Find out what it’s like to spend a day in the shoes of ALAA literary agent, Jacinta di Mase. This is an extended version of Jacinta’s Day in the Life piece published in the Industry issue of ACTWrite magazine in October.
In an agency that represents 65 creators across literary and commercial fiction, non-fiction, YA, series fiction and books for younger readers, as well as picture books, the work is varied and always interesting.
I work with all the major publishing houses and many smaller independent publishers as well as audio, and film and television production companies.
7am. Checked emails that have come in overnight from overseas. Found a rejection from a UK sub-agent for a new commercial fiction manuscript. It’s increasingly difficult to secure representation in the UK via sub-agents once Australian rights in a work have been sold. Checked Twitter and read The Age online for local and OS news updates: retweeted excellent review from Newtown Review of Books for Leah Kaminsky’s new release, The Waiting Room (Vintage, Random House).Tweeted and Facebook post to wish Rosanne Hawke happy Publication day for The Truth About Peacock Blue (Allen & Unwin). Finished reading my advance copy of Ellie O’Neill’s new novel, The Enchanted Island (Simon & Schuster). Bliss!
9am. Dropped kids to school.
9:15. Met Myfanwy Jones author of new release Leap (Allen & Unwin) to discuss her next book and ongoing marketing and publicity ideas for Leap. Promised to check in with US sub-agent Catherine Drayton at Inkwell management about the progress of Leap submissions in the US. Celebrated the fact that she has been invited to Perth Literary Festival for 2016. Discussed our plans to pitch Myfanwy to smaller literary festivals such as Bendigo, Mildura, Voices on the Coast, Mudgee etc
10:30. Visited Dymocks Collins Street to check new releases (for my authors’ titles) and to pick up a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies for my bookclub. While I was there I turned all the copies of Leah Kaminsky’s The Waiting Room face-out on the shelf (!) I let staff know that I had just finished reading it and loved it. I also let them know that it has been endorsed (on the cover) by both Geraldine Brooks and Graeme Simsion.
11:15. Picked up mail on the way back to office and found HarperImpulse contracts ready for authors Alli Sinclair and Tess Woods to sign, as well as Oxford University Press contracts already signed by children’s authors Janeen Brian and Aleesah Darlison, which I posted back to OUP along with the invoices for the advances due on signature of the agreements. The mail also included royalty statements from Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins for the period ending June 2015. It’s my role to check the statements and forward payments to the authors. I also received advance copies of the new b-format edition of Ellie O’Neill’s Reluctantly Charmed (Simon & Schuster), which was number 2 on the Bookscan debut commercial fiction top 100 for 2014.
As well as advance copies of Broadway Baby, the fifth book in Sam-Ellen Bound’s bestselling junior fiction Silver Shoes series (Random House). This series is a special one for me as the dance school concept is an idea that I have been sitting on for a few years until I found the right writer. Sam-Ellen is a gorgeous writer and the fact that she’s also a dance teacher made her perfect for the series. We sold the concept via a proposal and sample chapters to Random House.
In my role as president of the Australian Literary Agents Association (ALAA) I signed an open letter regarding the new Book Council of Australia (BCA): The letter has now been published here.
11:30. Spoke to Jo McKay at Harlequin and author Alli Sinclair about the re-branding of Alli’s next book Flamenco Fire. Sales of Alli’s debut, Luna Tango were disappointing, but the publishing team at Harlequin are committed to building Alli’s profile. They felt that the cover of Luna Tango (although divine) was possibly too sophisticated. And rather than drawing readers into the romance, it made it seem unattainable. For her next book Harlequin recommend changing the title from Flamenco Fire to Under the Spanish Stars. The new tagline for the book will be: A family mystery, a passionate encounter, a liberating journey into the past… The Harlequin marketing department has also recommended that Alli relocate the heroine from London to Melbourne because they may have secured Under the Spanish Stars as one of their ‘bookstore push’ titles, which means it will attract some lovely marketing dollars. But, one of the prerequisites is that the book has Australian content so it is more relevant for independent bookstores (Alli Sinclair has agreed to make the change, which I wholeheartedly support). Her publisher at Harlequin has also asked Alli to write a bonus free prequel about the heroine’s life in Melbourne and her dawning awareness of her grandmother’s secrets etc Jo McKay writes: “We feel this will help to drive pre-orders for online retail and will give fans a taster. We can also use in our digital marketing campaign.”
12:15. Sent Helene Magisson illustration folio to publishers: I recently began representing French-Australian Illustrator Helene Magisson after meeting her at the CYA conference in Brisbane earlier this year.My colleague Justine Alltimes (a children’s illustration specialist and former illustration agent with Arena UK) prepared a submission to 20 publishers and book-designers introducing Helene’s work. We also added Helene’s folio to our collection of catalogues and folios on ISSUU.
1:30. I spoke to Wendy Were, Executive Director, Arts Development at The Australia Council for the Arts and heard the welcome news that despite the horrendous cuts to the Council’s funding, the Australia Council for the Arts would continue to fund the Visiting International Publishers program for 2016.
1:45. I spoke with Mark Ruse from Ruby Entertainment and author Clare Wright. We have been negotiating with Ruby Entertainment regarding an option for the television rights to Clare Wright’s multi-award winning title, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. We recently agreed on the terms of the deal memo and Mark called with a request re the Option Agreement. We agreed to his request and received a draft of the Option Agreement to check before signature. Ruby Entertainment is the production company that made the wonderful two-part television drama adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River.
2pm. After an query from Penguin editor Clementine Edwards, I spoke with parenting author Pinky McKay to find out when she is able to deliver the revised manuscript for a new edition of her best selling title Sleeping Like a Baby. I also contacted Georgia Knox at Audible Australia to let her know about the publication date (May 2016) so that she is able to schedule the recording and release of the audio edition to coincide with the new Penguin edition.
2:30. Getting in touch with Georgia reminded me to ask Natasha Lester, author of forthcoming debut, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald (Hachette Australia) and Ellie O’Neill, The Enchanted Island (Simon & Schuster) when their final manuscripts would be ready for Audible narration. I also reminded Clementine Ford that she needed to sign her Audible contract for the audio edition of her forthcoming book, Fight Like a Girl (Allen & Unwin).
3pm. I sent several rejection emails to writers pitching their work for my list. And although I’m taking on few, if any, new submissions at the moment, I requested sample chapters for one commercial fiction manuscript.
3.30pm. Picked up kids from school.
4:30. I responded to an offer in the form of a deal memo from ABC Books for the Mamabake Cookbook. In addition to film and television rights, I requested that audio rights be reserved. I also queried the high discount break in the agreement, which was lower than the discount I have negotiated for several other recent ABC and HarperCollins titles. I also worked with the authors to ensure they had a collaboration agreement in place and checked that they had also cleared copyright in any recipes and material that they had commissioned for the Mamabake website.
5pm. Checked the final draft of an Allen & Unwin contract for Michael Pryor for his new YA novel, Do You See What I See? (working title) and requested contracts for Michael’s signature. This is Michael’s first book with A&U after working with random House for many years. Although we’re still very happy with RHA, we felt it was time for Michael to branch out and be challenged by another publisher. Many authors are able to work with more than one publisher as long as we communicate and kept all parties informed about forthcoming titles, touring, and marketing and publicity opportunities.
5:30. Finalised a new Random House contract for creators Nick Falk and Tony Flowers for their new science-based junior fiction series, “How to…” I have been negotiating with the Contracts Manager and the Rights Manager at RHA in order to reserve UK rights for the series as Nick Falk is returning to the UK to live for a few years. We hope that while he’s there, he’ll be able to secure representation and a publishing deal for their best-selling series: Saurus Street, Billy is a Dragon, and Samurai Vs Ninja. With this in mind, we have written to our sub-agent and publisher contacts as well as to festival organisers to arrange meetings for Nick.
6pm. Dashed across town for launch event at Readings St Kilda for Leah Kaminsky’s The Waiting Room (Vintage, Random House). It was a full house at Readings and they sold more than 70 copies of the novel and took orders for 30 more, which is a great result.
Since I was in St Kilda, I invited clients Angela Pippos, sports journalist, and foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel to Leah’s launch and to discuss their new projects. Angela is writing a new book about gender, sport, and sexism for Affirm Press called, The Uneven Playing Field and Zoe is working on a new book in the Through My Eyes series, set in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan (Allen & Unwin).
After a drink that turned into dinner I finally got home at 11:30pm.
Jacinta Dimase is a literary agent with more than 20 years experience in the commercial publishing industry. She is the current president of the Australian Literary Agents Association and a member of the Australia Council for the Arts Visiting International publishers selection committee. Jacinta is seeking books that engage, entertain, and inspire.