Welcome to another instalment of Behind the Book. In this series, we chat to the people who bring you the books you love from Black Inc. – from the names you know to those you definitely don’t. This time, our subject is literary agent Margaret Gee.
Margaret represents a number of Black Inc. authors, including Toby Walsh (Faking It, out this month) and Marek Kowalkiewicz (The Economy of Algorithms, coming March 2024). In this interview, she talks about her career and what she looks for when acquiring new authors.
What does a literary agent do, and how did you become one?
After 25 years in publishing I wanted to stay in the business, so happily segued to being an agent. A literary agent pitches and sells book proposals which may or may not include a completed manuscript, to publishers in Australia and overseas.
You represent a number of Black Inc. authors – including AI expert Toby Walsh, whose latest book Faking It is out this month. Can you tell us how you came to work with Toby?
Brilliant Toby was referred to me by another longtime author I had represented.
Another of your authors is Marek Kowalkiewicz, a digital economist and the author of The Economy of Algorithms, which will be published in March 2024. It seems like you have a special interest in technology – does that ring true? Are there any other topics or genres you gravitate towards?
I really like working with academics who research and write about a very specialist topic, but most importantly can write in an accessible way to a general audience. Technology – hmm – sometimes I feel a bit out of my depth but I learn heaps from my wonderfully clever writers.
What else do you look for when you’re considering a client?
3 things – writing, writing, writing! I also prefer working with writers who are very collaborative and happy to work with editors – and in fact the entire A–Z of the publishing team. It is ideal if the author is very media savvy and has a good social media platform as well.
What’s your sense of the state of the book industry at the moment? What do you see doing well, and what’s dropping off?
What sells. Never an exacting science, and after 40 years in the industry, it’s still a bit of a lottery. Publishing can be very faddish – it’s best to go against the trends, or start one!