Juliet Pickering, AP Watt
Juliet Pickering joined A P Watt in September 2003, and became an Associate Agent in 2007. Prior to joining the company, she studied English Literature at the University of Surrey before becoming a fiction buyer for Waterstones. Juliet is interested in literary fiction, well-written commercial fiction, mystery, narrative non-fiction and food writing. Founded in 1875, A P Watt is the longest-established literary agency in the world. It is also one of the most dynamic and successful.A P Watt’s clients include a Nobel Prize winner, four Booker Prize winners, three Orange Prize winners, several Whitbread and Costa Prize winners, and the first Children’s Laureate.
What sort of books do you love?
Books that tell of regular situations with unusual angles. For example, I represent a couple of novels about dysfunctional families; there’s more going on underneath the surface than you see upon first glance.
What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?
Lack of research. e.g. the letters that come to me from children’s authors, when a quick peek at our website would have suggested a far more suitable agent (I don’t do children’s books!).
Are you most drawn to beautiful writing? Or a wonderful plot? Or a stunning premise? Or what?
The $64,000,000 question! Primarily, as I start to read a book I am looking to admire and enjoy good writing. Once that’s established, I am looking for a strong and consistent plot. Writing is important, of course, but we need to have a good story to pitch.
Have you ever surprised yourself by representing an author whose work you had assumed you wouldn’t like?
I’ve represented a football book, despite knowing nothing about football. It sort of ended up on my list through happy accident. I’m not looking for any more, though! I prefer to know a little about the topics of the books I represent, as emphasised by a conversation with a football club manager where he tried to explain the specifics of club politics and I just nodded mutely.
Tell us how you like writers to submit work to you. And how you’d like them not to submit work.
A P Watt has fairly straightforward guidelines: send a query letter and a synopsis addressed to the agent you wish to consider your work. If we’re interested then we’ll ask for the first three chapters. And we’re happy to pass material on to colleagues, if we think it might suit their tastes better.
If you had one bit of advice to give to new writers, what would it be?
Wherever possible, get feedback on your work before you submit to agents – it’s so valuable. Even if it’s just from your wife/dad/dog (but the more honest/impartial, the better).
The grim stats: how many submissions do you get per week (or year)? And how many new authors do you take on?
I probably get up to twenty submissions a week. And I’m not strict about how many authors I take on, so if I think a book or idea is good then I’ll take people on regardless. Very roughly, I probably take on one or two clients every six months. But sometimes I might take on more. And I’m talking to a few potential clients at any one time, waiting for them to produce their work of genius!
If you weren’t an agent, what else would you be?