Literary Agent Q&A: Hellie Ogden, Janklow & Nesbit (UK)

In Feature Articles by Edward Nawotka

As part of our ongoing series of Q&A’s with the world’s leading literary agents, scouts and rights managers, we spoke with Hellie Ogden of Janklow & Nesbit (UK).

Can you cite your biggest success story(s) of the last years?

Hellie Ogden

Hellie Ogden

My client M.J. Arlidge had the biggest selling debut crime novel in the UK last year with his novel, Eeny Meeny. He has been a fantastic client to work with, and I’ve loved watching his readership grow and grow — he is now sold in 25 countries. As with all my clients I work very closely with M.J. on edits and we are fortunate to have the Penguin team working brilliantly and creatively to make this crime series a success. It’s always a team effort and the stronger the author/agent/publisher team the better the result for the books. That’s something we strive to provide for all our clients.

Can you give us an example of a serendipitous encounter or situation that led to a deal?

What She LeftI took on a wonderful writer called T.R. Richmond who came to me by complete chance. T.R had sent a novel years ago to our Chief Financial Officer, who at the time was reading manuscripts for a different agency. He remembered how kind and generous with her time our CFO had been so when he had the new manuscript ready he looked her up and sent it over. It was passed to me as a primary agent and I jumped at it. We sold the novel to Penguin just before the Frankfurt Book Fair in an overnight pre-empt and the novel was snapped up in 16 countries quickly after that. What She Left is published as Penguin’s lead title this spring. I love this story because it shows how kindness can definitely pay-off!

What is the greatest challenge you face in selling rights?

The market is still tough so only the very best books get through. Plus big publishers are amalgamating resulting in reduced competition for rights

Are there specific international markets you see as offering the greatest opportunity?

We have a big US office so that’s really important for us. Germany is a very strong market — particularly for psychological suspense and thrillers. We still have lots of success in France, Italy and Holland too but some of the European markets have of course been hugely affected by the crash so the Spanish market for example is having a really tough time. There are smaller emerging markets that we keep a close eye on including Turkey and Brazil is expanding rapidly too.

Are there opportunities in more cross-platform rights deals — whether for digital mediums, books to film, etc.?

Absolutely! We are always thinking about cross-platform deals from film/TV to audio and large print deals. A client of mine recently wrote an audio original series in the UK which has proved hugely popular. It’s so important as an agent to be thinking about these opportunities and it’s great how many more seem to be cropping up.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.