Fiction & Drama

Friday Five: literary scout Petra Sluka


Answering the #FridayFive today is literary scout Petra Sluka.

Tell us a bit about your job?

I am a Literary Scout working for publishers in Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Brazil as well as for one of the sub-agents in Japan. I work across adult fiction, non-fiction and children’s and YA titles.

What are the key ingredients for success?

Apart from networking with rights sellers in the UK and also with editors, you have to have excellent knowledge of your clients’ lists and their markets, so that you can priorities the material coming in from UK publishers and agents. We get a lot of manuscripts and proposals in, so you have to develop a bit of an instinct as to what will work for your clients’ list as well as those speed reading skills.

Describe a normal day?

No such thing as a ‘normal’ day, apart from a constant need to keep an eye on your in-box so you keep up-to-date with processing submissions every day. You never quite know when an intriguing script or proposal comes your way and most scouts will have moments of worry about ‘missing a hot book’. So, apart from scanning through e-mails obsessively I may be out in meetings (very enjoyable as you rarely come across a boring person in our publishing industry!), communicating with my editors for feed-back on material I have sent them or discuss projects they want to offer for or want me to follow up on – and I have to find time for some reading every day. Luckily, I have an amazing freelance reader for urgent projects – I often only get to read the first few chapters to assess ‘the narrative voice’.

For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?

I started working for a literary scout in the later 1980s, which helped me get to know the industry. I remember being turned down in an interview, as I didn’t have the right experience for the job, but they were very kind and, apart from encouraging me to keep trying to get into publishing, they passed my CV to the scout who gave me the opportunity to work with her. I have always tried to be helpful with newcomers as I am still grateful for someone helping me on the career ladder. There are lots of different areas in publishing, so be open minded, listen and learn and network. I worked in a literary agency as well as a publishing house before turning full circle and becoming a literary scout again and each job was varied, interesting and different, even within the focus of licensing.

What are you reading, watching and listening to now?

I am reading MILKMAN for my book group at the moment (I love finding out what the members of my book group think, as they actually go out and buy and pay for books and they all read a lot); I am listening to Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL and would like to listen to BRINGING UP THE BODIES as well before her new book is out (but I might not have enough time). I want to read JoJo Moyes’ GIVER OF STARS but that might have to wait until the Christmas break as I have about 8 scripts on my Kindle I need and want to look at!

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