Meet the agents: Peter Buckman

Peter Buckman was on the editorial board of Penguin Books, and moved to New York to be a commissioning editor with the New American Library. He then became a full-time writer, producing books, films, plays, and scripts for TV and radio. Agenting has always been part of his life. The Ampersand Agency handles literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction.

When did you come into agenting? What did you do before? And why agenting?

I was a publisher and then a full-time writer before becoming an agent in 2003, so I know the pleasures and pain involved in all aspects of the creative process.

Have you ever opened a new manuscript, read a single page, and thought ‘I’m going to end up making an offer on this’? What was it about that page which excited you?

Yes. The opening sentence of “Q&A”, which turned into Slumdog Millionaire.

The secret to getting an agent

Free submission pack template

What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?

Packages or envelopes so plastered in sticky tape I need get a carving knife to open them. Anything addressed “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”.

Do you need good personal chemistry with your authors?

Not necessarily, though agenting is a very personal thing. You need to respect and be generous to one another, as well as being capable of surprise.

The grim stats: how many submissions do you get per week (or year)? And how many new authors do you take on?

Around 100 a week, say 5,000 a year, and in nine years, we’ve got maybe 60 authors. You can figure out the stats.

Do you like your authors to tweet, blog, or use Facebook … or do you not care?

Don’t care.

Which is most important: the editor, the publisher or the advance?

The most important thing is that the author is happy and well-served.

Do you secretly have a book in you? And if so, tell us more …

I’ve published seven books, all out of print (and some of them so boring not even my wife has read them).