Name: Rachel Richardson
Agency: Rights People
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current role?
I started as rights assistant about five years ago and I’m still here!
There’s no specific agency qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well?
I love reading, and I love talking. I worked in a bookshop for several years fresh out of university, and I loved putting my favourite stories into the hands of readers. My job isn’t so different now, except that the readers are also editors who are looking to publish these books in different languages. I get a thrill from finding the right connection between an author and a publishing house, and knowing I played a part in helping that author find an audience all over the world.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with?
I always check my email first, to see if there’s any exciting news, or anything urgent to deal with. I like to feel organised, so then I made a to-do list sketching out what I want to accomplish that day and transferring over any unaccomplished tasks from the previous day.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day?
Most of my job is communication, so I spent a lot of time on email. Preparing presentations, sending out submissions and requested material, negotiating terms, and managing files and contracts take up most of my time. Some of my colleagues and most of my clients are US-based, so I often have skype calls in the afternoon to keep up to date and plot out submission and marketing strategies. I peek at twitter throughout the day to see what everyone in the publishing world is up to, and when I really need a break from the screen I sneak into a corner with a cup of coffee and the latest manuscript from our clients.
What do you feel a client and author should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day?
We’re a sub-rights agency so we don’t work directly with authors, but it’s important for us that the authors we represent keep their primary agents informed with all the latest news and reviews of their books. Their agents, our clients, pass this information on to us, and it’s really helpful for nudging along the foreign publishers who may be considering their work.
What is the best approach in writing material for international readers? Is there one part of a given book that makes you think this work may not be a right fit for any specific international buyer?
The most important thing an author can do for their book is make it the very best book they can write. Don’t make compromises because you think it will appeal better to an anticipated audience. Read widely in your chosen genre and find out which books work well both domestically and internationally (they’ll be the ones that have sold in 15+ languages). It’s true that certain settings or topics don’t travel as well (American historical, novels in verse, controversial content) but there are always exceptions, and nothing is untranslatable as long as someone wants to translate it. As with domestic sales, the key things are the quality of the writing, voice, and story; you can’t nail those aspects unless you’re writing from the heart.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends?
I travel three or four times a year for book fairs and sales trips, and those are often very long working days spilling over into the weekends. Sometimes I go along to book launches or meet up with clients or authors if they’re visiting London. I’m also often found reading on evenings and weekends, but that’s not exactly a hardship!
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out?
I’ve already said read (READ and READ); I think it’s also important to connect with fellow writers with similar goals so you can support each other and share your journey. You’ll need someone to compare notes with, shoulders to cry on, and people to lap up warm white wine at your book launch!
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
When I was twenty I thought I would be a historian and had never even heard of foreign rights. I would tell younger me that there are lots of different career options and plenty of opportunities to try them out. It doesn’t have to be a set trajectory from A to B. In fact, in most cases, it isn’t.
Favourite film? Casablanca.
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? I’m not a huge TV watcher (I prefer reading) but I do enjoy watching historical programs or documentaries, most recently Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Romance.
Favourite book? So hard to pick just one! But I guess it has to be Harry Potter.
Favourite writer? I’m obsessed with reading romance and at the moment will gobble down anything by Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare.