Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Meet literary agent Jacinta di Mase

Jacinta di Mase is the founder and lead agent at Jacinta di Mase Management, which she established after working under ‘formidable’ agents Lyn Tranter and Jenny Darling. She spoke to Think Australian.

How did you become a literary agent?

I followed advice from Australian book designer Sandy Cull on how to get into the publishing industry by getting a job in a bookshop. I worked at Greens Bookshop with Ross Reading (the original owner and namesake of Readings Bookstores), and learned about the book trade. From there I got a job at Macmillan Distribution Services and went to every networking event and book launch on offer. I was studying the RMIT Grad Dip of Editing and Publishing, and then applied for a job as an agents’ assistant in the Melbourne office of Australian Literary Management, where I worked closely with Lyn Tranter and Jenny Darling. I credit those two formidable agents for their faith in me. I started my own agency in 2004.

What do you love most about your job?

I love working with creators and helping to bring their work to readers. I learn something new almost every day and I love the fact that I’m helping to build a legacy with every new book, from a simple picture book that captures a child’s imagination and makes them laugh, to uncovering the untold stories of history and society. I am passionate about advocating for creators’ rights.

What titles are you currently pitching?

Locally I’m working with agent Danielle Binks to pitch April Watson’s Awkward Teen to Lilac Queen, a YA title, reminding teens that they shouldn’t be ashamed to take up space and dream big. I’m working with agent Karen Tayleur to pitch a debut historical fiction, To Catch the Moon by Samoan writer Lila Tuivasa-Heinmann, who has ‘woven a large fine mat’ depicting Samoan island life with its unique customs and culture that embrace a communal way of living.

Internationally, I’m working with our network of literary scouts and sub-agents on the campaign for The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart and The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin. We have new children’s and adult catalogues ready ahead of the London and Bologna Book fair seasons.

What have been your biggest rights successes over the past year?

The Silent Listener has sold into France (via a pre-empt offer from Presses de la Cite thanks to the work of our literary scout Jane Southern), Russia (to Eskmo via our co-agent at Synopsis Literary Agency), and to Joffe Books in the UK (via a direct connection with Emma Grundy-Haigh). We are hoping to secure more translation rights sales and perhaps a deal in North America. Another success was the sale of North American rights of Briony Stewart’s picture book, We Love You Magoo (to Kira Lynn at Kane Miller via Annabel Barker Agency, with assistance from Nerrilee Weir and Jordan Meek at Penguin Random House Australia). It was a real team effort!

Which title or author on your list do you believe deserves greater recognition overseas?

Michael Pryor, whose intriguing and thoroughly entertaining fantasy series ‘The Laws of Magic’ (Random House Australia) sold more than 50K copies in Australia and definitely deserves greater recognition (especially for fans of Harry Potter). The series blends magic and alternate history with a pinch of the fun and wittiness of Sherlock Holmes

How has Covid-19 changed the ways you make contacts and sell rights?

We have embraced video conferencing and hold regular meetings with our sub-agents and literary scouts. This has led to much stronger connections and positive results in real time. Now that I have regular meetings with our international contacts, if/when I travel to a big book fair again, I will be able to attend seminars for professional development as well as touring the halls to discover new possibilities and publishing trends, rather than focussing solely on meetings and being confined to the agents’ centre or Australian stand.

What are you currently reading?

As well as lots of new manuscripts, I am reading The Yield by Tara June Winch (Hamish Hamilton), The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (Scribe), the stories in Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay (Black Inc.), and Greetings from Trumpland by Zoe Daniel and Roscoe Whalan (ABC Books).

Photo credit: David Fowler Photography

 

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