We spoke to Jemima Hunt, an editor and literary agent at The Writers’ Practice. She represents authors of fiction and non-fiction, including two Sunday Times bestsellers, and has three books in development for film and television. She is a visiting tutor in Creative Writing at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. Spring 2017 sees the launch of a new six-week novel writing course at Oxford’s Story Museum, which she has co-founded with writer and broadcaster Charlie Lee-Potter. More details available here: http://oxfordwritingtable.com
You work as both an agent and editor. Which of these gives you the most job satisfaction?
I began my career as a journalist – then wrote two novels and worked as a ghost before setting up as an agent. As you can imagine I’m a very hands-on agent, especially when it comes to honing dialogue and redrafting. So, yes, I love editing, but the package of skills involved in agenting – creating a package that in turn produces a fantastic book – is hugely satisfying as well.
With Frankfurt looming, what do you like most and what do you like least about book fairs?
Running a small agency means having to be extremely efficient – and realistic. The Marsh Agency, who do my foreign rights, go to Frankfurt so we’re in touch to get everything in place. For me personally, London Book Fair is brilliant as a targeted meeting place to talk up projects and generate interest in my books and authors.
How do you think the growing success of indie writers and self-publishing has changed the more traditional received wisdoms of publishing?
The possibilities offered by self-publishing are very exciting if done properly (invest in an editor) and with adequate management of expectations (the same, by the way, is true of mainstream publishing!).
What advice would you give a new writer thinking of working with an editor for the first time?
Check out what they’ve edited to get a sense of their taste – and go and meet them. The author/editor relationship is incredibly nuanced; you don’t have to share a sense of humour, but it helps.
Tell me what we should be reading this autumn.
Crashing the Party – out in the US with Soft Skull next month – is the memoir of American journalist Scott Savitt, who arrived at Beijing University in 1982 as one of the first exchange students. He ended up staying, becoming a reporter, witnessing the Tiananmen massacre in ’89, then staying on until 2000 when he was deported. We’ve been working on this book for three years, piecing it together – and it reads like a political thriller. Utterly gripping.