Rebeka joined the Darley Anderson Literary Agency as Darley’s Assistant in November 2019. She enjoys reading submissions, particularly new adult, contemporary romance fiction, and fantasy/romantasy fiction, and working on the Agency’s social media.
Rebeka has started building her own list of contemporary romance and women’s fantasy fiction authors. In this Q&A, she shares her advice on crafting the perfect love story, writing a cover letter, and getting into BookTok.
Your Darley Anderson profile says you’re building a list of contemporary romance and women’s fantasy fiction authors. What makes a love story hit all the right spots for you?
I want characters that feel fun and relatable, but also have me falling in love and ending happily ever after. Life isn’t perfect, but there’s no reason that your book boyfriend/girlfriend can’t be.
I also look for the small, seemingly insignificant moments between couples. Asking how their day was, picking up their favourite snack at the shop just because, or supporting each other come rain or shine. These small moments and gestures do just as much to breathe life into a relationship as the big, emotional declarations.
Can you explain what ‘New Adult’ means and why you’re drawn to novels in this genre?
I would categorise new adult fiction as a genre that features protagonists from their late teens to their mid-late twenties. Typically, stories would explore themes relating to that period in the characters’ lives: leaving home, exploring their sexuality, career choices, dating, societal expectations, identity etc.
“If the advent of BookTok has taught us anything it’s that there’s a huge readership for fun, escapist romances. What’s more, they are finally being given the recognition and appreciation they deserve.”
Any reader of this genre will have heard, “why don’t you read a proper book?” There is such a strong emphasis on getting children into reading and igniting that passion early on, but what happens once they turn 18? Do they immediately start reading Booker prize winners or literary classics? If that’s what you love, that’s great, but if the advent of BookTok has taught us anything it’s that there’s a huge readership for fun, escapist romances. What’s more, they are finally being given the recognition and appreciation they deserve. As an avid reader of these novels, it’s incredible that I get to work with authors on the books I wish I’d had access to years ago.
You assist Darley Anderson, one of the best in the business! What have you learnt about the industry from working with Darley?
He has taught and continues to teach me so many invaluable lessons on the art of publishing and agenting. However, there are two things that have stuck with me most.
The first is that “character is king”. Readers remember characters first and storyline second. The biggest brands in the world revolve around characters: Harry Potter, Jack Reacher, Daenerys Targaryen. If you can create a character that readers fall in love with, you’re on to a winner.
The second is that rejection is one of the most fundamental elements of publishing. Truly, what works for one agent/editor doesn’t necessarily work for another. It’s both incredible and frustrating that publishing is such a hugely subjective business. But what he’s taught me, and what, as an Agency, we try and pass on to submitters and authors, is to be resilient and to trust in your own belief, because eventually someone else will too.
What are the key components of a cover letter?
The key with a cover letter is to be informative, engaging and concise.
The most important thing in a cover letter is to provide a strong pitch. This means one or two sentences that clearly outline the premise and genre of the book. Comparison titles are also really useful to show an agent how you view your book and where it might sit in the market.
“The most important thing in a cover letter is to provide a strong pitch. This means one or two sentences that clearly outline the premise and genre of the book.”
It’s also good for an agent to know a bit about your writing ambitions. Is this book part of a series? Do you have plans for a second book? Do you write books in other genres as well? Is there relevant personal information that is integral to the work (e.g. own voices)? This is all useful information for an agent to have.
Finally, I’d say it’s important to make a cover letter easy to read. If you’re copying and pasting something that has numerous line breaks, indents etc. then make sure this translates okay in an email.
How can writers of commercial fiction lean into the tropes of their genre but still create an original story?
The best advice I could give any author trying to break out into the genre would be to read what’s doing well. Once you start reading around, you’ll get a sense of how books have similar tropes, but still feel distinct. A groundbreaking, unique premise is great, but it doesn’t always need to be drastically different. For example, we’ve seen plenty of sports romances recently, but why not come at it from a different angle. Rather than a male hockey team, why not write about a female football team? It can be as simple as that.
Do you have any advice for novelists looking to tap into the world of BookTok?
Whilst it’s important to note there are some books that work better on this platform than others, there are a couple of things to consider if you’re looking to break into this space.
BookTok works because it offers readers a quick snapshot/video that sells the premise in a matter of seconds and words. As such, you need to be able to pitch the book in a couple of sentences that will have readers instantly hooked.
“BookTok works because it offers readers a quick snapshot/video that sells the premise in a matter of seconds and words. As such, you need to be able to pitch the book in a couple of sentences that will have readers instantly hooked.”
If you’re looking to create an account and presence in this space, then you need to be ready to graft and to put yourself out there. Reels and TikToks take time to create and can be fiddly at first, but it’s important to stick with it and keep consistent with what and how often you’re posting.