Name: Bryony Woods
Agency: Diamond Kahn & Woods
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role? After several agency internships, as well as jobs working in bookshops and libraries, my first actually job in publishing was as an agency assistant at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. It was the perfect job for me at the time. Being the only assistant at a small but prestigious agency allowed me to soak up so much information and to experience all aspects of the role of the literary agent, and the business of running an agency – and my boss, Caroline Sheldon, was the most brilliant mentor I could have asked for.
There’s no specific agent qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well? I do have an MA in Publishing, which is probably as close as you can get to a formal agent qualification. But there really is no substitute for actual experience on the job, and a certain gut instinct. From a young age I would read anything at all that I could get my hands on, and I spent years building up my CV – as a library assistant, intern, bookseller, assistant agent and then full agent – gathering a much experience as I could and building a strong network of contacts before launching DKW back in 2012.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with? I like to start the day by reading through the submissions that I’ve received the previous day, to see if anything really exciting has come in. I’ll generally do this between 7-9am. But not every day is the same, and sometimes other things have to take priority.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day? I’m sure this will have been said before on this blog, but there really is no ‘typical’ working day. Often my day will involve meetings, coffees or lunches with editors, clients or scouts. There is always a lot of time spent at my desk, negotiating deal terms and going over contracts, liaising with clients, editors and sub-agents, discussing marketing plans, cover designs etc. Reading and editing new material from clients often takes up large chunks of my time, as well as reading material from potential clients.
What do you feel a client and agent should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day? Communication is key – I like to make sure that my clients know they can always ask me about anything, even if it might seem trivial. And I’m a very hands-on agent, so right from the start of the relationship, I’ll be working closely with each client to make sure their manuscripts are in the best shape they can possibly be.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship? The most typical way for someone to approach me is by submitting a sample of their work for consideration – the guidelines for this are on the DKW website (dkwlitagency.co.uk/submissions). I look at everything that I get sent, and if I like it and want to continue reading I’ll request the full manuscript. If I really love the full manuscript and think it’s something I can place with a publisher, I’ll offer representation. The process can vary though – sometimes I’ll meet potential new clients at events or through social media, and I do occasionally contact writers whose work I’ve seen online or come across in some other way to see if they might be interested in representation.
What is the best way to approach you, or any agent, with a view to representation? Is there one part of an approach that makes you think this client is or isn’t for me? Don’t spam me with Amazon links on Twitter – this is always very off-putting, and happens surprisingly often! The best thing to do is to read agency submission guidelines and then follow them, being as professional as you can. If you take yourself seriously as a writer and present yourself accordingly, then agents will be more inclined to take you seriously too.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends? Almost all of my reading and editing is done during evenings and weekends.
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out? Read as widely as you possibly can, and don’t be afraid to take inspiration from unusual places.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t let other people tell you who you should or shouldn’t be.
Favourite film? Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (Edward Scissorhands is a close runner-up, though).
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? Firefly.
Favourite book? Too many to ever list.
Favourite director? I don’t think I’ve ever had one!
Favourite writer? All my clients. Obviously.
Favourite actor (male or female)? David Tennant