Category: 2020 Virtual Conference

Interview with Anna Boatman from Piatkus

In ConferenceInterview by RWA Blog CoordinatorDecember 3, 2019Leave a Comment

We are so looking forward to welcoming you to Fremantle in 2020, Anna. We’d love our members to get to know a bit about you before conference.

Anna Boatman

I see that you started your career at Mills & Boon, and now work with international romance bestsellers at Piatkus, including Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Charlaine Harris. What do you love about romance fiction?

Escapism! The world is a tough place to be at the best of times, and I think we can probably all agree that currently we’re not in the best of times – it’s wonderful to be able to step into another world knowing that the ending will be happy!

Great characterisation (I always think you have to be a psychologist to write successful romance).

Witty, intelligent dialogue.

What women want being the focus of a whole genre!

You are also the publisher for PCR Fiction, which encompasses the Piatkus Fiction and Constable Crime imprints. What’s a normal day in the office for you?

It honestly varies so much from day to day that this is a tricky question to answer! There is less reading during the day than teenage-me believed when planning to become a publisher – and definitely more meetings and spreadsheets, but overall, it’s a very interesting and challenging job. The core of my role as a publisher is to identify the titles across the division that we think would most benefit from extra focus and make sure they get it, while also doing everything possible to make sure we buy the very best books across both crime and romance.

Can you tell us the process of what would happen after you read a submission you like?

If I like it and want to publish it myself, I would take it to Editorial first. Editorial is a lovely meeting, as it’s the wider editorial team, who will all read the book too and help me decide on the best pitch and strategy. After that, I take it to Acquisitions, where we (hopefully) show Sales, Rights, Marketing, Publicity and Digital why we think it’s a great book, and get their thoughts on how to make it work, and how much we think we can pay. This can be trickier to navigate, as it being a good book is of course not always the same thing as it being a clearly sellable book. Some of the most interesting books out there may struggle as it won’t be as clear where they might fit in the market – our job as publishers and editors is to work out not just whether the book is good, but the best way to get everyone excited about selling it from the first moment it’s presented to the publishing team. Once we’re all on board, I will make an offer to the agent (if there is one) or directly to the author if there isn’t. Once the offer is accepted, we then begin to make any editorial changes with the author, working towards a final manuscript ideally about nine months before publication, while beginning to create a plan across all departments for how we get the book out to as many people as possible!

You have a mix of genres in your portfolio. Can you tell us a little about them?

I’m lucky enough to work across a big range of commercial fiction, and have published everything from erotica to science fiction to book club fiction. In one memorable case I have published an erotic science fiction thriller (though it didn’t make it into a book club). For me, one of the greatest strengths of Piatkus and Constable is that as we are lucky enough to have a core of long-running authors with big fanbases, we are able to sometimes take a risk and take on books that don’t immediately fit into the established genres – I tend to love books that are a mix of genres (eg Amanda Bouchet’s wonderful fantasy/romance trilogies) and it’s a real privilege to be able to publish books that are taking risks.

What do you love about writing conferences? Any advice for conference goers?

For me it’s really wonderful to meet both aspiring authors and readers – as I spend a lot of time negotiating with agents and then working with authors who are already published, you can feel sometimes a little disconnected from the readers and from authors at the beginning of the process. I always find it hugely invigorating and interesting to hear their enthusiasm and passion for the books in person.

What books that you’ve worked on that are coming out soon are you excited about?

Love Letters From Montmartre comes out in Australia in November – this is the very first translated fiction I’ve ever bought for Piatkus. It’s about a writer of romantic comedies whose wife dies, leaving him with his young son. After her death, he is struggling to believe in happy endings and is suffering from severe writer’s block, but before she died she made him promise to write her one letter for each year of her life. This beautiful book is the story of how, over thirty-two letters, he begins to believe in love again. It made me cry SO much.

Where Winter Finds You by JR Ward – JR Ward is an institution – I love her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and this is her first ever Christmas vampire!

Christina Lauren’s Twice In a Blue Moon – gorgeous, swoony romance by two of my very favourite authors.

Maria Lewis The Wailing Woman – a feminist fantasy about a banshee and an absolute joy from start to finish.

What do you do in your ‘down time’? Are you going to able to have some down time on your visit to Australia?

I’d definitely love to! I’m planning on a two-week holiday if I can manage it. At home to relax I cook longwinded and impractical dishes for my long-suffering housemates, have an unhealthily developed Netflix habit, go cycling and do yoga. Also I read, but am aware that’s a particularly boring answer!

Do you find much time for reading as a pastime and if so, what’s on your TBR pile right now?

Red, White and Blue – amazing gay romance with a prince!

Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing – can’t WAIT for this as I love the trilogy.

Orchestra of Minorities – fantastic book published by a very talented colleague of mine that made the Booker shortlist this year.

I also tend to listen to audio books for my non-work reading – it’s a nice separation. Recently I LOVED Daisy Jones and the Six, and am currently mid-way through a quirky, mysterious book called The Hoarder.

Any advice to unpublished writers?

  • Keep going! I’d suggest writing because you want to, not in expectation that it’s going to be an easy way to make a living – it’s tough out there.
  • Don’t be afraid to try self-publishing – any way to get your books noticed is good, and the average editor will be intrigued by an author who has successfully self-published, not put off by it.
  • Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s only one ‘right’ way to write – the process is different for everyone.
  • Find authors who you admire, work out who their agents are and approach those agents specifically.
  • Read as much as you can in the area you are writing in.

Any advice to published authors?

  • Keep going! It’s tough out there. Do everything you can to keep your focus on your characters and your books, and keep remembering why you enjoy writing in the first place.
  • Chase your publishing team (nicely)– they will be doing the best they can for you, but they likely have a lot of competing books taking up their time and it’s always worth checking in.
  • Do everything you can to connect directly with your readers, online and off. It’s really important, particularly in romance. When you’re starting out, no signing is too small, no request too slight to make something of – you are your own biggest advocate and the more you give to your readers, the more they are likely to respond.
  • Make connections with as many other authors as you can, and be generous with quotes and reading – it will definitely be worthwhile later down the line!

Finally, we are so delighted you’re visiting us in Western Australia. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or doing?

I’m delighted too – thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m hoping to find a beach at some point and do some snorkelling. Also, I hear the seafood is spectacular, so am keenly looking forward to both eating and drinking what sounds like really wonderful wine!


Meet RWA2020’s guest agent, Tanera Simons

In ConferenceGuest ArticlesInterviewPublishing Industry by RWA Blog CoordinatorNovember 5, 2019Leave a Comment

We are so looking forward to having Tanera Simons, an agent with literary agency Darley Anderson, attend the Fremantle 2020 conference. Read on to learn more about her, her agency, and the type of work she represents.

Agent Tanera Simons

What was the path that led you to a career as an agent?

Agenting wasn’t actually a job I had specifically sought out. I’d always known that I wanted to work in the publishing industry, but my initial ambition was to do so as a fiction editor. I started at a book reviewing website where my roles were very much admin-based but which gave me a brilliant grounding in novels and what readers are looking for. Spending time reading the books, and then reading 30-odd reader reviews of that book was invaluable to me in terms of proving how subjective writing can be as well as what readers look for from different genres. I then spent time working in the production team of a children’s publishing house, before I came across the job description for the role of ‘women’s fiction agent’ at Darley Anderson and decided to apply.

What do you love about being an agent?

Lots of things! Mainly though, it is seeing and sharing in my authors’ joy: whether that is signing a first publishing deal, holding their paperback for the first time, hearing good reviews… there are so many joyful moments that I get to share with my clients, and I feel so privileged that I can be a part of that happiness. Another aspect that I love is how varied this job can be – no two days are ever the same – and that so much of this variation is positive: from finding a brilliant submission in the slush pile, to finding out that our rights team have sold an existing author’s novel in a foreign language.

We’d love to hear more about your agency. How many other agents are a part of Darley Anderson, and what are you looking for, genre-wise?

I’m part of a team of three agents, and between us we cover all adult commercial fiction. We also have two TV/Film agents and three translation rights agents, who work on getting our authors’ work made into films, TV programmes, and translated into other languages across the world. Genre-wise, we are looking for commercial fiction: we are looking for writing that appeals to the wider market in all genres, such as thrillers, crime, women’s, historical, romance. We don’t specialise in literary or non-fiction, but of course if we fall in love with a manuscript we wouldn’t say no to it! In addition to this, we have a separate children’s agency (The Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency) which is made up of two agents who we work very closely with.

Is there such a thing as a typical day in the office for you?

My days do vary depending on a number of factors, but a typical day would look something like this. I tend to arrive into the office between 8am and 9am and the first thing I do (after making a coffee!) is check my emails. I’ll make sure there is nothing urgent that needs attention, and then reply to editors and my authors. This can take a few hours, and of course the emails never stop coming in! Next up I will focus on my to-do list: this can hold anything from reading and editing manuscripts from my current authors; going through a contract for a new deal; discussing strategy with authors; phone calls with editors; or looking at material from potential new clients. Often I will have meetings during the day too, which more often than not take me out of the office. Finally, if I have time, I will read new submissions that have come in, although often this reading leaks into the evenings.

How many submissions do you get weekly?

Personally, I receive anywhere between 30 and 50 submissions in one week and as an agency we receive in the region of 600 (across 5 agents). This is of course a lot of material to read, but we genuinely do give each and every one due consideration – which sometimes means we can take longer than we would like to respond to submissions.

Can you tell us the process of what would happen after you read a submission you like?

Our submissions guidelines ask only for the three chapters and synopsis of a novel, so if I read these and am left wanting more I will email the author asking for the full manuscript. I will then read this as quickly as possible and, if I love the full, I will ask to meet with the author with a view to offering representation. It is really important that the author and agent can work well together, so I do always try to meet or have a conversation with a potential author before formally offering representation.

What do you love about writing conferences? Any advice for conference goers?

Conferences are brilliant for both authors and those of us in the industry: they provide ample opportunity for proper conversations and a real dialogue between us. It is wonderful for me to meet authors face to face – as I mentioned above, the relationship between author/agent is so important! – and it gives authors an opportunity that they might otherwise not have had to ask questions or discuss their novel with other authors and with industry folk. Of course, I am always on the look out to find new talented authors for our list when at conferences! In terms of advice, I would think about what you want to get out of the event before attending: are you looking for general publishing advice, feedback on your novel, trying to secure an agent, or want to make connections with other authors? Once you know what you are hoping to achieve, you can pinpoint the seminars/panels etc. that will help you come away feeling satisfied. Also, talk to people! Being an author can feel isolating at times and conferences are the perfect chance to discuss your ups and downs with others who are going through the same things.

What do you do in your ‘down time’? Are you going to able to have some down time on your visit to Australia?

I love travelling and the outdoors, so I am very much looking forward to my trip to WA! I’m hoping to stay for a few weeks after the conference so am really excited at the opportunity to explore this beautiful part of the world.

Do you find much time for reading as a pastime?

It is actually one of my New Year’s resolutions this year to read more for pleasure! I find that I get ‘the guilt’ if I’m reading a non-work book when I have a pile of manuscripts that I need to read, which in the past has meant that I just haven’t been reading for pleasure nearly as much as I used to. Not only do I love reading – obviously! – but it is also important for my job that I’m reading around the genre in order to know what I’m talking about when it comes to trends. So, I’m making more time to read at the moment and am really enjoying reading an eclectic mix of things!

What’s on your TBR pile right now?

I’ve just this morning finished Where the Crawdads Sing and absolutely loved it – I can’t recommend it highly enough! Next up on my list is My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, about which I’ve read brilliant things. I am also listening to Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez on Audible at the moment, which is fascinating.

Any advice to unpublished writers?

If you love writing, keep going with it! Listen with open ears to all advice you are given, but do not feel obliged to accept advice that you do not agree with. Most importantly, take your time in finding an agent or publisher who is right for you: whilst it is of course tempting to jump at the first offer you receive, the hope is that an agent will see you through your career. You want someone who has a similar vision and aspirations for you; someone who will be in your corner and who truly believes in your talent.

Any advice to published authors?

This is a tricky one, as a lot of published authors will either have agents guiding them already or will have been managing their own careers successfully! In terms of general advice for authors, I will always recommend that writers continue to read as much as possible in the genre in which they are writing, so that they are aware of trends that are doing well, as well as plots that have been done before. I know that it’s been said a thousand times before, but it really does show when an author knows their genre!

And are you seeing any new trends emerging in the romance genre?

Trends are always a tricky one and I would never advise that an author write to a trend – by the time you’ve written the book and found a publisher, that trend might have disappeared! In the women’s fiction genre in general, though, I’m getting a lot of requests for ‘quirky’ and ‘uplifting’ fiction: emotional yet heart-warming stories that will leave the reader feeling ultimately happy. My advice would always just be to write what you know, regardless of the current trend: who knows, you could start the next one!

What books within your agency that are coming out in the near future are you excited about?

I have a couple of debut authors publishing next year, which is always really exciting: keep an eye out for The Neighbours by Nicola Gill (Avon) and This is Not a Love Story by Mary Hargreaves (Trapeze). Both are wonderful explorations of friendship and of finding yourself, with side helpings of romance!

Finally, we are so delighted you’re visiting us in Western Australia. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or doing?

I am so thrilled to be joining you and visiting the beautiful Fremantle. I have also been advised to visit Broome, the Ningaloo Reef – for scuba-diving! – and the Margaret River – although any other suggestions are very welcome!