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; thrillers; speculative fiction; 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, horror and upmarket thrillers. 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. The main thing I look for is a strong pitch – a clear one liner with a hook that grabs my attention. I love anything driven by a high concept – you can read what I mean by that here and here – a book that feels like it’s doing something different within a familiar genre.

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 or The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. I am always on the search for a brilliant love story or romcom with a great hook, something that feels relatable and current, and speaks of romance in a modern age like Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams.

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 – books that feel uplifting and warm, and bring joy and a sense of community.

I’d love to find some excellent, ground breaking thrillers – it’s such a tough area of the market but I’m on the hunt for original, tense suspense with a great concept.  I’m also keen to find some horror – my ideal find would be a social commentary horror like Get Out, or something similar to Stephen King.

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 or one difference. 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.

Whilst I’m looking for a strong plot, I also love to read general upmarket fiction 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, I’d love to see those, too.

Across all genres, I am particularly interested in female voices and showcasing underrepresented talent which deserves to be heard. I’d love to see some more diverse and marginalised storytellers in my submissions with novels which fit into any of the above.


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
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
Weightless by Sarah Bannan
Educated by Tara Westover