Marjacq Scripts Interview
Posted on 11 October 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to literary agency Marjacq Scripts.
Marjacq Scripts is an independent literary agency and it has been in business for over 30 years, founded by Jacqui Lyons and the novelist and scriptwriter, George Markstein. It is a small but vibrant agency, that handles all rights. My colleague, Luke Speed, handles a number of scriptwriters and directors, as well as representing the film and tv rights in the books. I am the literary agent here. I joined the company in 2002 having spent a number of years as a media agent at Curtis Brown, and a stint at HarperCollins Publishers before that, which was my first job in publishing.
My clients include, R D Wingfield, Richard Asplin, John Connor, Sophie King, Rosie Goodwin, Stuart MacBride, James Folloett, Richard Craze and Roni Jay, Michael Taylor, Claes Johansen and George Markstein amongst others. My goal is to expand the list in all areas, and I have taken on a number of new clients.
How do you find your new writers?
Some are recommended to me by other writers. I have been lucky enough to have been passed three or four writers in this way. Others might be recommended by publishers who will point unrepresented writers towards agents. I am a judge for a couple of new writing competitions, and I have found two or three writers from this route. I have joined a number of writers' associations and go to writing conferences. Some approach you because they like a particular author of yours. I look at short story collections and literary magazines. I look online. I also approach a few journalists and celebs and see if they are interested in writing a book. Finally, I have found a few writers on the unsolicited pile.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
What a question! All my clients, of course. I suppose my tastes are eclectic. I love the way every writer is faced with a blank piece of paper, has the same departure point, but can go off in an infinite number of directions.
Favourite writers: Raymond Chandler, Jim Harrison, di Lampedusa, Spike Milligan, Jean Rhys, Gene Zion, William Faulkner, Roald Dahl, Damon Runyan, Pat Barker, Penelope Fitzgerald, Derek Walcott, Peter Ackroyd, Denis Winter, Alistair Horne, Barbara Tuchman, Frederick Forsyth, Thomas Berger, Clement and Le Frenais, Perry and Croft, to name a few.
Why? There are very few writers you can go back to over and over again, and they still feel fresh. Some writers and writing you enjoy at different stages of your life. I don't think wild horses could drag me back to Thomas Hardy for example, but that's just me. The best writing will offer up new perspectives and facets when you return to them. I think I now lack the patience to sit though a book where a writer has to try every trick in the book to get your attention. Nothing bores me more than a writer who takes three words to sum up a though or a feeling, when he or she could use one. Genre fiction is much-maligned and can be wonderfully crafted. One of the pleasures of being an agent is reading against your own particular bent. It removes a lot of pre-conceived ideas. Some agents will stick to crime fiction, or literary fiction, but I get a lot of pleasure of finding good writing whatever it's shape or form.
I would rather read a well-constructed commercial novel, that weirdly might say just as much about human needs than a dog's dinner of a literary novel that might have a few nice characters and a few nice scenes, images, if you can find them. Sometimes the narrative gets left behind.
What excites you about a piece of writing-
Good writing. A good story.
And what makes your heart sink?
Bad writing. Over-written novels. Bad endings, that meant you have read a good book up to a point. That sucks!
Do you respond to unsolicited submissions?
I wish I could, especially for the ones that are almost good enough to take on. I get between 2,000-3,000 submissions a year by post and e-mail. An agent is not a reading service. We earn 10% of the deals we strike, so there is a fair amount of time management. You have a hunch about a writer, you try and secure a deal. We have to be brutal and I am sure it is incredibly frustrating for a new writer.
Our guidelines are pretty much the same as every other agent. First three-chapters, double-spaced, single-side of A4, with a covering note and a brief synopsis, and an SAE if you want it back. I am not afraid of e-mailed submissions, but frankly they look ugly no matter what you do to them. Unless you live on the other side of the world, the best `in' is usually in print. There is nothing worse than getting an e-mail with the writing sample in single-spaced script, cut and pasted underneath. They are usually the first ones to be deleted.
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