From Idea to Bookshelf

How does a novel move from idea in the author’s head to finished product?

This the second in a series of posts on how a book is created.


Brief bio

Juliet Mushens started her publishing career in 2008 at HarperCollins, and became an agent in 2011. She has been shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year four times and is currently the number 1 ranked UK fiction dealmaker on Publishers’ Marketplace. In 2021 and 2022 she was picked as one of the 150 most influential people in publishing by The Bookseller and The Times ran a piece recognising her as the first agent to represent the number 1, 2 and 3 UK bestsellers in the same week: ‘Star literary agent first to top the charts three times’.

Tell us a bit about your job: what does a literary agent do?

A literary agent is the intermediary between the author and the publisher. I receive submissions and decide which I want to represent, I then edit the books with the author to get them in good shape to submit to publishers, before sending out to my contacts in the UK, US and internationally. I then negotiate the book deal and contract, and help advise on all aspects of publication from making sure that the author is paid promptly, to thoughts on future ideas, marketing plans, publicity schedules and everything in between!

Tell us about your work on The Clockwork Girl. How were you involved?

I loved the idea of The Clockwork Girl and worked with Anna to edit and develop the manuscript over a few drafts before submitting to editors. We were lucky enough to get multiple offers and I negotiated the deal with Orion. I’ve now chipped in on lots of aspects from the stunning cover to my feedback on the next novel.

Which other authors have you worked with?

My client list is broad and ranges from other historical authors such as Jessie Burton, Stacey Halls and Jennifer Saint to crime fiction bestseller Richard Osman and thriller writers Abigail Dean and Claire Douglas.

What advice would you give an unsigned author trying to get published?

Polish your work before sending it out. Think about your ‘pitch’ or hook – what would be written on the back of the book to entice people to pick it up and buy it in a shop? Edit your book several times and research the agents who you feel best suit your work. Our website has a lot of free guides to writing cover letters and researching agents!



Read Step 1: The Writer

And check out Step 3: The Editor…