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26.11.10 | Felicity Wood
Launching a new company at the start of a global recession might not be everyone's idea of fun, but for Lucy Abrahams, who set up her own scouting business in October 2008, it has been the best decision she's ever made. Quoting Confucius, who once declared that if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life, Abrahams is passionate and excited about scouting and describes the past two years as ". . . amazing and such a privilege, I love what I do".
Scouts are the matchmakers of the industry—representing publishing houses all around the world they promote their clients to agents and other publishers, and in turn report back to their clients with publishers' and agents' newest and hottest books. Lucy Abrahams Literary Scouting now has 11 clients, from 10 countries, on its books (Books in the Attic and Yedioth Books/Miskal in Israel; Dutch Media in The Netherlands; Sonia Draga in Poland; Objetiva in Brazil; Objectiva in Portugal; Santillana in Spain; Laguna in Serbia; Artemis in Turkey; Le Serpent a Plumes/du Rocher in France; and Origin Pictures in the UK) and covers everything from the most literary fiction to the most commercial, as well as many non-fiction genres. She says: "If you told me at the start that I would have 11 clients in two years, I would have laughed in your face, but they're all extraordinary publishers—fun, innovative and creative, and I'm proud to work for all of them."
Abrahams' love of scouting developed early on in her career; after leaving university (she read English at Southampton) she did work experience one day a week at Conville & Walsh, Chatto & Windus, Picador and Louise Allen-Jones Literary Scouting, eventually joining Louise Allen-Jones in September 2004. She explains: "I just felt that scouting gave this unbelievable overview of the whole industry, you could see who everybody was and what everybody was doing and I just thought it was fabulous to be involved with so many different projects, houses and agencies. I learnt so much, and had a brilliant time at Allen-Jones, and I loved working for those clients, but it got to the point where I wanted to do it for my own clients."
Despite the recession looming over her venture, and many publishers in a cautious mood, Abrahams found that clients were not only there if she looked for them but that things were actually pretty positive: "Sales are so consolidated now, and the big hitters are so important, that if you don't have one of those authors you really struggle and so I think that the recession has actually helped scouting, as publishers can't really afford to miss the big authors. Publishers have had to become more competitive and give themselves an edge, and that's what scouting is all about, giving yourself an edge over your competitors in each market.' She adds: "One of the benefits for scouting for quite new, young companies is that they're really evolving and adapting in different ways and being more creative, rather than just cutting their lists. The recession has given a lot of independents more room to try different things and become more important somehow. The big houses have more to lose if they take a risk and I think some indies are really thriving from taking those risks."
Working for clients in several different countries, Abrahams says she is always surprised at how different the markets are and what works in each territory "… you think you know, but you never really know." She explains that although the top 10 lists across most countries look similar, there are certain territories like Portugal, Spain and Israel, that are surprising and unpredictable: "It can be very frustrating, as you think you've got a sure winner on your hands when it comes out in one place and sells hundreds of thousands of copies, but then it won't necessarily work all over. That's what keeps scouting interesting though, you get to build up this real international picture of what works."
As for the future, Abrahams, who feels she is over the big hurdles and is now finding "wonderful projects" and building relationships, wants to keep her clients and "little army of freelances happy and strong . . .and just enjoy it."