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Literary Agents - The Power Behind the Passion

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LONDON Few professions combine the tetra of talent that forms a successful literary agent. Sharp negotiation skills, a working knowledge of intellectual property, the juggling of New York/LA time zones - all wrapped up in a singular creative passion. And for around a 15% return on 100% commitment to their authors.

Here, we make visible three members of the invisible estate...  


Camilla Bolton

Senior Agent 

Darley Anderson Agency

Your career trajectory and current specialism?

I have been here for 11 years and started as an office assistant and reader before Darley gave me the incredible opportunity to become an agent after three months at the agency. I specialise in fiction focusing mainly on crime, thrillers and suspense, although I do also take on a few women’s fiction and non-fiction projects if I fall in love with them.

Approach to nurturing talent - debut and established authors...

The key for our agency is that we sign authors with the belief that we will represent them for their whole careers. As an agent you have to obsessively love a manuscript, but it is also hugely important that we believe we can work with an author over hopefully many years and be the very best advocate for their work.

A big part of my job is working very closely with authors editorially and nurturing them from the outset so they are equipped and ready to work with editors. Once we have deals in place – we purposefully keep hold of the world rights so we can submit directly worldwide - we then support authors, manage and strategise their careers, maintain positive relationships with publishers and negotiate the very best terms and advances for contracts. Overall, day to day, our approach is definitely one of supporting and protecting our authors now, whilst being very aware of the market and strategising how their future careers will flourish.

Challenges currently facing the agency market and your company - and your outlook for 2019

The book market is continuously changing and this year has been harder for paperbacks to secure shelf space, but then hardbacks are definitely holding their worth. The ebook market fascinates me as readers tend to be far more genre loyal as opposed to the author loyalty you find with printed books. So we need to work with authors and publishers to find new ways to ensure an author’s presence is sustained.

Every year there are challenges but the key for us is ensuring our represented authors have all the support they need, whilst as an agency we are also very focused on discovering new talent and future bestsellers. When you have an amazing manuscript with characters and plot that blow you away then it shouldn’t matter if it’s being called a challenging year; as an agent you need to have unwavering belief and determination that there is always a way to ensure the manuscript will become a novel that readers will love. So our outlook is extremely positive and we’ve got some amazing books being published in 2019.

What were your highlights for 2018?

We’ve had a phenomenal year with Lee Child dominating the world and at the agency we’ve had five books at No 1 in the UK and four at No 1 in the US. Overall in just the UK and US, fourteen of our authors have been chart bestsellers, including ten books on the Sunday Times bestseller list and eight on the New York Times bestseller list. Two of my authors reached the remarkable milestone of having sold over a million copies so this has also been incredibly exciting. Another huge work highlight for me personally was having both B A Paris’ Bring Me Back and Catherine Steadman’s Something In The Water on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time. I’ve also sold four debuts with a fifth looking like it’s about to go under offer, so it’s been a thriving year for new talent.

And your tips on the stocking-filler titles for Christmas?

There is an amazing independent bookshop in central London called Goldsboro Books that specialises in beautiful collectible hardbacks so I always tell people to visit here for stocking-filler gifts. For particular titles, Past Tense by Lee Child is phenomenal (and competing to be my favourite Reacher book so far) and You Were Gone by Tim Weaver is a genius mix of an amazing hook, incredible protagonist and beautiful storytelling. If you’re looking for really fresh voice driven titles then the debut You Don’t Know Me by criminal lawyer Imran Mahmood has received huge acclaim, and G X Todd’s Defender and her Voices series has been compared to King’s The Stand so she is definitely an author to watch.

Angharad Kowal Stannus

Founder 

Kowal Stannus Agency 

Your career trajectory and current specialism?

I spent the first 10 years of my career on the publishing side in NY at Simon & Schuster as director of rights, specialising in the international markets. In 2008 I switched to the agenting side and moved to London where I opened the UK office of literary agency Writers House. In 2017 I had the pleasure of going out on my own and opened the Kowal Stannus Agency.

Big picture publishing has always held a fascination for me, whether it’s through business with publishers in countries all over the world, or being able to offer my clients the knowledge that comes with having been on both sides of publishing and agenting spectrum. A background in rights –
selling translation, film and television, merchandise, or what have you – also trained me to think about books as a gateway to many different things. During my career I’ve been privileged to represent an incredibly diverse list of authors and illustrators such as: Stephen Hawking, Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman, Michael Lewis, Rachel Renee Russell, Karen Rose, Christopher Paolini, and Natalia and Lauren O’Hara, to name just a few. So much so that I’ve purposely chosen not to specialize in any one genre; KSA represents fiction and nonfiction for adults and children.

Having a wide view of all publishing markets makes me more valuable in this world of intellectual property, and certainly makes my job more fun.

Approach to nurturing talent - debut and established authors...

In this world of ever-tightening budgets, editors have less and less time to edit, and therefore won’t acquire something that needs more than a fair amount of editorial work. As an ex-publisher, I know just how busy they are. A manuscript has to be loved not just by the editor, but by the many other gatekeepers working with that editor. That’s where your agent comes in. I provide editorial comments and support, and usually my advice is less about the creative and more about the commercial, or helping clients to think about the bigger picture. It’s also about supporting my clients across publicity, marketing, branding, the development of their website, etc. But the most important thing is a good relationship and respect.

Challenges currently facing the agency market and your company - and your outlook for 2019?

It’s no surprise that the entertainment market is incredibly competitive. The most important thing is to get the client’s work in the right hands, and provide the tools to know where in the market to place it. My outlook for 2019 is incredibly positive – I can’t wait to see some client’s new or debut
titles published, and to continue to add new voices and artists to my list. I’d love to add some more commercial fiction, and I’m still looking for the perfect love story.

What were your highlights for 2018?

Growing my client’s individual careers is always the highlight of the year. I’m also thrilled to have signed some fantastic new voices and stunning Illustrators, which you’ll be hearing about next year.
And I’m particularly pleased that Lauren O’Hara was chosen to illustrate Sophie Dahl’s first book for children, Madame Badobedah,due to publish next autumn, so look for it then.

And your tips on the stocking-filler titles for Christmas?

For a great gift for your daughter, as a family activity, or for someone who needs a little lift, I recommend Write A Letter by kindred spirit Jodi Ann Bickley. For pure escapism and to shake off end of year malaise, book 1 in Angus Watson’s new series, You Die When You Die. Or for the youngest ones, the gorgeous picture book, The Bandit Queen, by sisters Natalia and Lauren O’Hara.

Donald Winchester

Literary Agent 

Watson, Little 

Your career trajectory and current specialism?

I’ve been a literary agent at Watson, Little for five years, after a half-decade at AP Watt, and before that in editorial at Penguin. At Watson, Little (which incidentally is nearing its 50th anniversary), I look after a broad range of fiction and non-fiction. In fiction I tend to look for high quality writing in many areas – I am most readily seduced by a story that combines smart and compassionate writing with a playful approach to structure. Some of my favourite contemporary novelists include Sarah Hall, Edward St Aubyn, and Zadie Smith.

Approach to nurturing talent - debut and established authors...

Every author is different, and has different needs. My view is that an agent is there to serve their authors, to give them what support, feedback, and encouragement they need – while also negotiating the best deal for them on all fronts. This means a curated approach for each writer. I do a lot of editorial work with my authors – ensuring their work is in the best possible shape before an editor sees it.

Challenges currently facing the agency market and your company - and your outlook for 2019?

The general constraints of the market, where readers have an increasing array of entertainment options to choose from, remains an issue to those (like me) who love books above all! On the industry side, publishers’ eagerness to acquire non-traditional rights (often to the detriment of authors) will continue to be a challenge.

What were your highlights for 2018?

Cyprian Ekwensi’s brilliant Jagua Nana, the story of a bold and resourceful woman in revolutionary Nigeria, was published by Penguin Modern Classics this year. It is a real gem, by an unjustly neglected and prolific writer, but is also personally pleasing as its been brought back into print after several years.

And your tips on the stocking-filler titles for Christmas?

The familiar (Sally Rooney, Ladybird remakes, Michelle Obama’s autobiography) will be there but I’m also hoping people will make time for Pat Barker’sThe Silence of the Girls, Timothy Morton’s Being Ecological, and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Red Carpet talks to Bob Bakish, Viacom President & CEO

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We catch up with Bob Bakish following Red Carpet mag's attendance at the recent MTV EMA. Here, the president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) takes Sat Bal on a journey from engineering to music and Amsterdam to India.  Read more

Frank van der Post on British Airways' New First

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The airline’s managing director of brands and customer experience discusses the advent of BA’s  new ‘First’ cabins, expected to land next year. Formerly chief operating officer of Jumeirah Group, here, Frank advances his thoughts on luxury concepts and brands with Abigail Parkin. Read more

Dawn Rises

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Rolls-Royce Dawn

The open-top Rolls-Royce Dawn claims ‘Best Luxury Car’ in the 2017 UK Car of the Year Awards. Chris Page

Rolls-Royce cites judges Forbes Life (“It’s a movie star car!”) among the panellists seduced by the Dawn since it swept into the market in March 2016.

Titles such as Robb Report, The Telegraph, Top Gear and luxury bodies including Walpole and the German Design Council have all been seduced by Dawn, the ultimate expression of true luxury open-top touring.

This critical acclaim is echoed in the extraordinary demand from the world’s most discerning patrons of luxury that has driven the marque to the second highest sales result in the company’s 113-year history and 6% global growth in 2016. The UK, Rolls-Royce’s home market, grew by 30% over the same period affirming the marque’s status as the consummate expression of success for a bold new generation of entrepreneurs.

Rolls Dawn Interior

“Since its introduction in 2016, Dawn has introduced a highly dynamic new generation of men and women to Rolls-Royce. These patrons of true luxury have been drawn to the most glamorous expression of Rolls-Royce luxury in history,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “Every Rolls-Royce motor car is exquisitely hand-crafted at our centre of excellence in Goodwood, West Sussex. Plaudits like this are a glowing affirmation of the extraordinary skill of the 1,700 men and women engaged in the creation of the ‘Best Cars in the World’.

Transformational Programmer

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Gido Schimanski is an international teacher and coach whose ‘Transformational Programmes’ have been adopted by actors, choreographers and financiers alike. Clients can expect specifically tailored coaching with an emphasis on removing ‘self-sabotage’ barriers to success. Sat Bal  Read more

He built this CiTEE on Rock 'N' Roll

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Dick Tee is the event industry’s ‘Mr Production’ and his company, That's EnTEEtainment, is among the red carpet of live event suppliers servicing name events ranging from Glastonbury Festival to James Bond film premieres. Abigail Parkin (30 Apr’13) Read more

Select Collection - Luxury travel profile

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Summer’s upon us and if you’ve opted for a luxury villa somewhere exotic then chances are you’ve booked with Select Collection. Starting as Select Travel in 1992, this purveyor of luxury holidays grew from one office in Stockholm to a reported £24 million business in five countries, with a new name - Select Collection. Sat Bal talks to its founder Leija Graf.

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Anya Hindmarch wins Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award

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Anya Hindmarch has won this year’s Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, making the luxury handbag designer and MBE the 40th winner of the award. Chris Page (27 Apr 12). 

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Ted Walker - Keith Prowse Hospitality

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The pursuits of Ted Walker bear a common thread of striving whether it’s treating guests to memorable hospitality in iconic venues - or barrelling A-Frame waves in tropical oceans in his spare time. 

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British Airways' Abigail Comber – Red Carpet Profile

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Head of British Airways’ Brands and Marketing, Abigail Comber talks us through the making of ‘The Race’ advert which we’ve seen heavily aired on TV recently. Abi is responsible for the strategic development of the airline’s global brand and marketing activities, including advertising, sponsorship, brands, design, digital innovation, community relations and relationship marketing.

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