Meet the Team – Clare Wallace

July 2022

What is your role at the agency?

I’m a literary agent and I head up the Children’s and Illustration teams as well as representing a boutique list of adult fiction.

No two days are ever the same, which is one of the many things I love about my role. As a literary agent it’s my job to find new talent, work editorially with clients, match-make them with publishers, negotiate deals and contracts, and support authors and illustrators through the publishing process that follows and hopefully build successful and long-term careers.

I also need to make sure I’m managing and supporting the Children’s and Illustration teams as both companies continue to grow.

How did you get into Publishing?

Not easily! I was late to the career ladder, and it was only in my late twenties that I realised most of my friends were establishing proper grown-up careers. I had always worked in a variety of jobs and always thought longingly about publishing. But London seemed like a large and scary place to move to without contacts or a job offer.

I knew I loved books and writing though and decided to do a Creative Writing masters at Bath Spa. This was good for me in so many ways – it showed me I didn’t really have the stamina or ingenuity to write a whole novel, but I was good at editing and I loved workshopping other authors’ work, I also learned a lot about feedback and how to give and receive it.

As part of the course we also met with literary agents at the end of it and instead of pitching my work to them (I had written a short story collection which was not an easy sell) I asked a few people about work experience. One lovely agent, who is now a treasured friend, offered me a few weeks in her office as a result, and this led to being recommended to other agencies and resulted in six months of different placements.

Even with that experience, I really struggled to get hired. I applied for so many publishing roles and was just about at the end of my savings and confidence reserves when I interviewed at Darley Anderson.

I’d applied for a Rights Assistant role but during my interview I was told that the Rights Manager had just left and did I think I could do that job? I’ll never forget leaving the interview with Darley who agreed I could trial the Rights Manager’s role. I said, ‘Thanks so much, let’s see if I sink or swim,’ and Darley replied, with a smile, ‘Just don’t drown.’

After working in the Rights department for a while (I survived my trial) I slowly moved across to full time primary agenting. And I’m still here, more than ten years later, keeping my head above the water, merrily bobbing along.

What’s the best part of your job?

I do genuinely adore my job but I think there are two best bits…

There is a certain thrill and surge of joy when an editor gets in touch to tell you they love a book you sent them and that they are going to offer. For me, that’s a private high, a secret happy dance, which essentially feels like relief and winning all at once.

But more than that, more special than that, is when you get to call a client and tell them that their gamble paid off, that the manuscript they’ve poured themselves into is going to be a book, that it’s going to be invested in, and it’s going to find its way to a shelf and into the hands of readers. There’s honestly nothing like that – having a part in changing someone’s life and being part of the journey to realise their dreams.

What do you look for in a book?

Voice! I love voice-driven narratives. Character is everything, authenticity, a clear hook or unique premise, pace, and I want to feel – whether I’m holding my breath with tension, laughing or crying, I want the book to evoke emotion.

What’s on your “to be read list”?

Oh so many things… but right now, today, I am listening to Book Lovers by the brilliant Emily Henry, and I’ve just bought Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, which was recommended to me recently, as well as The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. I’m also reading Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu – which is our DABCA book club pick for this month, and I’m very keen to read Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle.

Who’s your favourite fictional character?

Andréa Martel from Call My Agent! 😊

Go to reading snack?

M&S Belgian Milk Chocolate Peanuts

Book you’re most looking forward to reading?

I have several manuscripts in my inbox that my clients are very patiently waiting for me to read – I can’t wait to get stuck in.

What’s on your current wishlist?

As chief talent-spotter, I love to discover memorable new characters, bold and unique voices, strong concepts and gripping storytelling. I represent picture books, middle-grade, teenage and YA.

I’m particularly looking for funny chapter books for younger readers at the moment as well as YA rom coms, especially with underrepresented protagonists. Whatever the age range, I love a big hook, a lot of heart, and a standout voice. For picture books I have a wide taste, from daft to lyrical, rhyming to prose.

If your submission doesn’t fit a description here, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to receive it. Often I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it (although I’m not the person for steampunk or space opera).

I am actively looking for submissions from underrepresented writers. Please include the hashtag #diversevoices in the subject line of your email when you submit.

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