SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Megan Carroll from Watson, Little Ltd

SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Megan Carroll from Watson, Little Ltd

Good morning, everyone!

Today’s feature includes a wonderful interview with Megan Carroll!

Megan is a literary agent at Watson Little looking for writers in a variety of areas, and from a wide range of backgrounds, she is particularly keen to hear from Black, Asian, and LGBTQIA+ writers. Her main areas of focus this year are adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as non-fiction for 7+, and MG and YA fiction.

In fiction Megan is interested in high concept love stories (with all those familiar romance tropes), historical fiction, gothic horror, layered family dramas, contemporary stories about life today, and darkly comic novels.

In non-fiction Megan is keen to hear from experts in their field talking about topics relating to film, music, true crime, popular culture, history and issues from largely unrepresented perspectives. She is keen to see memoir, narrative non-fiction and essay collections.

Recent client publications include This Arab is Queer (edited by Elias Jahshan), Lands of Belonging by Donna and Vikesh Amey Bhatt, and The Water Garden by Louise Soraya Black.

Megan is active on Twitter and encourages writers to send her any questions they have.

She also does Agent One-to-One sessions with Jericho Writers, so don’t miss out on a chance to get her feedback on your work by booking your session here.

Check out some highlights from our interview with Megan below.

Megan Carroll

“Take your time, don’t compare yourself to others, and keep yourself occupied with something creative.”

Hi Megan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! We would love to know more about how you became an agent, what you’re looking for in submissions, and advice for querying authors.

Q. What brought you to agenting?

When I first started in publishing, I didn’t know what agents were, so in effect nothing brought me to agenting at the start. In the beginning I had just graduated and knew I wanted to work in publishing, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do specifically. I thought about editorial, marketing, I thought about lots of in-house publishing roles, nothing really outside of that. I came across an internship, which was at Watson, Little, and applied in a bit of desperation after going through 3 months of applying to jobs and having no one get back to me. So, I applied but didn’t think I’d hear anything because I hadn’t heard much from anyone, and I got a very last-minute “Someone has just pulled out of their internship would you be available in three days?”. Obviously, I was very available, so I went along and did three weeks and thought “okay, this is a part of publishing I haven’t really thought about but it’s quite interesting”. I then left and did three months at another agency, which kind of confirmed what I thought, which was that agenting is a place where you can do a little bit of everything and work really closely with the authors that you choose to work with. And I thought that was ideal; every day is slightly different, and it really appealed to me.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about being an agent?

From the start one of my favourite things has been calling an author and telling them their book is going to be published. That’s always a great day! Now that I’ve been working in publishing and as an agent for a little longer, one of the best parts is seeing how an author progresses and grows. There’s that debut magic, which is always so nice and special, but I love seeing how authors progress and really hone their craft over several books or submissions and manuscripts that we work on together. It’s such a pleasure to see that progression and think that I’m a small part of it.

Q. What is at the top of your fiction wish-list?

I would love to find contemporary YA romance; that’s very high up on my list at the moment. I’d love to find some really epic love stories for YA readers especially. I would love to find fun female voices in middle grade too. I think there’s a lot of really impressive, funny middle grade directed at boys, and I would love something that perhaps counters that, or just something that’s from a slightly more underrepresented perspective. I’m looking for some YA and adult horror. I’m also very interested in adult romance, primarily because I found myself gravitating towards it during lockdown, and I was seeking out more happy and joyful books and finding comfort in them, so now in submissions I’m drawn to that kind of thing. Other than that, I’m kind of open to everything, but those are the things I’m most specifically looking for right now.

Q. What are you currently looking for in non-fiction submissions?

I have a few non-fiction authors, and what is brilliant about them is that they’ll come to me with something so surprising, something I know nothing about, but that is absolutely fascinating.

For children’s non-fiction I find that it’s more ‘when you see it you know’. It’s basically a question of whether the author is communicating something really interesting for that age group and doing it in a really engaging way. There’s no specific topic that I’m kind of looking for, I would generally like to take on some more underrepresented authors in that space (well, in all spaces really). The things that I am naturally drawn to though are social history projects and STEM projects for kids.

For adult non-fiction, I am always drawn to essays and memoir from underrepresented voices and anything about popular culture, music, film and television. The key for anything I am taking on in this area is brilliant writing, and a compelling voice.

Q. What is something you want to see in a query letter? What is something that you hate?

I love seeing comparison titles in query letters. I think they are so useful for immediately getting you in the headspace for whatever that book is and knowing exactly what you’re about to read. Knowing who is going to read it and where it sits in the market is also really helpful and comparative titles play into that. I’d also say a really nice, short pitch is always helpful. If an author can condense the book down in a really short way, then I know I can then do that that when I pitch to an editor, and that the editor can do that for sales, and so on. Knowing that it’s a clear concept that’s easily explained is useful.

One mistake agents commonly flag is typos in the submission package and I’m not so bothered about that. Authors are sending out so many submissions and it’s a very high stress situation, so I don’t take that as being indicative of their actual writing, we’re all human! Often, I will get submissions that are just not something for me, and I do wonder how much the author has read and engaged with the website and what I’m interested in, have they just sent this to everyone they can find? I would advise authors avoid using big brands or famous names when it comes to comparative titles and keep them recent too. The classics don’t help to place your writing in the current market.

A common misstep is when an author doesn’t quite understand their book or their genre in a way that can cause a little concern. I might get sent a 120,000-word middle grade which is way too long, or I’ll get a 20,000-word adult fiction which is too short. If I’m being told that what you’re sending me is crime, but it’s not actually following the parameters of that genre, it’s not going to give me a lot of confidence in what I’m about to read.

In general terms, avoid ‘Dear Sirs’ in your cover letter, keep the tone professional and friendly (not too formal, and not too informal), and follow the submission guidelines as much as you can.

Q. What makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of that relationship?

Communication is key. You need to be able to speak to your agent about really anything at all, especially because they’re your first point of call when you’ve got a problem and your source of guidance and advice about the industry. These conversations can sometimes be difficult and so, a comfortable back and forth dialogue is essential. You should also feel comfortable to nudge them, ask for an update or query them about something. I always tell my authors to nudge me if they’re waiting for something or if I get busy and don’t contact them for a bit. There’s no offence, you won’t annoy me. If you want me to answer something or you need something from me that I haven’t delivered, please do say.

For the authors considering accepting an offer of representation I would say, think about what you need from an agent and put that across quite early, and ask a ton of questions about how that agent works and make sure they will work in the way that you need. I like to approach each of my client’s representation differently, I am one person, with a sea of different creatives, if I can adjust my approach to better help my clients work to the best of their ability, then I will do that.

Q. Are you able to tell us about any recent deals you’ve had or anything you’re currently working on?

I have lots of exciting things going on right now! In terms of upcoming publications, I’ve got a wonderful children’s book coming out this year called Lands of Belonging, by my authors Donna and Vikesh Amey Bhatt. Marianne Eloise’s debut essay collection (Obsessive, Intrusive, Magical Thinking) is coming out at the start of April, which is really exciting and two new books coming from Sophie Claire and Fiona O’Brien too. Elias Jahshan’s This Arab is Queer will be out in June and Hayley Hoskin’s debut middle grade novel, The Whisperling is coming in September.

In terms of new clients, I’ve recently taken on two romance authors, Lauren Ford and Emily Andersen. Lauren writes brilliant rom-coms and Emily’s working the first in a very sweet series set in a bookshop. I’ve also taken on Alex Woolhouse, a terrific new non-fiction talent that is working on her first proposal which will be a lot of fun.

Q. Do you have any final words of advice for authors in the querying process?

I would say in general, be patient. It really is a marathon not a sprint, and it might take you some time. And as difficult as it is to take the ‘no thank you’, they’re not the right agent for you, so keep going and you’ll find the right person. And to that point, if you’re getting interest that’s an even more crucial time to be patient. Let other agents know that you’ve received interest, but don’t jump the gun and take your first offer of representation. Take your time, meet everyone, and ask them questions.

I’d also say definitely start writing something else whilst on submission. The second you send something out, move onto something new. Even if that project doesn’t become anything, just occupy yourself with something else creative so that waiting for news isn’t the only thing you’re doing. And then the bonus is that if you do get an agent, you’ve got something else already in the works, which they love. Agents love more books.

Try not to compare your situation to that of others, when you’re hearing about people getting agents or getting deals. If you read The Bookseller and see that something was just sold in a 24-hour pre-empt and things like that. There’s always going to be that kind of news, but those experiences are almost never as perfect as they seem because you don’t hear of the rejections, the near misses and the time spent waiting. So, take your time, don’t compare yourself to others, and keep yourself occupied with something creative.

It’s very, very hard to be a querying author at any time, but particularly these days where there’s so many more submissions that agents are getting post-pandemic. It’s important to surround yourself with other people in the same situation as you, so you can keep each other enthused and encouraged. So, my final advice is to find a writing community, either online or in person, writing can be lonely and having people that ‘get it’ will be so helpful.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that if any authors think they have something that I’d enjoy then please do submit to me – I really do love receiving submissions!

I’m always open to questions and DMs on Twitter. As of this year I’m 24/7, for my sins, open to questions, whether that be about submitting to me or submitting to other people, or just general queries about the publishing process. I think there is room for everything in all industries to be made more transparent, so if anyone has any questions they can head over to my Twitter, and I’ll try to help.

Twitter – @MeganACarroll

The full interview can be found on Megan’s AgentMatch profile.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a Premium Member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!

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