Profile: Transatlantic Literary Agency

In Feature Articles by Emily Williams

By Emily Williams

Samantha Haywood, agent and rights director for Transatlantic Literary Agency (TLA), lives out the ocean-straddling name of her agency, splitting her time between Toronto, home to the agency’s headquarters, and Amsterdam, where she now lives with her family.

Being part of an eclectic team of agents with footholds in Canada, the US and Europe keeps Haywood sensitized to the varying pace of change in different markets around the world, not to mention the borderless appeal of digital. At TLA, she tells us, “digital publishing is changing the way we see our business and what we feel as an agency we can and should do for our authors.”

Mostly this is all to the good. “I feel it is a great opportunity and a new readership, and in this sense TLA is exploring the backlist digital rights possibilities for older, reverted titles. For new titles e-book rights and royalties are a significant part of the deal negotiation.”

The exception to this rule is the graphic novels Haywood represents on behalf of the Canadian independent press Drawn & Quarterly. Translation partners for those books have so far shown little interest in e-book rights—but, as Haywood notes, “it’s only a matter of time.”

Drawn & Quarterly nonetheless provides two of the titles Haywood is most excited to sell this year: Wilson, the new graphic novel by master of alienation Dan Clowes, and rising star Jillian Tamaki’s Inner Voice. Add to these the agency’s full non-graphic list of thrillers, literary fiction and memoirs, and Haywood is fully occupied, even as she’s observed the “far fewer” from North America. “I’ve got a packed schedule and I look forward to doing business with my European editorial contacts. I’ve been to New York recently so I feel Frankfurt is useful for me this year to stay in touch with the translation markets I sell to regularly.”

The translation deals have been a bright spot in a year that has seen a serious slowdown in rights sales to the UK and US, though Haywood sees signs that things may be thawing slightly, at least in the US.

This slowdown has had ripple effects throughout the rest of the world, since “without US & UK deals in place first, it’s tough for a new Canadian book to break through on a big scale for foreign rights.” A US thaw could also have positive repercussions for the Canadian market, though for the most part Canada has held up better than its neighbor to the south. “I’d say that most of the conglomerate publishers in Canada are restrained from offering larger advances because their parent companies in New York are struggling. However, from what I gather, most of the Canadian divisions are still performing fairly well in the recessed marketplace. So no question that the advances are coming down on the whole as a result. But I still feel optimistic that good books with sales potential are finding homes, just with more sober advances.”

About the Author

Emily Williams

Emily Williams as Manager of International Digital Content at Barnes & Before that, she worked as digital content producer for Publishers Marketplace, contributor to Digital Book World and Publishing Perspectives, and also held a senior scout position with Maria B. Campbell & Associates.