Literary Agent: Kate Nash of the Kate Nash Literary Agency

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Kate Nash

Nora Mathers

Literary agent Kate Nash is a finalist in the Agent of the Year category for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) annual Industry Awards for 2022. The awards celebrate the hard work and talent of any person, group or organisation who has championed the broad genre of romantic fiction in a positive way.

Is there anything more satisfying than curling up on the couch in front of a new rom-com or holding a shiny new romance novel in one hand and a bag of miniature curly wurleys in the other? I asked Literary Agent Kate Nash, a former winner and 2022 finalist of the Romantic Novelist Associations Agent of the Year Award’s, happening on the 11th November next, what changes has she seen in the romance genre, and what still gets her excited to go into the office every day.

According to Kate, founder of the Kate Nash Literary Agency, romance novels and romantic comedies have made a huge comeback, mostly thanks to the drive by authors in the US.  Kate told me how romance can often be ignored by the trade and literary world, so she was surprised when she witnessed romance novels piled up beside the tills in Waterstones in Oxford. Kate said “she knew something seismic” had happened. One such extremely well-known author who has managed to sell eight million copies of her love stories this year alone, would most likely agree with her. Romance might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly has several places in the bestsellers list ever week. It’s time, according to Kate, for authors from the UK and Ireland to break into the market. “That’s the challenge.”

I think it was Cinderella who once said there were only seven stories in the World, so I asked Kate how does a budding romance writer make it to the top of her reading list?

She was very clear on one thing. The writers voice must hop off the first page. She can sometimes tell by the first paragraph if her attention is going to be grabbed and held. A great story is a must have but Kate told me that she is looking for the next big thing in romance not by theme or sub-genre but by voice, along with a story capable of breaking into the international market. So how often does it happen, that punch the air moment, I mean really? One day, Kate said, it happened twice!

Kate told me how a couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, she was selling a new romantic fiction series in a faster than fast and quite unexpected, pre-empt. A pre-empt is when a publisher offers an attractive advance so that a deal is agreed before any other publishers are given the chance to bid. In other words, for every aspiring writer I have every met, the stuff that dreams are made of. Kate had to check that the author wasn’t driving or removing wax strips from her legs when she broke the news of the advance offered. Not only that, on the very same day another exciting bid came in for a debut author that Kate had to negotiate while keeping the pre-empt in motion. Not, as Kate told me, her usual Friday afternoon but certainly the kind of day that makes working so hard at what she does, so incredibly satisfying. I can only imagine how the two authors must have felt.

Kate again mentioned the absolute importance of voice in romance novels when I asked about the dreaded cliché and what makes her toes curl when she is reading submissions.

Kate told me how romance is “a genre that thrives on tropes” but what she is looking for, when she dips into the slush pile is emotion and, of course, the authors unique and fresh voice. The only cliché that might make this agent flinch, purely because it can prove difficult to get right, is using “the ex” to try and create romantic conflict. Romantic conflict, according to Kate, must come from the characters interior and not just from external conflict alone. Advice that I, for one, am getting tattooed on the inside of my arm.

Finally in a purely selfish act, I asked Kate if she had one golden nugget of advice for aspiring romantic novelists what would it be?

She told me of how she had recently gone to see Al Stewart in concert, a folk rocker who wrote The Year of the Cat, and he said something that resonated with her. He said never write someone else’s song. I much prefer her version, or as she calls it, “an important truth – don’t write anyone else’s story but your own.”

I have dusted off my pencil case and taken the plastic from my favourite notebook and I am taking every bit of advice from Kate. The farmer was quite wrong when he told the cow there was more to life than romance. It’s a fact. Love will set us all free.

(c) Nora Mathers

RNA logoThe RNA Industry Awards
Launched in 2015, the annual RNA Industry Awards is one of the UK publishing industry’s highlights and is designed to acknowledge and recognise the many professionals whose work supports and promotes the genre of romantic fiction. The award nominations come from the entire RNA membership and is our way of saying not only thank you but shining a spotlight on those considered the best in the business, enabling us to acknowledge and recognise the wide range of professionals who support our work, the genre and the association at large.

Romantic fiction is a world-wide, multi-billion dollar business of which the life force is thousands of writers and their readers. The Romantic Novelists’ Association is the UK’s largest professional body for the industry and benefits from the support, through membership and friendship, of many people including publishers, editors, agents and other industry professionals. Everyone involved in the industry fully appreciates that a book is not just the work of the author but the work of many and once a work has been produced, many more people become involved in what is a truly collaborative process.

The RNA Industry Award winners are solely decided by the membership. All members are eligible to nominate in each and every category, and nominations can be made online or via the printed form which appears as an insert in Romance Matters, the RNA magazine. The awards ceremony takes place each year at the RNA Winter Party in November.

About the author

Nora Mathers is a writer of commercial fiction who, in her spare time, works in a Solicitors office (which is currently funding her writing).
She is an original member of the online writing group, Writers Ink, and she also managed to squeeze through to the second round of the Penguin Michael Joseph Christmas Love Story Competition. She was also a finalist in the First Page Pitch competition at the Cork World Book Fest 2022.
Nora is a big fan of Christmas, Romance and becoming a published writer.

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