My Job in 5: Harry Illingworth

My Job in 5: Harry Illingworth

Describe your role. 
As a literary agent, my role can change each day, but I am always looking for new writers, be they début or established, and my end goal is to see those writers published. I read a lot, I edit my clients’ novels, I sell the books to publishers in the UK and abroad, negotiate contracts, liaise with editors, publicists and marketers and generally assist with any issues on a day-to-day basis. I work closely with my authors and their career is central to everything I do.

What do you enjoy about your role?
The thrill of the submission. When I send a new author out on submission, we’ve usually worked on the book together for many months, so finally sending it to editors and (hopefully) getting great responses and offers to publish the work is a huge highlight. Nothing beats telling a début author they are going to be published.

What are you working on at the moment?
Stuart Turton’s new novel, The Devil and the Dark Water, which is eagerly awaited by many, has just been completed and is agonisingly close to being ready to read. It’s publishing this October. I’m also busy editing a début murder mystery that I’m incredibly excited about, and hope to sell to publishers soon… It’s set in the 1920s and ticks all the boxes of a classic whodunnit while still feeling fresh.

What skills do you need for your role?
A thick skin and a keen eye for detail. The eye for detail is more obvious as it’s important to make sure you don’t miss things in contracts and manuscripts, but you certainly need a thick skin as agents get rejected a lot, too. We take on writers that we believe are brilliant, but it doesn’t always mean everyone else will feel the same. 

What advice would you give to those looking to work in the industry?
Get yourself out there as much as possible, whether it’s to industry events or just having an online presence. Twitter is a great platform for following and engaging with publishers and also take any work experience you can get if you’re just starting out—don’t narrow yourself to one part of the industry. Any experience could open doors you didn’t know were there.