The Bent Agency congratulates our clients whose books are among the twenty longlisted for the 2019 Carnegie Medal: Sophie Anderson for THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS (Usborne), Brian Conaghan for THE WEIGHT OF A THOUSAND FEATHERS (Bloomsbury), and Hilary McKay for HILARY McKAY’S FAIRY TALES (Macmillan).

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TBA congratulates our client Catherine Dunne, who is to receive the 2018 Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Irish Literature. The award will be presented at the Irish PEN Annual Dinner on Friday, February 22 at the Royal St. George Yacht Club, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Dunne said: “I am extremely happy that Irish PEN has chosen to honour me with this award for my contribution to Irish literature. It means a great deal to me at this point in my career. The award for literature is a very special kind of peer recognition and I want to thank the committee for selecting me. Writing is a mostly solitary occupation and sometimes we writers feel invisible. It’s always uplifting to know that our work is out there, making connections with readers and with the writing community all over the country. The February event in Dún Laoghaire is always a great opportunity for us writers to get together. I owe a lot to the Irish writing community: for support, for shared projects and above all, for friendship.”

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TBA is delighted to welcome Zoë Plant to our UK office. Zoë was most recently senior scout at Daniela Schlingmann Literary Scouting and brings with her a wealth of knowledge of English-language and international publishing. We can’t wait to see how her list develops!

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TBA congratulates our client Hilary McKay, whose novel THE SKYLARKS’ WAR has won the 2018 Costa Children’s Book Award. Currently Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month, THE SKYLARKS’ WAR (Macmillan Children’s Books) was described by the Costa judges as ‘as perfect a novel as you could ever want to read.’

THE SKYLARKS’ WAR is available in the US as LOVE TO EVERYONE (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster).

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Congratulations to TBA clients Matt Killeen, author of ORPHAN MONSTER SPY, and Hilary McKay, author of THE SKYLARKS’ WAR (US title: LOVE TO EVERYONE), whose books are two of the four shortlisted for the Costa Book Award in the children’s book category.

The Costa Book Award is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland. Each category winner receives £5,000 and the overall winner receives £30,000. This year’s category award winners will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Monday 7 January 2019.

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 A few years ago, we had some very successful guest posts from Bent Agency interns on writing and querying. We’d like to revisit that tradition with a new guest post on why it’s useful for writers to intern at literary agencies and what they can learn from doing this. Since our earlier posts were from Intern X and Intern Y, without further ado, here are some very insightful thoughts from Intern Z.

-Jenny

As an intern, it’s basically my job to read full manuscripts that are submitted to The Bent Agency and give my honest opinion of them. I have read manuscripts that made me weep at the end because I so desperately wanted them to continue, manuscripts that I struggled to even finish, and every sort of manuscript in between. This internship is proving the most valuable decision I ever made as a writer for my own education—not in how to write, but how to understand why things are and are not published. I’ve written this article to share some of these insights that I am so thankful for learning myself. (These lessons are based entirely on my own experiences, and may not be true for everyone.)

  1. It doesn’t matter how many friends, beta readers, group critiques, or editors look at your novel—until you look at novels through the eyes of what today’s readers want to read and what sells, you are writing for yourself.
  2. An impressive educational background is, well—impressive. Knowing all the classics and having an MFA is wonderful for your own development as a writer and builds lovely networks and a luscious writing style. But you must be reading the books published today, to understand what people want to read.
  3. Meet people in the publishing industry, whether in person or online. There are many ways to do this: social media, conferences, workshops, meet-ups. Relationships matter, not because who you know gets you published, but because the relationships you make along the way help you break out of your own way of seeing and branch out into seeing the pulse of the public, and it’s the public that the publishers sell to.
  4. Read books in your chosen genre—daily, if time permits. Not only are you supporting your fellow working artists, but it helps you begin to glimpse your own book through the eyes of a reader rather than a writer, and this will make all the difference.
  5. Until you can read your own work as though someone else wrote it and you’ve just picked it up off the shelf of your favorite bookstore—until you can read it this way and you cannot put it down because it speaks to you so profoundly, with such high stakes and tension and emotional truth that you can’t stop turning the pages—don’t send it to a literary agent. Because this is your competition.
  6. Let yourself fall in love with your own words as you write them. Just like the beginning of any romance, you must fall in love with your own words to have the beautiful foundation for all the hard work that is to come in any partnership, and your love affair with your work will carry you through the sacrifices. But don’t think you have a book worthy of publication just because you love it. Publication is like marriage, not falling in love: you will change and sacrifice things about your precious book in order to build a better publication.This did not destroy your beloved, it developed it into something that will last.
  7. The most common mistakes writers make in their first novels:
    1. Lack of consistent tension to keep the reader’s attention.
    2. Conversely, believing that large events somehow make up for lack of character development and emotional stakes.
    3. A weak POV character that the reader doesn’t quickly care about. The voice must be engaging—if readers don’t care about your POV character within the first five pages, they won’t keep reading. This is even more important than starting in a moment of action.
    4. Conversely, nobody wants to read an angst-fest. If you spend 40% of your novel in your character’s head, telling the reader all about doubts, feelings, and internal struggles, you will lose your reader’s interest. Things must happen that matter to keep the reader turning pages.
    5. Believing that as long as the writer does one thing really well (writing style, language, plot development, characterization, humor) that this will make up for other weaknesses. It really, really doesn’t. All must be done well to sell.
    6. An ending that seems contrived or planned rather than the natural conclusion to all the elements that have occurred in the course of the story.
    7. A happy ending with no depth. If your novel doesn’t make the reader feel something, doesn’t deeply satisfy in some way what it is that we all share in the human condition, it won’t satisfy the reader.
    8. Regurgitating what has already been done, even if better than the original. Give it your own inimitable twist, and keep tweaking from there. On the other hand, no matter how original and great the concept, it must be executed well or it’s just a good idea. Idea must be melded with craft to succeed. Clever is not enough.

Final ruminations:

A novel intended for publication is not about the writer: it is about the reader. In order to understand what it is to be a reader, I suggest you not only read books yourself, but also look at the world of readers around you and write for all of us. It is these novels—these novels that break the mold of the individual writer and what’s already been said and done, working within the scaffold of the writer’s chosen genre to say or do—more. After vicariously reading your novel, readers wish to feel both more than themselves and more in touch with themselves: More alive.

And really, doesn’t everyone?

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Congratulations to the following TBA clients on their subsidiary rights deals!

Samantha Bailey’s JUMP sold in the Czech Republic to Euromedia, at auction, Germany to Heyne/Diana at auction, in Hungary to General Press, in Italy to Garzanti, in a pre-empt, in Slovakia to Ikar, at auction, and world Spanish rights sold to Roca Editorial in a pre-empt.

Virginia Baily’s THE FOURTH SHORE sold in Hungary to Alexandra.

P.G. Bell’s THE TRAIN TO IMPOSSIBLE PLACES sold in Greece to Dioptra, in a two-book deal, and in Spain to RBA Libros.

Gary John Bishop’s UNF*CK YOURSELF sold in Mongolia to Zerolex, in Portugal to Lua de Papel/Leya, at auction, in Romania to Lifestyle and in Serbia to Laguna.

Stephanie Burgis’ THE DRAGON WITH A CHOCOLATE HEART sold in the Czech Republic to Albatros and in Ukraine to VIVAT.

Roxie Cooper’s THE DAY WE MET sold in Bulgaria to Kragozor.

Claire Fayers’ MIRROR MAGIC sold in Denmark to Alvilda.

Layla Hagen’s WITHERING HOPE sold in Italy to Hope Edizioni.

Alwyn Hamilton’s REBEL OF THE SANDS trilogy sold in Indonesia to Elex Media.

Anstey Harris’ THE TRUTHS AND TRIUMPHS OF GRACE ATHERTON sold in the Czech Republic to Pavel Dobrovsky-BETA.

Gina LaManna’s PRETTY GUILTY WOMEN sold in the Czech Republic to Euromedia, at auction, in France to Michel Lafon, at auction, in Germany to Penguin Germany, in a pre-empt, in Hungary to General Press, in Italy to Piemme, at auction, in Poland to Świat Książki, at auction, in Serbia to Vulkan, at auction, and in Slovakia to Ikar, at auction.

Hilary McKay’s THE SKYLARKS’ WAR sold in the Czech Republic to Albatros.

Preston Norton’s NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE sold in Italy to Giunti.

Holly Seddon’s DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES sold in Estonia to Rahva Raamat.

Tyler James Smith’s UNSTOPPABLE MOSES sold in Hungary to Gabo, at auction.

Stephanie Strohm’s LOVE A LA MODE sold in Poland to Zielona Sowa.

Jessica Townsend’s WUNDERSMITH sold in Croatia to Znanje.

Francesca Zappia’s MADE YOU UP sold in Portugal to 20|20 Editora.

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