By Karoline Tübben, Aimee Whittle and Zahra Islam
This week, Megan Carrol from Watson, Little shared with us her journey as a literary agent.
How did you go about securing your two internships with literary agencies at the very start of your career? Are there any skills or experiences that helped you secure the roles at both Watson, Little and later the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency?
After graduating, I was sending out my CV constantly and applying for every role I could, but for quite a while I heard nothing back. During a few weeks temping at a customer service call centre (it was truly awful), the assistant at Watson, Little called one Thursday afternoon and asked if I was available to come in on Monday for a couple of weeks, as someone had just dropped out. At this point, I had no experience at all in publishing and I think the main reason I was able to step in was because I didn’t live too far from London and was able to scrape together enough money for the train. It was less about skills and more about location!
After three weeks at Watson, Little, I had figured out that this was an area of the industry I was seriously interested in. I then emailed various other agencies who were looking for interns and secured a brilliant three-month role at CSLA shortly after. I have no doubt that having another agency placement on my CV was a big help. Towards the end of my time there, an assistant role opened up at Watson, Little and they invited me back.
What does the average day look like for you at Watson, Little as a Literary Agent? How has this changed in the last three years since you were an Associate Agent?
Every day is different, and that’s what I enjoy the most about agenting, but most days start with assessing what’s in my inbox and which of those things is the most urgent. Generally during a week, I’m handling a contract or two, sending a book out or monitoring an ongoing submission, reading manuscripts from clients and prospective authors, handling any necessary client admin (payments, invoicing, queries, etc.) and keeping an eye on my submissions inbox.
It’s hard to say [how an average day has changed over the last three years], as the last three years have been quite odd times in general. I certainly think the pace is much more intense, everything is quicker and there’s a lot more to be done, to be read. The pandemic has definitely changed the way the industry works and that summer downtime doesn’t feel quite the same anymore. But it’s definitely a fun kind of busy!
Based on the manuscripts you receive at Watson, Little, are there any trends you think will be more mainstream/popular in the coming months and years?
I’m receiving a lot more in the romance genre in this BookTok era, as well as ‘romantasy’, which is a genre I am keen to dive into a lot more in the coming year, but I think those have always been popular genres. Cosy crime is certainly having a boom, and that’s reflected in my colleagues’ submissions, as well as horror, which I’m personally very pleased to see. YA (Young Adult) is also doing much better, and that’s really encouraging for all the brilliant UK talent in that space.
What is the most unexpected or exciting thing you have experienced during your nine years in agenting?
One of the things I found most unexpected was how friendly agents are, agency to agency. We’re all each other’s competition but it really doesn’t feel that way and I’ve made such close friendships with fellow agents. To have someone to vent to, to ask for advice, to commiserate with that really understands – it’s lovely.
Could you tell us about a project you’re working on currently in your role?
Oh, lots! All of my clients have really exciting projects coming up both in the non-fiction and fiction space. I couldn’t possibly pick one! Some brilliant publications coming this year though are Hiba Noor Khan’s debut middle grade novel, Safiyyah’s War (Andersen Press), Rose Alexander’s The Lost Diary (Bookouture) and This Christmas in Paris (Hodder) by Sophie Claire.
As someone who has been in the industry and worked their way up from entry level, do you think the agenting side of the industry is doing enough to foster a more diverse publishing landscape?
I don’t think any part of the industry can confidently say they’re doing ‘enough’ – there’s always more to be done and we are a very long way from a truly diverse landscape. That being said, it’s certainly getting much better. Agents are now actively seeking diverse writing talent, which is encouraging to see, but it would be great to see that diversity behind the scenes too.