Literary Agent of the Year
Winner: Literary Agent of the Year
Literary agents sometimes strike it lucky with a hot author or on-trend book, and then take all the credit—but throughout her career, Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown has modestly made all her own good fortune.
That was apparent over a stellar 2018 in which her star author Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt became the TCM’s top non-fiction title, selling more than half a million copies. This isn’t a book that was built into a bestseller solely by its publisher or author, but one in which the agent played a pivotal creative and commercial role. Since it took off, her efforts to capitalise have gone way outside conventional agenting duties to take in a 50-date live tour, Sunday Times column and BBC comedy drama for Kay, as well as follow-up books for Pan Macmillan.
Beyond Kay, Summerhayes has built an eclectic but commercially successful list, with authors as diverse as Johanna Basford, Ranulph Fiennes, "Deliciously" Ella Mills and Kathy Reichs. She showed an instinct for steering authors towards new genres and new publishers, as with crime fiction writer turned Middle Grade children’s author Adam Baron.
Authors value her combination of sympathetic care and steely deal- making skills: “She’s resourceful, imaginative, hugely well-connected and brilliant at placing a book,” said one. Publishers, meanwhile, appreciate her collaborative approach and eye for trends. As one put it: “She is caring, capable, creative, clever, can-do and gloriously commercial... her successes are never accidental.”
Arabella SteinThe Bright Agency
Chris WellbeloveAitken Alexander Associates
Jo UnwinJo Unwin Literary Agency