This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Kate Burke has recently joined Diane Banks Associates Literary Agency and is on the hunt for sparkling new talent! Novelicious recently caught up with with Kate for a quick chat…
There were lots of reasons I decided to cross over to the agency side – and I won’t bore you with them all – but there were three main factors. Firstly, the creative freedom that agenting offered – as an agent, you can take on a client in any genre, fiction or non-fiction, as long as you love their writing and, having always published fiction, I loved the idea of branching out into new genres and into non-fiction. The second factor was the exciting prospect of going out and finding talented new writers! It’s certainly challenging but it’s also great fun trying to think of new ways and new avenues to explore. Thirdly, I wanted to spend even more time working with authors and developing their novels and careers. I loved being a fiction publisher – I had done it for ten years and I had been lucky enough to have worked with some of the biggest fiction authors out there – and, of course, you work closely with authors and build up relationships with them but I just really wanted to be there at the start of their journey and to see it all the way through. Taking the leap into the world of agenting isn’t something I took lightly and I gave it a lot of thought before making the move. That said, I think my ten years’ experience of the other side – whether that’s my editing experience, knowledge of the marketplace or contacts in the industry or all of those things combined – has made the transition quite seamless. I still get to work with authors (albeit even more closely now) and I still get to work with all the lovely editors and their teams I once worked with so it’s the best of both worlds.
What are you looking for right now?
I’m really on the hunt for dark, psychological suspense – crime novels with a strong female lead character. They don’t have to be police procedurals (though I love those too) but just something creepy and unsettling with a strong female lead to root for. I’m also looking for all kinds of romance – love stories set in any time period and in any location – and particularly novels with older (forty plus) female characters as that is a huge market.
How important do you think platform is for aspiring writers?
I think it’s really important. The marketplace is more competitive than ever so it’s crucial that writers try to build themselves a profile in order to stand out from the crowd. The more a writer puts themself out there – whether it’s on social media sites or writing forums – the more, I think, they will develop a profile and the quicker they will build a following of fans. There are lots of platforms already out there – reading and writing forums, creativing writing groups – so taking part in one of those could really help aspiring writers to develop their work and profile. Publishers expect writers to do a lot of self-publicising so, when starting out, it’s good to get into the mindset of sharing your writing with others and connecting with other writers.
What is your approach to giving editorial input and career guidance to your clients?
Given my background as an editor, I’m used to working closely with writers on their work so the same applies for working with my clients. I give lots of editorial advice and detailed editorial notes to ensure that their manuscript is as strong and polished as it can be before I submit it to publishers. It’s a very collaborative process with my clients and I always give fair and honest critiques of their work. By working together on a manuscript – even if that means several drafts – it gives it the best possible chance of being acquired by an editor. I don’t give career guidance per se but I’m always happy to discuss new ideas and genres with my clients should they wish to move in a different direction.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Kate Burke?
I actually can’t because every day is so different! But, in a nutshell, my job involves lots of emails and phonecalls – to editors, publishers, clients and potential clients – editing manuscripts, making new contacts in order to find new clients, meetings with clients and often having editorial brainstorms with them; networking with editors; speaking at events, festivals and writers’ groups and, of course, reading lots and lots of manuscripts (this is done in the evenings and on weekends as there just isn’t time during office hours!). Every day is different which is why I love this job so much – it’s never predictable and that keeps me on my toes!
What's your favourite book?
Such a hard question! I love so many books and there are so many I have reread over the years… It’s a three-way tie between The Stand by Stephen King, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. Please don’t make me choose one!
Please describe your ideal author and submission.
My ideal author is someone who is passionate about writing and reading, has lots of creative and original ideas, is open to editorial suggestions and is hardworking, ambitious and humble. Ideally, their submission should impress not just in the quality of their manuscript but in their covering email and synopsis too. If their covering email conveys their passion for writing and that they know their audience and what genre they are writing in, then that is really encouraging to read as they might already know the kind of writer they are and aspire to me.
What are your top five tips for getting an agent?
1. Finish your manuscript before approaching agents. Although the initial submission guidelines on our agency’s website say to send a cover email, synopsis and three chapters in the first instance, if we like what they read, we will request the whole manuscript so it’s a real advantage to have this ready to send to us. Also, it shows agents that you are serious about getting published – it’s no easy feat to complete a manuscript but, if you have already done so, this could really work in your favour.
2. Buy a copy of the most up-to-date edition of Artists & Writers Yearbook. Look through the list of agents (all literary agencies are listed) and give some thought as to who you want to approach based on what genres they represent and their client list. Submit your material exactly as they require (most agencies have a ‘submissions’ page on their website) and don’t chase agents for a reply. We aim to get back to writers within two weeks – sometimes longer during busier periods – but some agencies take a lot longer. Either way, aspiring writers will need to be patient.
3. Make sure there are no typos in your cover email, synopsis or manuscript. It might sound like a small thing but some agents are put off by sloppy use of the English language!
4. It’s fine to send your manuscript to several literary agencies but do flag up to each that you have done so. You don’t need to mention who you have submitted to – just that you have submitted your novel widely and that you will inform agencies if anything progresses with another agency.
5. Make sure you convey as much of your personality as you can in your covering email. Try to show your passion for reading and writing, and your thoughts on who you think might like your novel. Any awareness of the book marketplace will impress as it shows you know who you want to be as a writer.