I have an exciting new post for those of you who are interested in the publishing industry! Fiz Osborne joins me today to chat a little bit about Plum Literary, a new literary and editorial consultancy specialising in children’s literature, from picture books to YA.
Hi Fiz! Can you tell us a little bit about Plum Literary?
Sure! There are two halves to Plum Literary. The first half is the literary agency. As an agent, I have close relationships with the writers I look after – we brainstorm ideas, talk about how their manuscripts could develop and I’m there for guidance and support in what can often seem like a confusing industry. I’m also the bridge between a writer and a publisher (think advance negotiations, contracts, schedules, etc.) and, I suppose, a contacts book in human form!
The second half of Plum Literary is the consultancy, which is a place for writers to work with an experienced editor to improve their writing, develop a manuscript and learn about the publishing process. Plum Literary is a small agency, so we’re not able to represent every good writer we meet, but the consultancy allows us to work with more writers on a project-by-project basis and help set them on the road to being published.
Where do literary agencies and editorial consultancies fit in the wider publishing industry? Who else will you work closely with?
Most publishers only accept submissions from agencies. They call these “solicited submissions”. So when you see “No unsolicited submissions” on a publisher’s website, it means you need to go through an agent to get your work seen by that publisher. From the outside, this can seem unfair because another stage is being added to the process. But, it’s important to think about the number of submissions publishers receive every day – solicited or not. It’s a lot. Most editorial teams can’t get through all of those submissions and do their day jobs as well, so it’s essential for them to build relationships with agents. Those agents work hard to get their clients’ work in front of the right people.
For a writer, being signed to literary agency is taking a step towards getting published. Literary agents have trusted relationships with publishers – we know their likes and dislikes, what they’re looking for, what they are definitely not looking for – and all of our knowledge and experience is channelled into helping our writers get their publishing deals.
In this sense, working with an editorial consultancy is one of the very first steps a writer can take towards getting published. The publishing industry is an unknown quantity when you’re on the outside looking in, but it doesn’t have to be like that – and a consultancy like ours gives writers a chance to get their foot in the door.
How did you become an agent/consultant?
I started out in publishing almost ten years ago, and was most recently Senior Editor on the Illustrated Publishing list at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. To be honest, working at Bloomsbury inspired me to set up Plum Literary. The team there is filled with amazing people doing amazing things – and that rubs off. Working there made me feel like I could do anything, and I decided that what I wanted to do was create Plum Literary!
How can someone get an entry-level position at a literary agency?
Apply, apply, apply! Across the board in publishing, teams tend to be small so I appreciate that opportunities are hard to come by. I’ve been there myself. Be true to yourself – your personality is what sets you apart from everyone else – and stay determined. Plum Literary is too small to accommodate interns right now, but we will expand as soon as we’re able to and we’ll support paid internships when we do.
Who are some of your favourite authors and illustrators?
Oh crumbs, that’s tough. Children’s books only? And already published? OK, here goes: Yasmeen Ismail, Michelle Robinson, Laura Ellen Anderson, Chris Haughton, David Roberts, Judith Kerr, Roald Dahl, Tove Jansson, AF Harrold, Denys Watkins-Pitchford, Rainbow Rowell, Patrick Ness, Cat Clarke, JK Rowling . . . I should stop now, shouldn’t I? Of course there are more. I could go on forever because there are so many brilliant creatives out there (isn’t that wonderful?).
Did you enjoy finding out a bit more about the book industry? Let me know if you’d love to see more posts like this!