. On the non-fiction side, are there particular areas that interest you? Does your non-fiction list have a particular slant to it?
My non-fiction list is very eclectic but I do particularly like working with journalists and/or on narrative non-fiction and memoir.
Q. What (very roughly) is the balance of your list between literary fiction / commercial fiction / non-fiction?
About equally waited between literary fiction/commercial fiction/children’s and YA fiction/non-fiction, with a smaller amount of children’s non-fiction and picture books.
Q. Is there anything in particular you’d love to see at the moment?
I am particularly keen to see more literary and crime fiction, intelligent women’s fiction and thoughtful, contemporary YA.
Q. Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I have a particular fascination for Africa and for writing that explores mental health and related issues.
Q. What single piece of advice would you most want to give writers?
Keep reading other books and working on your own. Good luck!
Q. How many submissions do you see annually? And how many of those submissions will end up on your list?
I probably receive about 500 submissions a year and take on about 3-6 new clients.
Q. Do you look for social media and online presence? Do you care?
I’m not obsessed with this but take it into consideration, especially for non-fiction. I think for a novelist, this can be built up in the run up to publication.
Q. When people are pitching the concept for a book to you, what do you find is the most common failing?
Going into too much detail and/or writing a review of their book instead of a description.
Q: What character (from any book) would you be and why?
Ah, this changes daily. At the moment I’d like to be Harriet Manners in Holly Smale’s GEEK GIRL books, because even when she’s getting things wrong she is lovely, smart, loyal, funny and thoroughly decent. Oh yes – and she’s also young!