Meet the Team – Lydia Silver

What is your role at the agency?

I’m one of the children’s literary agents – so my job is to represent our children’s authors and illustrators. What that actually means in practice is a bit more of a lengthy answer!

I look after every aspect of an author’s career, from talent spotting, through editing them, to placing their manuscript with a publisher. From there I negotiate contracts, and remain there as a support to the author as they bring their book to market, staying around afterwards to discuss the next steps and how to build their career.

It’s such a varied job, and it allows me to use my key skills (reading very quickly and enjoying an argument) to help create the readers of the future.

How did you get into publishing?

In a lot of ways, I was lucky. Publishing isn’t always an easy industry to get into, but I landed on my feet right at the start by getting one of Penguin’s paid summer internship roles. Technically, I worked for the editorial and marketing teams at Michael Joseph, but the biggest part of my job ended up being I go to person to source personalised biscuits!

I loved it, but knew that I wanted to work with children’s books, so when an editorial position opened up at Egmont I jumped at it. I was there for a couple of years before realising that what I really wanted was to work as directly as possible with authors, and that’s when I moved into agenting.

What’s the best part of your job?

There are two moments in the cycle of any book that really make me happy. The first is that tingly feeling I get in my stomach when I’m reading a submission I want to take on.

My heart will beat a bit faster in the presence of something special and if I’m really enjoying it, I’ll find myself proclaiming ‘This is so good!’ out loud to an empty room. I love that feeling.

And then the second moment, and probably the very best part, is when I get to call the author of that book once we’ve worked on it and sent it out, and let them know that an editor has offered for it and they’re going to be a published author. In that moment, I get to feel like a bookish fairy godmother, making dreams come true.

What do you look for in a book?

Great books for me boil down to hook and heart. The ‘hook’ of a book is what it’s about and how I’d sell it – I look for books that have something to say, whether that’s a YA thriller that’s also a commentary on privilege, or a graphic novel for five year olds that’s secretly about handling your emotions. My tastes are very commercial, so I look for a clear hook in everything I’m reading.

Heart is a little harder to pin down, but it often comes down to a strong voice and a main character I can truly believe in. I look for characters I’ve not seen before, who view the world in new ways, and who feel so deeply real that I suspect they could just walk off the page and into my life.

What’s on your “to be read” list?

My TBR pile is constantly in motion, and exists in multiple versions. There’s the one in my head, the one in my kindle, and the literal stacks of books lying around my flat! But of the physical books on the teetering pile by my bedside, I’ve got Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, A. F. Steadman’s Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, Kalynn Bayron’s Cinderella is Dead and books three and four of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series.

Who is your favourite fiction character?

I love series, and feel like all my favourite characters are ones where I can get to know them over lots (and lots) of books.

Whenever I’m reading a book, there’s normally a character who’s my favourite for a time – but perhaps the one I love the most is Tiffany Aching, from Terry Pratchett’s brilliant YA novels. I love her for many reasons, but one of the things I think makes her a favourite is the way that we watch her grow up, from the tenacious nine-year-old who storms into Fairyland armed only with a frying pan to a thoughtful young woman who’s utterly at ease with herself, and knows who she is.

Because Tiffany is part of a much bigger series, and because Pratchett gives us time to know her at each point, she feels as real to me as some of my friends. This character development is probably why another of his characters, Sam Vimes, is a close second.

What is your go to reading snack?

When I was little we had an audiobook of The Worst Witch (another favourite) and right at the end of it they have a high tea where they eat crumpets ‘with butter ooooooozing out of the little holes, and hot tea’. I can still hear the narrator saying that in my mind and it’s the most comforting thing ever, so it’s still my go-to reading snack if I’m reading at home. In the office, I pretend that I’m much more sophisticated and don’t need snacks – but secretly, I’ll be scoffing a packet of haribo.

What soon to be published book are you most looking forward to reading?

I could list off a bunch of books (the new Amari, R. F. Kuang’s Babel, Ben Dean’s new YA…) but really, I’m most looking forward to reading the next thing in my inbox that gives me the shivers and makes me think yes, this is the one.

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