“Basically, the opportunity to work more closely with authors,” Amber tweeted. “As an editor at a publisher I was involved in lots of admin, [therefore my] time with each book/author was limited. [Setting up] Skylark Literary enables Jo & me to focus on our clients & books.” Amber wrote about her determination to work more closely with her clients and how she was originally inspired to go into children's literature by her brilliant university lecturer, Tony Watkins, who ran MA course in Children's Literature at Reading University.
Amber spoke about the agency’s desire to “find wonderful stories, beautifully told” and beyond that there was no expectation of who the unpublished authors submitting to the agency were. “We’re looking for pure talent,” Amber said. “So we haven’t set a limit or a target for the number of clients we take on. We're not ticking boxes [in terms of genres or subjects], but just looking for anything we LOVE! :-)”
However, Skylark is going to focus on their main areas of expertise, Children’s and YA, while building the business. They won’t be representing Picture Books for now.
A few useful tips and observations:
- Self-publishing isn’t a disadvantage when submitting work to an agent, but it will depend on how successful it was and how good a writer the author is. “Quality will always win out,” Amber tweeted.
- A good thriller always makes for a good crossover title (although it always needs a truly strong and surprising finale).
- Historical YA is in the doldrums because it needs a fresh new voice (and Amber has a hunch it's on the rise!)
- When searching for an agent for your work, start with your top choices and then persevere! Take on board feedback and don't give up! “Research thoroughly & submit to agents you feel a bond with. Try to match submission letter to their criteria.”
- When do you know it's time to stop flogging one ms and move onto a new one? “Ooh, difficult one!” Amber said. “To be honest, it's instinct and experience.”
- What gets you excited about a submission? And what’s on your wish list in terms of genre and/or content? “Wonderful, lyrical writing and a great punchy opening!”
- Writers tackling children’s or YA fiction can submit to Skylark by email – see their website for details – and Amber and Joanna will try to respond within a month.
Once again we’d like to extend our thanks to Amber Caravéo (please follow her – and us! – on Twitter) and to all the tweeters who took part in the discussions. The chat was moderated by Benjamin Scott. We hope you can join us for our next #AskSwanwick session with ebook guru and marketing expert Robin de Jongh on 3 February 2015.
About Amber Caravéo
Prior to becoming an agent, Amber was the Editorial Director at Orion Children's Books and Indigo for nearly five years, joining Orion from Random House Children’s Books in 2010. Before joining Random house, she was busy developing children’s fiction for Working Partners, including series such as Rainbow Magic. Many years ago she used to create children's titles for a magazine company – heady days when she interviewed stars such as Gordon the Gopher! She has an MA in Children's Literature and has been privileged to work with a host of bestselling and award-winning authors, including Holly Black, Liz Kessler and Caroline Lawrence. Skylark Literary welcomes submissions and seeks to find and support the very best in writing for children and young adults.