Thursday, September 4, 2014

2 Meet Agent Camilla Wray of the Darley Anderson Agency

Lisa here to introduce you to Camilla! So settle in with a cup of tea and a Twiglet and wave hello.

Camilla joined the Darley Anderson Agency in July 2007. She studied English Literature and Psychology at Cardiff University, specialising in Novel Writing. After gaining a distinction from the University of the Arts, Camilla went on to work for a national newspaper before joining the Darley Anderson Agency.


1. What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

Definitely a voice. Everything else we can work with but a voice comes straight from the heart of the writer and is how the connection between writer and reader is formed.

2. What is on your wish list?

That’s a good question and to be honest I’m open for anything that has me instantly gripped and dying to read more. As a reader I crave to escape and live as the main character so I always look for this authenticity. The amazing thing about children’s and YA fiction is the genres are so open – under each umbrella you can have stories about love, death, hope, humour, witches, zombies, animals…the list could go on and go.

3. What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

My present day loves are Charlie Higson and Holly Smale. I’m unhealthily obsessed with The Enemy series; it’s terrifying and never lets you relax as a reader. The story of survival but equally the magnitude of loss is incredibly powerful. And as for Harriet Manners, I adore her. She is a brilliant character and someone who deserves all the success in the world. She’s an underdog with a wicked sense of humour and her quiet ambition and determination are a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to type cast YA ambitious successful characters, but the beauty of Harriet and what Holly’s done as a writer is show that success can come from the most unexpected of people. Growing up I definitely had a commercial taste and this has stayed with me. I loved Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, the Saddle Club and the Point Horror series. So a big mix but overall books that were easy to absorb, felt as if the characters were really there telling you what was happening, and stories that surprised either through plot or the decisions the characters made.

4. What are some things you love to see in a query?

An author’s own character really shining through. I really love knowing what makes authors individual as people. Also research into the market and a sign that they’re aware of what’s selling, winning prizes, making waves. For me it’s a sign of how far an author wants to push themselves and I find this really exciting.

5. What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?

There aren’t worst things as such because I’m very aware of how hard it is to put in a cover letter a breakdown of who you are, what you’ve done and why. The only thing I would say is that agents are incredibly busy – I get on average 20 submissions a day – so make reading your cover letter as easy as possible for an agent. Most of submissions are done on email now so I’d suggest going to the lengths of emailing yourself your cover letter and making sure the paragraphs are short and easy to consume, and that you’ve given the agent everything they need to know as quickly as possible. I also love a one-line pitch, so if an author has one, definitely have this as the first line of a cover letter.

6. What makes you a great agent?

[Ha, good question!] I was brought up believing if you do everything you humanly possibly can in a situation then there should be no regrets and that’s how I see my job. I only take on authors and books I head-over-heels love and understand, this way if we don’t place a book first time round, we won’t give up but fight harder and brainstorm where to go next. I think this is essential in being a good Agent. Time and time again we’re shown how it takes time for an author to grow and gain the recognition they deserve, so you have to look not just at the short-term but also the long-term aims and goals.

7. Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?

Definitely tea, and Twiglets, preferably together.

8. What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?

Make sure your work is the very, very, very best you can get it and then go for it! I can only imagine how tempting it must be to just send your work out as soon as the last word has been written, but as an author it’s really important you engage the editorial side of your brain as well as the writing part of your brain. I love it when an author has told me that they’ve edited their own work and this is their fourth, fifth, sixth etc draft. It shows determination and also how serious they are about their submission.

9. What genres are you drawn to most?

I love love stories and being scared, so anything that has either, or both. I’m also a sucker for an underdog; someone who makes you want to cry from empathy and who you believe in so much that you’d kick in the ankle anyone who dares upset them.

10. Why did you become an agent?

It was an amazing moment arriving at the Darley Anderson Agency and finding a home where storytelling was celebrated and books for everybody, not just highbrow readers, were essential. Stories always grabbed me but until arriving here all I’d really heard was that literary books were great, and commercial books a frivolous treat. On a very basic level it felt that an easy story to absorb was worth less than a complicated story that you had to invest time and energy in. Both are as important as the other, but in different ways. As a reader it is incredibly belittling when you say you love a book, and the reply is ‘yes, that’s great, but it’s not very well written’. Responses like this lessen your worth as a reader and this is infuriates me. So when I came here and found somewhere that the word ‘commercial’ was exciting it made me stop and want to shout with joy! I strive to give the stories that you just absorb a real chance. I guess the simplest answer to this question is I wanted to find books that I as a reader love and believe thousands out there will too.

Thank you, Camilla, for the time you took to really let us get to know you!


  1. I remember devouring Nancy Drew when I was younger. I wonder what it would be like to read as an adult...Thanks for the tips.

  2. Great tips here. Thanks for the post.


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