Kate ShawThe Viney Agency
Kate joined the Viney Agency in 2009 after nine years at Aitken Alexander Associates. Prior to becoming and agent she was the Publicity Director at Penguin. Her Agent Hunter interview (full details below) gives a really good sense of her literary like and dislikes. Our researchers have highlighted some of the most useful snippets of information below:
•Represents literary fiction; women's fiction; crime fiction; historical fiction; thrillers; children's, teen and YA fiction and non-fiction; Food and cookery; memoir and autobiography; politics, society and current affairs.
•On the look out for unique voices in fiction, and is especially interested in upmarket commercial fiction and young adult. Kate lists crime and romantic comedy as two of her favourite genres. Favourite books include The Rosie Project (Graeme Simson) and anything by Jo Nesbo.
•Literary fiction must be accessible. Mark Haddon (who she found on the slush pile), Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell and Anne Tyler are particular favourites. She lists playfulness, character, heart and creativity as some of the things which draw her into a book.
•In non-fiction, Kate is passionate about writing which transport the reader to ‘another time or place’. She enjoys working with journalists and representing current affairs. She would also be a good target for memoir, biography and autobiography, particularly if you have an MS with a strong human interest angle.
•Avoid sending in sci-fi, horror, fantasy, paranormal, dystopian or erotic work as they are highly unlikely to be accepted unless they ‘transcend the genre’
•She tweets @katejshaw and is a regular speaker at festivals, creative writing courses and writers’ groups like The Golden Egg Academy and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrations.
Kate has a well-established list and only takes on a handful of exceptional new authors each year so if you are planning to submit, make sure your work complies with the criteria she has outlined. Her pet submission hates include authors going into too much detail or writing a review of their book instead of a description.
I have been a literary agent since 2001, working first at Aitken Alexander Associates, before joining The Viney Agency in December 2009. I have helped to discover and nurture bestselling and award-winning writers like Mark Haddon and Julia Gregson (whose original agent I was) and my diverse list of clients comprises writers of children's and adult novels and a growing number of non-fiction authors. Ever since I hid behind the radiator at school to finish Alan Garner's 'The Owl Service' books have been my passion. My first job was assistant to a literary agent and after that I moved into publishing, ultimately as publicity director at Penguin. During that time I ran publicity campaigns for authors such as Jonathan Coe, Jim Crace, Alex Garland, William Gibson, Patrick McGrath, Matt Ridley, Barbara Trapido and Claire Tomalin. I work very closely editorially with my clients, helping them to shape proposals and manuscripts before submitting them to publishers.
Colonel Gaddafi's Hat by Alex Crawford. As an agent I am always looking for brilliant new voices in fiction for all ages - particularly commercial literary fiction - and I love non-fiction which gives us insight into another time or place, strong personal stories, current affairs and lifestyle books with interesting new angles.
Kate has asked us to list her interests in genre in order of preference:
- literary fiction,
- women's fiction,
- crime fiction,
- historical fiction
- all children's, teen and YA fiction (and non-fiction)
- Food and cookery
- memoir and autobiography
- politics, society and current affairs
- Other non fiction
"Keep reading other books and working on your own. Good luck!"
An Interview with Kate Shaw
Q. What books/authors do you love in commercial fiction? (Crime, women’s) Give us some examples and say why you liked these books/authors.
I loved Gillian Flynn’s first book, SHARP OBJECTS, probably more than GONE GIRL, because of its queasy atmosphere. Marian Keyes and Nick Hornby always make me smile and THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion tickled me; I love a romcom. I enjoy a lot of crime generally but I am a particular Jo Nesbo nut, because his characters, especially Harry Hole, are strongly drawn and the sense of place in his novels is vivid.
Q. What books/authors do you love in literary/historical/book group fiction? Examples and reasons, please!
This answer could go on and on as these are the areas of adult fiction I read and am most passionate about. As a snapshot, I adore Ali Smith and Kate Atkinson for their playfulness; Anne Tyler and Maggie O’Farrell for their characters and heart; Margaret Atwood for her fierce intelligence and creativity; and in historical fiction my two favourites are probably Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel. Oh look, I’ve listed no male authors! Well, to name just two, I think Jonathan Coe and Mark Haddon are peerless at what they do.
Q. How about sci-fi/horror/fantasy/paranormal/YA dystopian/erotic? What would you be interested in, and what’s a big no?
Almost always a no unless the books transcend the genre, e.g. I have always been a fan of William Gibson, whom I once worked with.
Q. On the non-fiction side, are there particular areas that interest you? Does your non-fiction list have a particular slant to it?
My non-fiction list is very eclectic but I do particularly like working with journalists and/or on narrative non-fiction and memoir.
Q. What (very roughly) is the balance of your list between literary fiction / commercial fiction / non-fiction?
About equally waited between literary fiction/commercial fiction/children’s and YA fiction/non-fiction, with a smaller amount of children’s non-fiction and picture books.
Q. Is there anything in particular you’d love to see at the moment?
I am particularly keen to see more literary and crime fiction, intelligent women’s fiction and thoughtful, contemporary YA.
Q. Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I have a particular fascination for Africa and for writing that explores mental health and related issues.
Q. What single piece of advice would you most want to give writers?
Keep reading other books and working on your own. Good luck!
Q. How many submissions do you see annually? And how many of those submissions will end up on your list?
I probably receive about 500 submissions a year and take on about 3-6 new clients.
Q. Do you look for social media and online presence? Do you care?
I’m not obsessed with this but take it into consideration, especially for non-fiction. I think for a novelist, this can be built up in the run up to publication.
Q. When people are pitching the concept for a book to you, what do you find is the most common failing?
Going into too much detail and/or writing a review of their book instead of a description.
Q: What character (from any book) would you be and why?
Ah, this changes daily. At the moment I’d like to be Harriet Manners in Holly Smale’s GEEK GIRL books, because even when she’s getting things wrong she is lovely, smart, loyal, funny and thoroughly decent. Oh yes - and she’s also young!
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