Ahead of the Meet the Agent event in February with Leeds Big Bookend, I asked Shelley some revealing questions. Thing is, you need to know what your agent's about, right? What gets her excited? Are you a good fit? On similar wavelengths? It's so hard getting an agent in the first place, but finding one right for you is even harder.
You’re newly launched as an agent, what’s your story so far?
SHELLEY: I have always been interested in narratives. Working for the Eve White Agency consolidated this. I had so much success there and proved to myself that I was a good editor. The next natural step was to become an agent myself. I had the experience of both agenting and editing. All things considered, I felt confident in taking the next steps of my career.
Why target the North?
SHELLEY: I’m a Northerner who naturally loves a bit of drama and dark humour! Northern- based writers have this in abundance and I want to tap into talent that is there. The North has a rich history of literature. You only have to think of the Brontes for timeless, dark brooding tales that have gripped people across the world. In more recent times The Red Riding Quartet was brought to life by Leeds born writer, David Peace and the world of Billy Elliot in all its dark humour is now a global success thanks to Lee Hall. There are talented writers here in the North, and it would be such a joy as an agent and a Yorkshire woman to discover and develop that talent.
What are you looking for in a manuscript and what makes one stand out from another?
SHELLEY: I am looking for a strong authorial voice with a compelling story to tell. I am naturally drawn to sophisticated narrative structures.
A writer has to be so much more than just a ‘good writer’ these days to be successful. Would you agree?
SHELLEY: Writers really need to have a presence on social media sites. Ideally, their own blog. Publishers want to sign individuals who can communicate with the public well and who aren’t afraid to get out there and shout about their work.
It’s still very difficult to get an agent, but is it still so important to have one?
SHELLEY: An agent will negotiate the best deal for you and look after your interests. This is particularly important for book rights and TV and film.
Your top tip for a writer is?
SHELLEY: Check out what you are competing with by gaining a good awareness of the commercial market you are aiming to target. Then, write something even better!
Shelley Instone began her career at the Eve White Agency as reader and editor where she discovered many new authors. As a freelance consultant she has worked alongside many leading agents establishing a reputation for insightful and precise edits and finding new talent. Shelley is no longer a literary agent. Follow her on Twitter @ShelleyInstone.