From summer internship to dream job, the brilliant literary agent Hattie Grunewald spoke with me about her top tips on becoming an agent.
After graduating from UEA in 2013 with a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, Hattie’s internship at the Blake Friedmann agency in London turned into her full time job where she is working with upcoming authors to publish an array of books.
“The ‘big tough agent’ who’s yelling down the phone that you see in films isn’t the reality. The agent is the liaison: they are the author’s confidant and friend – it’s really important for everyone to be friends and that way everyone is a winner.”
It can often be hard for students to know where to get started in publishing and particularly in agency, so Hattie is here to share her golden advice:
- Cracking the Reader-Report
One of the foundations of agency is knowing how to write a reader-report. The reader-report is like a summary of a book, recognising the good, the bad and assessing its quality for publishing – it’s the water-filtering tool for understanding a text.
Hattie advises seeking internships as a “great way to try new things, experience the pressures of targets and learn valuable skills for the industry”.
Reader-reports are the first task for every intern, Hattie explains. Using your analytical skills from writing essays and honing your ability to give constructive feedback will make your reader-reports shine.
Doing this will help you avoid the trap of writing an English literature essay: “Quite a few students will describe a book as ‘deliberately slow’, rather than realising it’s actually just boring and needs cutting.”
- Be Passionate
When applying for internships or jobs, ensure you show your enthusiasm. Being passionate about your interests and knowing how to assert your opinions are essential for becoming an agent.
For Hattie, being an agent means she can work on her passion of crime-fiction, however her work is hugely varied. Hattie’s currently looking for books of ‘women’s fiction, crime and thrillers outside of the ‘male cop, dead woman’ mould, speculative fiction, and realistic YA and middle grade fiction’.
“You have to trust your gut feeling – you need to think will I be able to pitch it, do I believe in this book to my core? Can I read it another four times?”
- Recognise your Strengths
Have confidence in the skills that your humanities degree has given you will make you stand out to employees in interviews.
Figure out what you are good at, and how that makes you shine as a candidate. For Hattie, studying creative writing taught her how to effectively give and receive feedback, making her great for writing reader-reports.
- Be a Problem-Solver
There will always be hurdles and problems to solve when working in a creative industry, and knowing how to be a problem solver is crucial.
Hattie’s advice is: “If you ever have a question while working as an intern, always try to go to your boss with a solution to your problem rather than a question. This way either:
a) You’re wrong and they’ll give you the right solution but you look proactive
b) You’re right and you’ll look clever”
- Be determined
Working as an agent requires determination and hard work to get to the end goal: publishing a book.
Hattie says “the best bit about my job is when you tell a debut author that you are going to take their book. It is so rewarding making someone’s dreams come true.”
“It’s an industry which you need to be sure you want to do because it’s a lot of hard work but it’s so worth it. And everyone I know in the industry genuinely adores it.”