Book Broker – an interview with Holly Faulks
Agent: Holly Faulks
Preferred genres: Literary and upmarket commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, memoir.
Bio: Holly joined Greene & Heaton in 2015 and is actively building a list of fiction and non-fiction clients. In non-fiction she’s looking for writing on current affairs, language, lifestyle and popular science as well as memoir. She’s also looking for literary and upmarket commercial fiction.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A clear, confident package in which each element has clearly been thought through. It’s reassuring when the covering letter gives the impression that the author takes their own work seriously, is a voracious reader with an awareness of where their own work might fit into the market, and is committed to the process of finding an agent with whom to start a professional and long-lasting relationship.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
The inverse of the above, namely the sense that the writing and editing has been rushed. This is particularly relevant when looking beyond the first few chapters as it often becomes clear that much more attention has been paid to the material that’s being submitted initially than to the rest of the book. This means that either the quality drops after those first pages or that the opening is overwritten. I would encourage writers to ensure that they have perfected the manuscript to the best of their ability before submitting to agents—if you receive no offers of representation, you want to feel that you did everything that you could, not wish that you had spent that extra time on the elements you suspected needed work.
3) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Do your research and take your time. After dedicating so much to finishing your manuscript, you owe it to yourself and to your writing not to rush these final stages. Ensure that you’re sending it to the right people and that you’re sending them the specific materials they have asked for (it varies from agency to agency). Make clear that you have done this research by personalising your covering letter and explaining in each case why you’ve decided to approach that particular agent.
4) How do you weigh the importance of each submission component (query letter, synopsis, writing sample) when determining whether you will ask to read a full manuscript?
Ultimately the writing itself is the most important factor in deciding to request the full manuscript and can make up for a less good query letter. Issues with plot are most easily fixed so the synopsis is the least important to me. The query letter might become important again once considering offering representation as it can give a sense of what the author might be like to work with.
5) Approximately how many query letters do you receive per year? Of those, how many will you respond to with a request for a full manuscript? And of those, how many are likely to receive an offer of representation?
As an agency we receive many thousands of unsolicited submissions per year. (The last month has been particularly fruitful with over 700 new queries!) It varies so much from agent to agent and from year to year that I’m not sure I can give particularly helpful numbers, but given the volume we receive it is necessarily only a small percentage to whom we can offer representation. Having said that I think it’s important to remember that if an agent is open to submissions it’s because they want to receive them and are actively looking for new clients!
6) What is the average length of time it takes to place a manuscript with a publisher, and what is your strategy for a client whose manuscript isn't selling?
It varies hugely, some books sell within 24 hours and others take many months to find the right home. That it is indeed the right home is what’s most important, however long it may take to find it. The strategy really depends on the book, the writer, and the feedback from publishers. Sometimes it makes sense to try more and different publishers, possibly having done some further editorial work on the manuscript, and at other times the best thing to do is to move our focus onto the next project. There’s no reason the author can’t go back to the book at a later date when they’ve had some space and can look on it with fresh eyes, or when the market might have changed.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I just read David Szalay’s ALL THAT MAN IS for my book club. I suppose its form is what’s most immediately striking and ultimately what allows Szalay to explore the book’s wider concerns and questions. It also made for a lively discussion about what constitutes a novel!
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
They are all exciting, I couldn’t possibly pick just one!