Good afternoon folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Emma Finn to my blog. Here, she chats what she enjoys most about her job, her guilty pleasure genre and what she looks for in submissions.
Over to you, Emma.
1) Did you always plan to be a literary agent when you left school? Did you have any other career plans?
I had no idea that a literary agent was a job until I was at university… I had always been a bookworm and knew that I was interested in publishing as an industry, but I didn’t have a great sense of the career paths involved. I spent a few days at David Godwin Associates over one summer break and was intrigued, but it was my internship with C&W that really drew me into the agenting world, and I fell in love with the job. As for other career plans, I studied developmental psychology for my Masters and it was fascinating, so I definitely considered my options in that area, but books won out in the end.
2) What do you enjoy most about your role as a literary agent?
Calling an author to let them know that the book they’ve been working away on, often for years, is going to be published is a very special feeling. But day to day I love the process of watching a story take shape – it’s a privilege and a total joy to be able to collaborate with talented writers on the direction their work will take and to see it improving and coming into its own draft by draft. It’s an unusual job in that you can entirely follow your instincts and plough your energies into projects you’re passionate about, however diverse they may be, so the workload is different every day. And that’s three things, so I’ll stop now.
3) I notice that you represent both fiction and non fiction – are there challenges to representing authors of both genres?
I love it! Non-fiction allows me to pursue my interests quite proactively, and it’s a constant learning curve: I’m often working with writers who have fascinating experience in a field I know next-to-nothing about so I get to dive into new subjects all the time. And with both memoir and fiction it’s all about voice, storytelling and emotional insight for me, so my taste in those two areas inform one another quite closely. If anything I find it a useful and much-needed palate cleanser to switch from a literary debut to a crime series to a pop science proposal – it keeps things lively.
4) What do you look for in a covering email by an author looking to submit their manuscript?
Above all I think I look for thoughtfulness. It’s always great to see that a writer has done their research and knows why they’re submitting to you; it’s hugely helpful to see where they imagine their book might sit on a shelf if they’ve really considered their comparison titles (and not at all helpful if it’s described as THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN meets GONE GIRL…) and then of course I’m hoping for an articulate, enticing, original pitch that will immediately have me printing off their chapters.
5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’?
This is tricky! I don’t think there’s a particular hole in the genre that’s crying out to be plugged because there are so many talented writers working very hard to make sure they’re satisfying the enormous crime readership. That said, on a personal level, veering away from the embittered detective and making sure that there is a really compelling, three-dimensional protagonist at the heart of your novel and that you’re doing something original with the well-trodden – but very fertile! – ground of the crime genre would be the way to catch my eye.
6) What is your guilty pleasure genre?
It’s not a genre and I feel zero guilt about it but given I’m not generally a huge historical fiction fan (with the notable exception of Sarah Waters, who I adore) I have read the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon more than once and love them. But broadly speaking I don’t think book snobbery benefits anyone – to shamelessly steal from Marie Kondo: if it sparks joy, read it.
7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
I’m just finishing up EDUCATED by Tara Westover and yes, I think it’s extraordinary.
8) Completely random – Do you like Rod Stewart and if so, do you have a favourite song of his?
Great closer. I absorbed quite a lot of his cheesiest songs through osmosis as a kid because my Dad has terrible taste in music (sorry, Dad) and I have a soft spot for Rod’s raspy version of ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m still scarred from witnessing a particularly enthusiastic karaoke performance of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ once, so that might have prejudiced me.
Thanks for your time, Emma. And for answering my questions and for featuring on my blog.