What I’ve Learnt About Authors

Over the past month I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you were to go through my blog posts. I now work for a literary agency, you see. The good news is that I’m legitimately surrounded by books all day, the not so good news is that I have to read a lot for work so my leisure reading has taken a bit of a backseat. In the past month, I’ve read all kinds of books ranging from a tale of survival in war-torn Beirut, to a novel about the eventful private life of Pablo Picasso, and I’m excited to say that I’ve also read something from a first-time struggling American writer that I have really high hopes for.

I’ve come to understand that almost everyone feels they have a novel inside them, and I’ve unfortunately become that person that crushes the dream, the bearer of bad news. I’ve learnt that it gets easier with time and also that there are some delusional people out there who take it very personally and start to become aggressive.

In my mind, whenever I think of writers, I’ve always maintained a lofty image of a spectacled person with unkempt hair, lounging over a typewriter with a black coffee and cigarette in hand. However, I’ve discovered that authors are real people with real lives. And…

  • I’ve learnt that some live at very normal looking London addresses.
  • I’ve learnt that they are at times insistent that their true identities remain concealed (all for very valid reasons).
  • I’ve learnt that they take public transport and that they sweat after walking through the muggy, late summer, London heat.
  • I’ve learnt that as established as they are, sometimes their work isn’t that good.
  • I’ve learnt that they can lose all their work through the unfortunate drowning of their laptops (Yes. Drowning).
  • I’ve learnt that some are very particular about certain things, especially about money.
  • I’ve learnt that the cover design of a book is the centre of many arguments and can cause professional relationships to dissolve.
  • I’ve learnt that they write on random bits of napkin, stapled together with pages of faded pencil and images drawn crudely with a biro and that it’s your job to make sense of it all and to type it up into a word document (where it should have been in the first place).
  • I’ve learnt that they marry acrobats.
  • I’ve learnt that they find it difficult to write when their children are teething.
  • I’ve learnt that they’re human. As nervous as I was to meet them, so were they to meet me.

So, a million cups of tea and dozens of manuscripts later, I can honestly say that it’s all so very subjective. All I am is an avid reader, my opinion is not necessarily worth more than anyone else’s; I just happen to have a job that means my opinion can be put into effect. All I can say to writers is do your research and send your book to the right agent, an agent on whose list you genuinely fit, because it’s a really nice feeling to be able to tell a person, after years of being rejected, that you loved their submission and would like to read more. The relief and sheer elation in their response is palpable (though they try to play it cool).

And I promise, a review will be up here by the end of the weekend.

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2 responses

    • You know, it’s a combination of both the best and the worst. Can’t complain if you get paid to spend most of your day reading, but it feels awful giving bad news, yet the prospect of finding an undiscovered talent is really exciting so I guess, ultimately, it all pans out.

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