Hayley Steed: What I’m Looking For

Actively looking for: commercial fiction across all genres including contemporary women’s fiction; uplifting love stories; high concept novels; grounded sci-fi; speculative fiction; gothic novels; horror; feminist reads; magical realism; tense crime and thrillers; cross-genre books; true crime and compelling memoirs, non-fiction focused on sport and female voices.

I’m looking for commercial fiction and non-fiction across all genres: women’s fiction, crime, thriller, grounded sci-fi, narrative non-fiction, true crime and memoir. I coordinate the film/TV for the agency and am growing our digital list, so I’m always looking for potential in both of these areas – great concepts, compelling writing and, most importantly, commercial promise.

In women’s fiction, I love a contemporary, feminist, funny read like How Do You Like Me Now?, or something incredibly romantic that completely sweeps me up. I don’t want to see any women being saved by men, rather women saving themselves and each other – and if they fall in love, that’s a bonus. I also love a dark comedy like Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi or a coming-of-age in the vein of Ladybird. My favourite writers in this area include Jojo Moyes, Jodi Picoult, Dorothy Koomson and Cecelia Ahern.

I’d love any fiction which is casting a light on our society too – think The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power, or pretty much any episode of Black Mirror. I’m not as keen on fantasy but am looking for these more grounded, relatable worlds with an edge. I’d also love to find novels that explore the more romantic side of speculative fiction, including magical realism as per The Time Traveller’s Wife. I love cross-genre writing like Sarah Lotz and Sarah Pinborough who explore a supernatural side to thrillers, and I’d love to find some speculative fiction, or light sci-fi, akin to The Martian, The Fireman or The Girl With All the Gifts. I’m also on the hunt for a great novel featuring witches, preferably something fun and contemporary, but I’m open to all takes.

Along with the darker side of fiction, I’d love some more gothic novels like The Silent Companions – bring me spooky ghost stories, creepy tales, along with the more sweeping atmospheric gothic fiction. I’m also keen to find some horror – both realistic and supernatural. My ideal find would be a social commentary horror like Get Out, or something similar to Stephen King.

I inhale thrillers, be it psychological suspense, or fast-paced action, and I’d love a crime series with an unforgettable lead character, and a different set up from the Male lead and Female side-kick. Give me a twist I’ll never see coming, and a character who I’m compelled to go on that journey with.

I’m a huge sports fan and would love to see any non-fiction in this area, particularly around women in sport in any capacity. One of my favourite books is Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel and I’d love to find more in this vein. I’m also looking for narrative non-fiction and memoir, extraordinary stories from ordinary people, intriguing careers I’d love to know more about, as well as a stand-out true crime in the vein of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark or The Fact of a Body.

My top 10 books:

Normal People by Sally Rooney
The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel
The Three by Sarah Lotz
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
Weightless by Sarah Bannan
Educated by Tara Westover