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Chatting about reading with literary agent Joanna Moult

Children’s literary agent Joanna Moult knows a thing or two about books. Having worked for Hodder Children’s books, with writers like current Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell, as well as running the children’s editorial department at top 5 publisher Simon & Schuster, she now runs her own children’s literary agency Skylark Literary, alongside agent Amber Caraveo. Joanna is also genuinely one of the nicest people in the business! So when we approached her with some questions for our OcTBR Challengers, she sent back these awesome replies (of course she did, she’s too lovely for words). Enjoy!

In a world that is increasingly pulling at our attention with video games, social media, movies and binge-inducing TV series, why is reading still important?

Reading gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in someone else’s world, their thoughts and feelings and their perspective, in a way no other medium can plunge us in to the same extent. That can only make us more empathetic and more open to other people’s perspectives in the real world too.

YA Fiction is becoming increasingly popular among adult readers. Why do you think these stories, designed for and aimed at teenagers, have a more universal appeal?

Well, I could be biased on this, as I’m passionate about Children’s and YA fiction, but I truly believe that because they are published by age group, rather than by genre, YA fiction has to be stronger in quality and content to stand out from the crowd. I think reading YA takes us back to the most emotionally intense time of our lives and it’s really lovely to read about all those intense feelings from the safety of our boring adult lives!

Do you think readers, especially children, should be encouraged to read books that are diverse and inclusive, both in terms of diverse characters and authors?

Absolutely. As per my answer to the first question. Reading through the perspective of a wide range of social class, ethnicity and life experience means that all readers, particularly children, will find it easier to put themselves in another person’s shoes and be more inclusive in their own thoughts as well as actions. We desperately need this in such an increasingly socially and politically polarised world.

What sort of a reader are you? One book at a time, several at once? Do you ever give up on a book before the end, or always staunchly see it through?

I often have a book or two on the go, as well as several manuscripts from my clients or from the submission inbox so I’m often skipping from one to the other. Yes, I absolutely give up on a book if it’s not engaging me strongly enough. I feel that there are SO many wonderful books out there that there is no point in wasting time on books I’m not feeling interested in.

What’s currently on your to-be-read list?

Sara Barnard’s last two books, Sarah Crossan’s last two books and countless others – there are just so many books out there that I want to read and just not enough hours in the day!

What themes and storylines are you seeing coming up through the latest batch of kids books? What’s going to be the next big thing for readers, do you think?

Diversity is a big driver for publishers at the moment. YA has become quite saturated now so publishers are being more picky than previously as they’ve filled their lists. That’s not to say that they aren’t buying but it has to be something really special. MG is perennially popular with publishers. If I knew what the next big thing was going to be then I would have the magic formula and be a millionaire! You never know what is going to pop up but quality of writing is always important and if you can combine that with a really strong commercial hook – a strong angle that you can describe in a sentence or two – then it’s a pretty special formula for success.


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