Hayley Steed: What I’m Looking For

Actively looking for: commercial and book-club fiction across all genres including contemporary women’s fiction; uplifting love stories; upmarket general fiction; high concept novels; speculative fiction; gothic novels; horror; feminist reads; magical realism and cross-genre books.


I’m looking for commercial and book-club fiction across all genres but particularly women’s fiction, stories with high concepts or strong hooks, love stories, general fiction, gothic novels, horror and upmarket thriller. I handle the book to screen adaptations for the agency, so I’m always looking for potential in this medium too – great concepts, compelling writing and, most importantly, commercial promise. I tend to like something that feels a little left field, something that plays within or around a genre, or crosses into another – like Marion Lane and the Inquirers by T.A. Willberg or The Shelf by Helly Acton.

In women’s fiction, I love a contemporary, feminist, funny read like Pretending by  Holly Bourne or In at the Deep End by Kate Davies. I also love something incredibly romantic that completely sweeps me up like Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls. 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. Having said that, I am always on the search for a brilliant love story or romcom, something that feels relatable and current, and speaks of romance in a modern age. I also love a dark comedy like Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi or a coming-of-age in the vein of Ladybird.

I adore general fiction and the more upmarket end of commercial novels, such as authors including Celeste Ng, Sally Rooney and books like Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid that capture me with their characters and never let go. If you can create a character, or characters, who stay in my mind for weeks on end, it’s definitely a book for me and I love a character driven novel in any genre. I also love a book that features an ensemble, a cast of characters to love who have a unique reason for coming together, like The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. I’m keen to find more books in this vein with a strong concept and hook.

I’d love any fiction which is casting a light on our society too across any genre – think The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power, or pretty much any episode of Black Mirror. I’m not looking for 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 akin to The Martian, The Fireman or The Girl With All the Gifts. I also have a morbid obsession with any novels centred around a cult or similar.

I’m not looking for thrillers at the moment, but would never be able to resist a gothic novel 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.

Across all genres, I’d love to see some more diverse and marginalised storytellers in my submissions; I’d love to find books that aren’t necessarily issue led, rather entertaining reads which would fit into any of the above, like The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams.

 

My top books:

Normal People by Sally Rooney
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Three by Sarah Lotz
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
Weightless by Sarah Bannan
Educated by Tara Westover