A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning everything you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query and deciding who you’d love to work long term with. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together awesome agent interviews for you!
Today, we’re introducing Sam Copeland of the RCW Literary Agency. Lucia had a blast interviewing him!
Path2pub: How did you become an agent?
SC: I had worked in a book shop for over three years, and a colleague got a book deal. ‘Go and work at agency,’ he said. ‘They are the ones with the power’. At the word ‘power’, my eyes lit up. I got lucky then – the right letter of application landed on the right lap at the right time. An assistant had just left a job and there was an opening. I was an assistant for years learning the ropes, then gradually building a list.
Path2pub: How interesting! What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?
SC: Weirdly, I didn’t choose genres in the past – I just spotted what I thought I could sell, looked for gaps. You then get known as something; I was/am known as doing a lot with crime and thriller, but really, when I came into agenting my reading was more Iris Murdoch and Doris Lessing. And I still don’t choose genres – I just rep what I like, what I like to read. I also love most genres so tend to rep widely.
Path2pub: What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?
SC: The feeling of a writer in total control of the material. I want to feel the writer knows exactly what they are doing, and this will feed through into the letter.
Path2pub: Can’t possibly express how enlightening that is! Readers would learn so much from it. What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?
SC: I struggle when things are too out there: so if it’s based on the planet xargon populated by a tribe of aliens called the fnargles. Conversely, if things are too reality based I also struggle; if it’s a contemporary story based on the lives of twenty-somethings in London who are struggling to find their place in the world…. I mean, who cares? I don’t want a book that puts a mirror up to somebody to reflect their own lives back at them. I need a story to pull me away form my life – but not TOO far.
Path2pub: That planet indeed is a mouthful, haha. How hands-on are you editorially?
SC: As much as needed. Every author varies.
Path2pub: True. Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?
SC: I’d love to get four new writers a year.
Path2pub: What are some books you think everyone should read?
SC: I mean, there are countless! Gone with the Wind is criminally under-read these days. The Barrytown Trilogy (The Van, The Snapper and The Commitments) by Roddy Doyle for sheer joyous writing. Anything (within reason) by the aforementioned Iris Murdoch. I could go on and on…
Path2pub: Great Recs. If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?
SC: I think it would probably be historical, with the depth of Tolstoy, the dialogue of Roddy Doyle, and the plotting of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith/Affinity.
Path2pub: Historical does rock. What advice do you have for querying writers?
SC: Write the book as I just described. Then do a solid pitch letter, not too long. And don’t flap too much about synopses.
Sam Copeland is a literary agent at RCW Literary Agency, so great at his job that he was shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year at the British Book Awards 2020. You can learn more about him and find his submissions details here. Please do well to follow submission guidelines!
Got any questions you’d like us to add to agent interviews hence? Leave it in the comments. We definitely have more insightful agent interviews coming, so subscribe/follow us and stay tuned!