Thursday, 7 September 2017

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with agent Anne Williams

Welcome to my new feature, MY PUBLISHING LIFE, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


Associate Agent
Kate Hordern Literary Agency

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first permanent job was publicity assistant at Victor Gollancz in the mid-1980s. Before that I did a freelance project for Faber (paid £50) and worked on a non-fiction proposal, a mixture of Jane Fonda's Workout and Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, also paid £50, for Waterstones Publishers. Their idea. They asked me to be the author, but I declined… 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
Eight years. 

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
I have just finished working through the first draft of a new cosy crime novel, a 21st-century Miss Marple, with a heroine who rehomes needy cats and dogs in Lincolnshire. I have just started working on the second draft of a spy novel from a very talented female author, with a UK heroine – really excited about this one now. I hope it’s nearing submission time. Again, a first novel. In the last six months I’ve been working on Lyn Andrews’s new saga, The Liverpool Matchgirl and million-copy-ebook bestseller Kathryn Hughes’s third novel, The Key. Also Julie Houston’s fantastic new contemporary women’s fiction novel, Little Acorns, and Sam Carrington’s second, Bad Sister – to name just a few…   

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I guess my 15 or so years as an editor, 13 of them commissioning fiction at Headline, is by far the main one for my current role as an agent.  But, further back, I did do an English Literature and Language degree at a university that allowed me to come up with my own theories about texts which, though probably puerile, were my own and encouraged me to think independently about literature and have the confidence to assess novels.  I also worked as a travel guide in Europe, which again gave me confidence and independence.  We had a family friend, when I was growing up in Bradford, who was the local librarian and gave my parents boxfuls of used book proofs every month or so. I loved the excitement of those cardboard boxes – a huge and random selection – and still have some of them, including, for example, Norman Lewis’s Naples, 1944. I’ve always seen books as a way into the world, and have been fascinated by how they are sold and packaged – I ‘packaged’ my Latin translation book, full of our class’s O’level translations of Virgil and Catullus, covered it in tin foil and called it Words of Silver, writing a fake blurb and reviews on the back. I also used to give books I’d read grades in the back of my teenage diary. Animal Farm – A-… You could say I found my way to my dream job as an editor and agent.

How do you relax after a busy working day?
During the week, I watch TV with my husband – I’m a late and zealous convert to Game of Thrones which my son and husband loved from the start, whilst I was sceptical. I think I like it more than them now. Quality crime series – I’m loving the wacky, funny, moving Top of the Lake 2 at the moment. Then a bit of reading in bed.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I always have a non-fiction and a fiction book on the go at once. If I’ve been working all day on fiction, I can’t read fiction before I go to sleep. The last non-fiction was Kathryn Hughes’s incredibly readable Victorians Undone (she’s not the Kathryn Hughes I represent) which I loved – a fascinating chapter at the end about a gruesome crime, the killing of sweet Fanny Adams, might be of interest to historical crime enthusiasts. The last fiction I read was A Rising Man by Abir Mukerjee, which I thought was a really impressive first novel – I admired the way his characters evolved throughout the novel and weren’t at all static. I’m going to India for the first time in the autumn and am reading up about it!

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
Selecting, editing, angling and selling fiction and nature writing; looking after my authors’ interests. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
Getting an author to be a number one paperback fiction bestseller. Placing an author, whose first book I hadn’t managed to sell, with her second, after she’d really learnt and grafted from the experience of editing the first. Watching an author break into the US market big time. And every time I come across an author I want to take on for the first time, it’s a highlight…

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
Editor of Vogue at Paris fashion week.  I’d need the makeover and outfits of course, as part of the package.

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
Inquire Within – looking deep and wide and being open to new experiences via books has been, I think, what’s kept me going in publishing.  You never know what’s going to be in that latest submission in your inbox…    

Thanks so much for taking part, Anne!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read MY PUBLISHING LIFE with agent Julia Silk.

If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.

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