Madeleine Milburn founded the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency in March 2012, and is looking to represent authors of all types of popular and literary fiction including genres such as women’s, psychological suspense, crime and thrillers, comedy, general fiction, narrative non-fiction, children’s books, teen, young adult and cross-over.
There are ups and downs in any writing career. Sometimes a writer will feel on top of their game - words will flow, stories will be told, and the publishers around the world will be doing a great job. But other times a writer may experience writers block, their second book might be a lot more difficult to write than their first, or the genre they are writing may not be as popular as it was. As an agent, I have to be aware of the market at all times and I have to be extremely supportive to my authors. I have to point them in the right direction and guide them on their journeys. The agent also has to do a huge amount of ‘behind the scenes’ work to ensure that publisher does as much as they can in terms of publicity for the publication of each book, and continues to push and build each book year after year.
There will be times when an author’s book may not sell as many copies as we would like - this could be to do with the time that the book is published, competition from other writers, or another genre may be in fashion. The agent has to ensure that the publisher continues to invest and publicise in an author's work, and offer for new contracts. If this doesn’t happen, a writing career can be very unstable because of the nature of publishing contracts and the amount of books included. As an agent, I can be reluctant to include more than two books in a contract because the terms may be very different by the time book 3 is being published, as we are talking more than four years down the line. An advance should work in an author’s favour so that if the first books sell, the deal for book 3 should take into account the sales figures for this book.Other problems can surface at any time, for instance the author may not be happy with the book cover that the publisher has designed. An author is going to be much more successful getting the amendments they want if they have an agent. I always see my role as being the mediator between the author and the publisher. I want my authors to have wonderful relationships with their editors, and if anything tricky comes up, I will handle it. I am very used to having all the difficult conversations, and editors are used to the agents’ feedback too. Sometimes I have really fought for a change in the cover, other times I have reassured the author that the publisher knows the market and, with covers, we have to be aware of the deals they are doing with supermarkets and retailers to get retail space. If they have to put a cat on your cover even though there is no cat in your book, there is a good reason for it! However, an author has to feel ownership of their book, and if my author feels so unhappy about it, then something has to be done. There are many occasions when I’ve had images changed, or asked for different colours, a different font or even a different writer’s name. A lot of men don’t read books written by women so it could really increase your market using initials on your cover if you are a female writer. I like to approach everything as a team. The cover is just one example. I like to get involved with everything – publicity, websites, retail support, translations, foreign jackets, book ideas, and so on. An author needs an agent who will push, promote and fight for their books day in, day out.