Book Broker – An interview with Juliet Mushens
Juliet Mushens started her publishing career in 2008 at HarperCollins. She became an agent at PFD in 2011, and moved to The Agency Group in 2012 where she was head of their UK literary department. She has been shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year four times. She represents a bestselling and critically acclaimed list, including million-copy no. 1 bestseller Jessie Burton (THE MINIATURIST and THE MUSE), NY Times bestseller Taran Matharu (THE SUMMONER series), and Sunday Times bestsellers Ali Land, Claire Douglas, Debbie Howells, James Oswald and Stacey Halls. On the non-fiction side she represents Very British Problems (@soverybritish). Her guide to YA creative writing was published by Hodder in 2015. You can find her on twitter as @mushenska and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
I’m a sucker for a good elevator pitch and characters you immediately connect with.
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
A lot of letters focus too much on the author, or talk generally around the themes of the book. A good cover letter should be 90% about the novel, 10% about the writer.
3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
A woolly pitch, a giant word count (over 150k words) and typos/grammatical errors from the start.
4) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Take the time to edit your book: once you’ve finished it, put it away for a month, and then read it with a bit more distance. I think you should try for at least three drafts before sending out to agents. Research agents carefully and target those who fit the genre you write in.
5) You've just decided to represent an author and the contract is signed. What steps do you take to prep the manuscript for submission to publishers?
I normally do a couple of rounds of edits with an author. The first one is a macro edit, picking up on broad structural changes which can range from losing a POV, to cutting 20,000 words (gulp). The second is more of a page or line edit, focusing on continuity and coherence.
6) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I LOVED The Immortalists. It’s about four siblings who visit a psychic who tells them each the (alleged) date of their death. It then follows them through the next four decades as we see the impact her prediction has on their lives. The writing is beautiful, the hook is clever, and the characters feel so real. I sobbed at the ending!
7) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m really excited about Sunday Times bestseller Jessie Burton’s new novel: THE CONFESSION, out in hardback from Picador in September. NYT bestseller Taran Matharu’s new trilogy is about to launch with THE CHOSEN, out from Feiwel & Friends/Hachette UK in June.
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