In this abridged version of her article for the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2022, Sophie Clarke describes what a literary scout’s role and life entails, with its varied and challenging workload.
Entitling this article ‘the life and works of a literary scout’ seems unusually apt because, as with many jobs in publishing, trying to separate the personal from the professional in the career of literary scout is nigh on impossible.
Literary scouts, unlike agents and editors, do not work directly with authors. They trade in information, gossip, industry buzz and foreign-market knowledge. A good scout has their finger on the pulse of the market they are scouting. In order to gather this information, at least half of the scout’s role is to talk – and to as many people as possible. The other half of a scout’s role is to read, and to read quickly, professionally and widely in the area they scout in. Some scouts cover all genres; some specialise, for example in children’s and YA, like me.
Most have some knowledge of a foreign language and culture, although almost all communication between scout and client is in English, and all reading is done in English too. Regardless of how they entered the industry, the key element a scout must have is a passion for, and deep knowledge of, the area of literature they are working in – no matter how broad or narrow that patch.
Also helpful are the enthusiasm and energy to work more than occasional long hours, a curiosity about foreign markets, a desire to be well-informed about as much as possible, and the ability to read and network and manage emails beyond the office. For a scout, when a client acquires a title that you loved – one that has the potential to be successful for them and you also know the deal will be wonderful for the author – it really is the best feeling.
You can read the full version of this article and more than 80 other pieces from writers, publishing insiders and agents in the new edition of the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2022, published 22 July.
Sophie Clarke is a scout for children’s books at Daniela Schlingmann Literary Scouting. She has previously worked at the publisher Penguin Random House Children’s and at the Literary agencies Curtis Brown and Bell Lomax Moreton.