I met up with my agent for the first time

[This post is imported from my old Livejournal account, where I blogged from 2007-2015.]
I was absolutely terrified, as you can imagine, and drove everyone mad for roughly three weeks prior freaking out constantly about what I was going to wear, whether I might throw up on her, whether I should look her directly in the eye, what kind of accent I should use &c &c. Well, exaggeration but you get the idea.

Anyway of course it was WONDERFUL and we got on great! Obviously we did: she loves my book, she’s going to at least find me bearable in person.  When I went into the office there was a guy lying on floor playing tug of war with a black Labrador, so I kind of knew straight away that it was my kind of place. There were posters on the wall for Zadie Smith, and Kazuo Ishiguro, who they represent.

She made us a cup of tea which gave me a minute to calm down (and investigate her bookshelves). I can’t remember how it started because at that point I was still crazy with nerves, but at first we were discussing women in publishing, and I asked her if she’d seen Coverflip, where covers of books by women are redesigned as if they’d been written by men. She had, and said it was awful that there was still such a bias when a lot of the publishing industry was run by women. That broke the ice a little bit, and then she asked me was whether I read many YA books and whether I considered myself a YA author. I said that I think I was writing for my age group, which at the time happened to be a young adult one. I said that if I was to start a completely new book now it probably wouldn’t be YA, although I did like the more casual fun style you could write for teenagers. She agreed that that style is getting more common recently and that it was a very exciting time to be in publishing, especially with the advent of self-publishing.  She asked what I read mainly and I brought up the lack of YA LBGT books and she recommend a few that I hadn’t heard of.

I asked her what she thought of Kindle Worlds, and we discussed fanfiction for a bit and the effect that was having on how teenagers read.

She said the thing that drew her to my book when she was skimming through submissions was the chapter introductions, which are fridge notes or skype chats, like:

Kitkat: I want you to do the leg flick
Gallows Humour: What? I’m not doing the leg flick.
Gallows Humour: What’s the leg flick?
Kitkat: Like in films. The girl flicks her leg and waves it in the air and that shows how good a kiss it was. Next time we kiss, I think you should do that.
Gallows Humour: Why don’t you do it? You’re the girl.
Kitkat: Boys can leg flick too! GENDER EQUALITY.
Kitkat: Anyway, the point is that then I’d get to say my kiss is leg-flicking good. I can’t make my own leg flick.
Gallows Humour: Mmm, now that’s an image.
She thought they were really funny and original.

Then she pulled up her FILE ON ME, SHE HAS ONE OF THOSE WHAT, and asked me if I had anything in particular I wanted to discuss. I took out my list of questions that I’d frantically composed on the train and basically quizzed her for a while. The main thing that I got out of it was something she’d mentioned in her emails, but I hadn’t realised how important it was. She said that publishers really don’t accept dystopian books anymore because there are so many unsuccessful ones, and she says my book is really good but that’s going to make it hard to sell. We spent a while trying to resculpt it to get around that, and at the time we drew a blank but my mum and I brainstormed a couple of days ago and I came up with an idea! I’m still waiting to hear back from her, but that’s a relief that I can avoid that.

She said lots of nice things about me that I’m not going to brag about, the main one being that her agency is really picky and reject about 99.9% of submissions, so publishers will take notice that I’m being represented by her.

Basically I spent the whole time feeling like I’d made it up, because she was SO UNBELIEVABLY NICE, it couldn’t be real.
Then she asked if I had any questions about her job and publishing and we spent a ton of time talking about contracts and what her job involved and I asked far too many questions. She’s quite young, and only started a couple of years ago, so she doesn’t have many authors yet. She said the best part of her job was seeing book covers for the first time, because it feels like it’s a real thing. She said “you’re definitely going to get that moment, even if it’s not with this book. You’ve got what it takes to be an author,” and I blushed everywhere.

At the end I said thanks for taking a chance and reading my book, and how I hadn’t been sure whether to mention how young I was in the cover letter in case it put people off, but she said “Oh no! Publishers love that! It shows you’ve got a great career ahead of you.” So I left in a cloud of delight and sat at a bus stop and gushed at my mum on the phone until I felt better.
Since then I’ve pretty much been writing constantly and I’m having so much fun guys, I can’t believe this is really happening.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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