Tuesday, 17 October 2017

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Jamie Cowen

Welcome to my latest MY PUBLISHING LIFE feature, 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 

JAMIE COWEN

Director
of
The Ampersand Agency




What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first role in publishing was as a Contracts Assistant at HarperCollins, which I started during 2002. It was the only interview I got from around a dozen applications for entry-level positions, and I got the job! Mum was so proud. 

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been an agent with Ampersand for just over four years.

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
In the last few months I’ve been working on It Was Her, Mark Hill’s terrific follow-up to Two O’Clock Boy; a wonderful and yet-to-be-submitted real-world YA novel called Dealer No. 1, which is Billy Elliot crossed with Breaking Bad; and an upcoming sci-fi thriller called  Steel Frame featuring a conscripted convict flying her artificially intelligent mech into a black hole. This last is written by a frighteningly talented South African writer called Andrew Skinner. Keep an eye out for him… 

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
My work in contracts gave me plenty: negotiation skills, attention to detail and a total absence of fear when dealing with the legal aspects of publishing. Latterly, my time as an editor confirmed what I already suspected: that working with authors to make their books better, then selling them to the wider world, is my dream job. But really, my family’s obsession with reading books then discussing them endlessly is arguably the most applicable life skill to my current role as an agent. It’s pretty much what we get paid for, which really isn’t work when you think about it. In terms of life skills, I think that resilience and determination are crucial in our job as agents. We face rejection on a regular basis, and the ability to think clearly through adversity then learn from any mistakes is hugely important. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
In my rare moments of downtime I play amateur football (for north London’s finest, Alexandra Park FC). Although you’re never truly off the clock as an agent; there’s always another intriguing submission to read, or an editor to berate… 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I read Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld whilst on holiday in France this summer. It’s a brilliant fantasy novel that balances tongue-in-cheek humour with sharp, heart-melting pathos. I loved it. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...

I help talented writers become published authors. 

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
The real highlights of being an agent are the simple things: hearing the excitement in an author’s voice when you tell them of an offer, finally getting the chance to pitch a spectacular new book to publishers, reading the first few lines of a submission and knowing it’s going to blow your socks off, and – best of all – holding a finished book in your hand. Those are the really good bits. 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
Astronaut. Is there any other answer? 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?

That’s really hard! Ok, let’s go with Tell It Like It Is. I’ve always tried to be honest and direct in my career, so that’ll do.


Thanks so much for taking part, Jamie!


Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

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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