In the ‘Meet the Agent’ blog series we spoke toMax Edwards of Apple Tree Literary Agency. In this Q&A we quizzed him about his favourite authors and book and how they influence what he’s looking for at the moment, and also his tips for submitting to him. If you’ve been considering submitting to Apple Tree, give yourself the extra edge in your submission by reading below.
What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list? What authors do you love? What kind of books?
In fiction I’m a massive fan of books that mix genres in a unique way – think the fantasy/crime mashup of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle or the literary/science fiction of Station 11. I’m a sucker for high concepts, smart plots and unique characters – twists and turns, good (and bad) guys with depth and life, setups that make me go ‘oooh’.
I’ve also got a thing for SFF, police procedurals, and is also a fan of clever YA fiction that never dumbs down. In science fiction and fantasy, I love books of all stripes, but particularly those that do something a little new – an epic fantasy with a fascinating protagonist, a near-future science fiction or speculative fiction book about a new theme, or something that crosses over into young adult like Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. I love books by the likes of Joy Ellis and Abir Mukherjee – great police procedurals in places outside of London. And in YA, my tastes go toward books by the likes of Patrick Ness, Tom Pollock, Frances Hardinge and Juno Dawson – real or fantastic, but with a depth of voice and character.
A selection of recent and perennial favourites includes The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Station 11, The Rest of Us Just Live Here and Misery.
What do you love when it comes to non-fiction? What topics fire you up? Which genres leave you cold?
In non-fiction, which takes up around 70% of my list, I am looking for great stories that can be told through the non-fiction space; either unique or surprising takes on a subject, or something wildly original. I’d love to hear from academics mixing the arts and sciences in a new way, journalists wanting to take their writing beyond the article, sports writers with a new way of exploring what we play (particularly football), or new writers with an untold history to tell. I represent a number of young journalists and academics, telling stories as varied as the impact of dust on the planet, to the human side of ISIS’ occupation of Mosul, to a biography of Beryl Burton, the greatest sportswoman of all time. My favourite non-fiction of recent years includes To Be A Machine by Mark O’Connell, The Secret Lives of Colour by Kasia St. Clair, The Secret Lives of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (there’s a theme here…) and anything by Michael Calvin or Jon Ronson.
What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you hate?
A bit of personality is key here! Show me that you understand the genre you’re writing in with some good comparison titles (or video games, or films, or music styles, or whatever…). Show me you take your craft seriously, but not necessarily yourself – inject a bit of colour into it. A cover letter is the thing I see first – and can either lead to me opening something immediately, or popping in an Outlook folder to languish for a couple of months. Make it count.
Same question when it comes to the synopsis. What should writers do? What should they avoid?
I’m not fussy about synopses. I barely read them. Don’t worry.
What are you looking for in the opening pages of a novel? What really excites you?
To read the full interview, as well as many more, head over to Agent Match where members can get access to over 500 agent profiles!