Saturday 25 January 2014

What Are Agents Looking For? by Claire Wilson

Before Christmas, I put a tweet out to the publishing world, to see if any literary agents would be interested in coming on the blog to talk about the kind of books they would like to see arriving in their inboxes. A literary hit list of sorts.
Thankfully the lovely Claire Wilson from Rogers, Coleridge and White Literacy Agent, offered to write a post. Claire joined RCW in 2007, after previously working in publishing sales and rights. She looks after the agency’s  YA and children’s authors and represents one of my personal favourites, Tanya Byrne, among others.
What are agents looking for?
I always admire agents who have a keen eye out for a particular gap in the market, or even just a very specific desire to read a particular sort of story. It’s likely that if they have realised a certain type of book they love is underrepresented then publishers and readers will have had the same thought, and there will be a hunger out there to fill that niche.
However, on racking my brains I’ve realised that I haven’t ever been so strategic. I’ve taken on around twenty new authors since starting to build my list, and I can’t think that any of those decisions were made because the author was writing something I had already realised I wanted. In every case, the author’s work landed on my desk out of the blue, and convinced me that a fantasy/love story/thriller was exactly what was missing, what editors would jump on, and what readers would love. Often in fact, the novels will fall into a category that I feel exactly the opposite about – a subject to which I’m not naturally drawn, but such a brilliant, genre-transcending example that it is impossible to resist. To be pulled into a novel almost against your will is a sign that it’s really good. 
So, in terms of useful lists of what I want, I am not very helpful.... I know that all aspiring writers have been told a hundred times that agents are looking for ‘a strong voice’ and ‘a fresh story’, so while I definitely am seeking those things I don’t expect that will be particularly useful feedback. The best advice I can possibly give is not to write something because you know that people are looking for it. Write the book that keeps you awake at night, and the story that speaks in your head louder than anything else around you. I’d love to read it, and I’m always waiting to discover what I’m looking for next.
Thank you Claire, for such a brilliant post. Let’s hope you find what you are looking for.
If you are a literary agent and would like to write a post about the type of stories you are looking for, then please send me an email at .


  1. "To be pulled into a novel almost against your will is a sign that it’s really good."

    I love those kind of books. I mean yeah, I enjoy when I find a novel that deals with one of my favorite subjects. But I enjoy a story even more when it deals with something I'm not usually excited about if it still manages to capture my interest.


Hiya, thanks for stopping by, it is always nice to hear what you have to say, so do leave a comment if you have time.