Special agent

<p>Honest, yet Machiavellian. Those are the paradoxical qualities a literary agent needs to succeed, says the man who handles the James Bond titles&mdash;United Agents' Simon Trewin. He talks to Hannah Davies <br />
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Simon Trewin, joint head of the books department at United Agents, says the relationship between agent and author should be like a marriage.</p>
<p>&quot;As an agent, you are nothing without your authors. You must act as your client's fiercest advocate, always tell them the truth, and support them through everything,&quot; he explains. <br />
&quot;I've even taken money out of the cashpoint to give to an author who couldn't pay their gas bill,&quot; he confesses. He admits his wife might not be very happy to hear this and adds that the author paid him back straight away, of course.</p>
<p>Trewin has the author/agent marriage down to a tee. From his first job at Sheil Land Associates in 1993, on to PFD in 1999, and across to his current role at United Agents last year, Trewin's clients have loyally moved with him. And for good reason: &#8232;his reputation in the industry is top-notch.</p>
<p>He was one of the few people from publishing to secure a spot on the Hospital Club's new list of London's top 100 creative residents and Ian Fleming's prestigious estate recently selected him to manage the author's James Bond titles. <br />
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<b>Dramatic start</b><br />
The cynical might think Trewin was given an unfair advantage in publishing, with his father Ion being a former literary editor of the <i>Times</i> and a well-known publisher. But Trewin did not secure a cushy books job straight from university; he pursued a career in the theatre.</p>
<p>Graduating with a degree in drama and theatre from Kent University in 1988, he worked as a stage manager in theatres abroad and across the UK, including a stint in the West End, working on &quot;The Caretaker&quot; alongside playwright/director Harold Pinter and actor Colin Firth. He admits: &#8232;&quot;I couldn't quite believe I was being paid to do it.&quot;</p>
<p>After meeting his wife, Helen&mdash;who was acting in a play he was managing&mdash;and having their son, Jack, Trewin wanted to pursue a more settled career in London. The logical choice was working with his other passion, books, which stemmed from having grown up with a father in the industry.</p>
<p>After six months of deliberation, he decided on agenting. &quot;I thought about trying to become an editor, but I'm too much of a maverick,&quot; he says.</p>
<p>I don't like jobs where someone else has to give you permission to &#8232;be enthusiastic. Being an agent, you can be selfish and do what you want.&quot;</p>
<p>Trewin wrote to the majority of agents listed in the Writers' &amp; Artists' Yearbook asking for work. He says most did not reply, which he now understands as he gets so many similar letters.</p>
<p>Yet one, Sonia Land of Sheil Land Associates, asked him in for a chat. Trewin's charm obviously had an effect. After initially advising him to get experience as an editor for five years before becoming an agent, Land changed her mind and asked Trewin to come in and cover her assistant's holiday.</p>
<p>Despite his lack of experience, Land obviously saw something in Trewin. With a vacancy opening at just at the right time, a week later she offered him a job as an agent. &#8232;He was 27. <br />
Trewin admits his timing was lucky, but says: &quot;You have to make your own luck in this business. The best way to become an agent is to get as much work experience as possible. Most of the big agencies run summer internships. If you help out, are friendly and keep your ear to the ground, you'll pick things up quickly.</p>
<p>&quot;As an agent, if you are looking &#8232;for a new assistant, it is easy to pick out a good intern&mdash;that personal touch helps.&quot;</p>
<p>Fifteen years into his career, Trewin is in demand. A strong internet presence, which Trewin thinks is crucial for agents, and an excellent word-of-mouth reputation among authors have led to him receiving over 5,000 approaches a year. <br />
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Gut instinct </b><br />
The task of spotting talent among the slush must be challenging, but Trewin says most of his judgements are based on gut reaction. There are,&nbsp; however, three things he looks for. &quot;First, is the writing truly brilliant? Second, will the market be accepting of it? And, finally, am I the right person to make the connections for the book?&quot; he reveals.</p>
<p>It sounds tricky, but Trewin claims it's not rocket science. &quot;There is no school of agenting. All you need is to have an opinion and not be afraid to share it. You have to be tenacious, honest and straight-dealing&mdash;although being Machiavellian at times can be useful.&quot;</p>
<p>Trewin is currently buzzing from the recent move into United Agents' first permanent offices in Lexington Street. Surrounded with books by his long list of successful clients, ranging from John Boyne and Andrew Miller to Danny Wallace and Fiona Neill, it is clear he is still passionate about enabling authors to fulfil their creative ambitions.</p>
<p>&quot;I am driven like everyone else in this industry by the art of possibility,&quot; he says. &quot;We all hope with our next book that it is going to be our moment. There is nothing more exciting as an agent than reading something that really catches fire for you.&quot;</p>
<p>Adds Trewin: &quot;If I can take on &#8232;a new author tomorrow like Ian Fleming, who is still being read 40 years after his death, that would be incredible.&quot;</p>