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Author/Agent Discussion: Kate Ormand and Isabel Atherton

Kate Ormand is a published author of YA novels and picture books, including The Wanderers series and Tough Cookie with Sky Pony Press. Kate found her agent Isabel Atherton, director and literary agent at Creative Authors Ltd, through the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook in 2012. It seemed only fitting for Kate to sit down with Isabel and ask her some key questions on the submission process. 

Kate Ormand: Creative Authors established in 2008 – tell us about some of your highlights. When you look back to then and now, what stands out the most to you?

Isabel Atherton: What a great opening question! It’s good to sometimes stop and think how far the agency has come since those early days. When I first started I had one client and in that first year I sold one book and a partial. I can’t quite believe how successfully the agency has grown in the last eight years. It’s all down to hard graft and my amazingly talented list of authors and illustrators. Recent highlights have been the outstanding success and multiple awards given to my client Guojing and her amazing graphic novel – The Only Child. We won a best illustrated book of 2015 from The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, to name a few, and we were also nominated for an Eisner Award this year. Just to be nominated was amazing, as they are the equivalent of the Oscars in the comic industry. We’ve also been having tons of fun with the promotion of Ged Adamson’s picture book – Douglas, You Need Glasses published by the incredible team at Schwartz and Wade (Random House), who also did the most amazing activity pack for book stores. 

KO: How did you get started in publishing? Qualifications? Previous jobs?

IA: It was actually quite a zig zag route for me into agenting. I have a BA (hons) in English Literature and an MA in Contemporary Approaches to English Studies (both from Goldsmiths College, Uni. Of London). I have worked in marketing and also been a health journalist. It was while finishing my MA dissertation that I made the decision to really make the most of my degrees. I applied to intern at the Rupert Crew Literary Agency. It completely opened my mind to the world of publishing. Caroline and Doreen Montgomery, the directors, were so encouraging and let me help out on and off for about nine months. This then led to me getting an assistant role at another agency, and then I worked for two other reputable London agencies as a fully-fledged agent. I decided to go out on my own at the grand old age of twenty-seven and I honestly haven’t looked back. Agenting is definitely in my blood. 

KO: Creative Authors is an international British agency, which recently moved to NYC. How has the move benefited the agency?

IA: We recently celebrated our three year anniversary of being in New York. The move was probably the best thing I could have done for the agency. It’s broadened not only my horizons, but massively benefited my clients. For example, there have been a number of occasions where I have found that a book might not work for the UK market, but then there will be a bidding war in the US and vice versa. It’s just great to have my feet firmly placed in both territories. Originally, I was mainly a non-fiction agent but since I have been in New York, the whole illustrated side of the agency has developed. 

KO: I found the agency through the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012, which is a great resource and was a massive help to me. What advice would you give to an unagented writer or illustrator seeking representation? 

IA: Do your research. I’d recommend really studying agencies to see what and who they represent and then target that specific agent. I’d recommend always tailoring your approach letter. I always pay extra attention when someone has bothered to do their research and see what clients I represent and the books I’ve worked on. And be persistent – don’t give up. It’s such a subjective business and what might not work for one agent, may just work for another. 

KO: What’s on your list, and what are you always looking for?

IA: Currently, I’m busy working on a number of picture books and I'm discussing new non- fiction ideas with my client Tristan Donovan, the author of Feral Cities. And of course, we are working on your wonderful new YA novel! At present, I am keeping my eyes peeled for quality and engaging non-fiction and I’m always on the lookout for quality illustrators.

Isabel Atherton

KO: What is the best thing about being an agent?

IA: Working with clients that become friends and seeing their books become a reality. I am very active on social media and I’ll never cease getting a kick out of seeing my authors’ books in store and will always snap a photo and Tweet/Instagram it.

KO: You've written children’s picture books too. Do you feel that having been on both sides you have a broader outlook when it comes to editing your own work vs. editing a client’s work?

IA: Oh, most definitely. It’s been extremely useful having sat on both sides of the fence and I feel it does benefit my clients, as I can see it from an author’s perspective as well as an agent’s. 

KO: And to finish – tell us about a great book you've read recently!

IA: I've always got about ten books on the go at the same time. I loved Kevin Waldron’s picture book Harold’s Hungry Eyes about a Boston Terrier in NYC. Kevin knows dogs so well. I have a little black pug called Rosie and she’s always whining for food. She’s also become quite the Creative Authors’ mascot and featured in a number of picture books. Non-fiction I loved Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City, which recounts her move to NYC in her 30s and looks at some amazing artists and their work through the prism of loneliness. Fiction-wise – my husband picked up the classic novel – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes this year and passed it onto me. It was one of the most moving books I've read and it’s always so great discovering a classic.

Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and shape-shifter circus series, THE WANDERERS and THE PACK. THE WANDERERS was honored as “Winner” in the “Fiction: Young Adult” category of the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. She also writes picture books as Kate Louise. Follow Kate on Twitter.

Established in February 2008 by Isabel Atherton, Creative Authors Limited represents titles with strong commercial potential in literary fiction, general fiction, arts and crafts, biography, autobiography, health, business, cookery and children's fiction. Other areas of interest include history, natural history, humour, popular culture, women's fiction and crime.