Interview

Head of Rights at the Darley Anderson Agency

Clare Wallace

Clare joined the Darley Anderson Agency in January 2011. Clare is scouting for new talent and is looking for commercial and accessible literary general fiction and all types of women's fiction. Clare is also building the children's list and is looking for new children's authors and illustrators. As the Head of Rights, she negotiates deals for translation rights all around the world for all the Agency's authors.

We caught up with Clare to find about the life of a literary agent.

How did you come to work for Darley Anderson agency? Do you have advice for people wishing to become a literary agent?

I started late in publishing – I was 27 before I started interning. And part of the reason for that was being a bit scared of London, and knowing how incredibly competitive the industry was. I didn’t know where to start and didn’t have any contacts already in the industry. So, I did an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa. Through that I met some editors and literary agents, and at the anthology launch for our work, I asked literary agents for work experience – and got my first two week placement. It rolled on from there. My first placement recommended me to another. I did that for six months, and it was mostly unpaid. Being new to London and having no money was tough but it was all worth it as I learnt a huge amount and got an insider’s view. Eventually, I was recommended to the Darley Anderson Agency for a Rights Assistant role. They interviewed me and, amazingly, offered me a job as a Rights Manager instead. After 18 months of working in translation rights, I started to agent as well.

Things are beginning to change in the industry, and more agencies and publishing houses are starting to pay their interns, which is fantastic and the way it should always have been! If you want to be a literary agent I would recommend applying for as many internships as possible. And be incredibly enthusiastic and helpful when you get one, even if you’re mostly making tea and photocopying. We’re a close industry and agents talk – if you make a good impression it’s very likely agents will start recommending you to others. You can also follow the right people on Twitter, make sure you check the Bookseller website for all the industry news and latest deals, stay on top of the bestseller lists and literary prizes, and read as much as possible in the area of fiction you’d like to represent. There are some great organisations out there too, like the Society of Young Publishers, who can provide a lot of help and advice, networking and job listings.

What is a day in the life of a literary agent like?

Varied. Which is one of the reasons why I love it. In the mornings, I try to read my submissions first thing, but that’s probably the only constant. After that, I might be editing, negotiating a deal or preparing to submit a manuscript (both in the UK or abroad), meeting editors or authors, writing a contract, preparing for a book fair or answering translation rights enquiries.

What are you looking out for in submissions from writers?

Ultimately, I’m looking for new talent. An exciting new voice, fantastic characters, a great pace and a strong plot. The same things apply across all the genres and ages I represent.

Which books are you looking forward to seeing published this year?

I’m super excited about Smart by Kim Slater (published by Macmillan Children's Books in June), Boy In The Tower by Polly Ho-Yen (published by Random House Children’s Books in July) and The School Gate Survival Guide by Kerry Fisher (published by Avon in August).

What advice to you have for writers looking for an agent?

Make sure that your manuscript is finished and as polished as you can make it. Target a few agents to start with, and do your research – find agencies and agents that are looking for the kind of fiction you’re writing and who might be a good fit for you. Check their websites and make sure your submission fits their guidelines. And always remember that we are on your side. 

Thank you Clare!