Sunday, 25 September 2016

Interview with Chloe Seager - Literary Agent

'you can't be what you can't see' is a quote that really resonates with me. from a young age, i didn't know the extent of the world of work, i thought because i loved reading and writing the only job i could have was an english teacher. i didn't see the world of PR, media, literary agents, publishing. and because i didn't see it, i didn't think i could be it.

so that's why it's important to talk to people like chloe seager. 

chloe is a young adult + literary agent for diane banks associates, a literary and talent agency that represent emma gannon, and a whole host of other fantastic authors. chloe herself resonates in the YA and children's sphere, and even has her own novel 'Editing Emma' coming out in August 2017. what a chick, and she even sat down with me to discuss her career path. sit back, take a read, feel inspired, and see what there is for bookworms in the world of work. it's not just GCSE poetry anthologies and marking year 9 haikus... 

Let’s cover off some basics first! Can you describe your job in 140 characters? 

Reading, rejecting, reading, reading, taking something on, rereading, redrafting, rereading, redrafting, PITCHING :D

And now I’ll be a little kinder… can you describe your average day at your job?

On the fun side, there’s rereading an author’s work, giving notes and seeing it really come together. Meeting new talent and discussing their ideas, and having coffee with editors and hearing about their lists. On the slightly less fun side, there’s a lot of contracts stuff and admin to do!

How did you get into the literary world, and was it your plan from a young age? 

My plan from a very young age was to be the next Britney Spears, which didn’t quite work out for me as I can’t sing. But I’ve always loved reading (and writing) and I knew I’d do something bookish, I just wasn’t sure exactly what. 

Did you find interning to help you with your career, or other routes e.g. your degree?

Interning helped massively – I got my first job in publicity at Titan Books when I was interning there. I actually got started at an SYP event where I met the lovely Sophie Calder (now Head of Publicity at HQ, HarperCollins) and she ended up interviewing me for the internship. I would really recommend going to those events to anyone wanting to start out in publishing – it’s great to meet people in the industry, and get an idea of what kinds of different roles there are. (And yes, it is totally terrifying going on your own, but everyone’s really nice, honest!) 

I think my degree was important only in so much as it was a tick box I needed to have – but being a reader is the really important thing. 

I found the ‘Girls In Love’ YA series by Jacqueline Wilson a real game changer for me when it came to reading young adult fiction, was there a particular book or series that got you interested in the genre?

I loved that series too! I don’t think there was a particular book when I was younger, but in terms of rediscovering YA later on in life, it was probably doing a Children’s Literature module at university and wondering why I ever stopped reading it. Of course it’s natural to move onto other things, but it seems like a lot of adults don’t consider reading any YA/children’s books as an option, which I think is a real shame. There’s so much brilliant stuff in the genre. (And I like to keep my inner child alive!!)

Do you feel that young adult authors such as Louise O’Neill and Holly Bourne are doing something important for the genre at the moment introducing feminism into their novels, and in a way seeding the important messages to a younger audience at this age?

I do! There’s so much to think about when you’re writing for an ‘impressionable’ audience, unlike when you’re writing for adults and anything goes (people often assume writing for children and teenagers is easier, but I wish it were that easy to write an amazing YA or children’s book). I think Louise and Holly are both doing something really important in their own, very different way.

What novel do you feel you could read again and again? 

I don’t get much time for rereading anymore sadly, but I like to reread atmospheric books like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights at Christmas time, and I sometimes break out my Hans Christian Andersen tales when in need of comfort! As a teenager, I definitely read the Angus, Thongs series by Louise Rennison one too many times… I connected with Georgia so much at that age, and it still makes me laugh out loud. I also have lots of favourite books that I wouldn’t necessarily go back to very often - I suppose I only really reread books ‘again and again’ that have that nostalgia factor, the ones that take you straight back to a certain time in your life and all the emotions that went with reading them the first time.

Who should we be reading at the moment and why? 

Would it be really copping out to say, whatever people enjoy? (I’m very much against book-snobbery and believe that guilty pleasures shouldn’t be guilty!) 

How do you use social media to find new talent? 

Social media is becoming increasingly important for writers – if I get a submission that I like and can’t find them on Twitter, I’m not saying I’d turn it down (it’s not at that stage yet!) but I do feel disappointed. Self-promotion is key for new authors, and also Twitter is such a great way to be engaged with the reading community. Being aware and taking an interest in other people’s work is crucial, but it’s surprising how many submissions I get where I wonder if the person has read any children’s books other than JK Rowling in the past ten years! In terms of actually finding new talent, we do definitely search for it online - probably more for non-fiction. My colleague Robyn Drury met her client Emma Gannon on Twitter (her book Ctrl; Alt; Delete came out in June).

Do you have a favourite social media platform, and why?

Agghh, that’s hard - I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with all social media. Twitter is probably my favourite, but also my nemesis. I learn so much and have loads of fun, but I’ve probably lost years of my life on there! 

And lastly, and probably the toughest question here!, what advice would you give to an aspiring literary agent, and how would you advise they use social media to get ahead?

Social media is such an easy way to be engaged with the reading community – and it’s the same for agents as it is for authors, you have to be very involved! (Not saying you have to tweet constantly, but just be aware of what’s going on). And of course, if more people are aware of you on social media, you’ll get more submissions!! My general advice to an aspiring literary agent would be that building a list takes time, it’s not going to happen overnight, and the beginning part is the toughest part – it’s easy to feel disheartened when you’re starting out, but just keep going! Also, I would just say that getting rejection is as much a part of the job as giving it – so learning to develop a thick skin and trust my own opinion has been crucial for me (learning to say, well, I love it but not everybody’s going to, so what?!)  

be sure to follow Chloe on twitter @ChloeSeager!

until next time xo 


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