Stephanie Glencross joined David Higham Associates in 2018. Previously, she was an editor at Gregory & Company and edited award-winning novelists like Val McDermid, Minette Walters, and Tan Twan Eng. Her list includes crime and thriller genres, like police procedurals, psychological thrillers, and courtroom dramas. She’s always on the lookout for novels that deliver a new twist on the way crime and thriller stories are told.
What is it about the crime and thriller genre that you enjoy so much?
It provides many elements that appeal to me as a reader: firstly, a huge variety within the genre itself—it offers novels from spy/espionage to police procedurals to intricate, clever puzzling mysteries to domestic noir to psychological suspense to action thrillers… and increasingly to novels that don’t fit neatly in sub-genre boxes. Crime/thriller novels are often highly absorbing—creating a strong sense of escapism for readers.
Furthermore, they enable readers to place themselves in to a variety of ‘shoes’—and to work out how they would react in a hypothetical situation—whether as a potential victim, a potential detective or other. Crime/ thriller fiction not only provides opportunities to examine the world we are in now, the social issues we are wrestling with, but they allow such examinations to take place within a framework that is ultimately ‘safe’ and most usually satisfyingly resolved.
The crime/thriller genre is huge. How can authors make their work stand out?
There is always an appetite for strong, distinctive, fresh ‘voices’—characters who are perhaps providing a more unusual perspective, or settings that are interesting (either in terms of place or period), or set in communities/groups that we don’t get so much insight into. Stories that have an unusual structure or narrative device are also appealing. Clever ‘high concept’ novels that deliver are in high demand. It is a fairly saturated market at the moment and publishers want to acquire books that will stand out from the crowd a little in some way.
What common mistakes do you see crime/thriller authors making in the submissions you receive?
I think it can be tempting to try to write books that are currently doing very well—i.e. cosy crime or psychological suspense—when writers need to remember that anything that is being acquired now may not be published until 2025 and the landscape then might be different. Plus, areas that are currently popular are also very saturated, so people are also looking for different things to stand out from the crowd. It is hard to anticipate trends, so writers should be true to what they would like to write about, or read, and present a case for why this will be compelling. As an agent and a reader, I want to be shown an MS I didn’t really know I was looking for, but it sounds absolutely amazing, so I’ll pick it up.
How important is diversity in crime and thrillers today?
I think it is crucial that crime fiction is representative of diverse voices and experiences. Crime/thriller fiction seeks to shine a light on all sorts of areas in our lives that bear witness to injustice, to fascinating characters, to worlds we don’t necessarily inhabit, and to voices that aren’t always heard. Diversity means different things to everyone, depending on our own viewpoint, so it’s important that writers, agents, publishers together widen the genre. I’m deaf and I enjoy it when I come across characters who are also deaf or have a hearing loss. Cormoran Strike (from Robert Galbraith’s series) is an interesting character who gives an insight into having an amputated limb.
What do you enjoy about the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, and why should budding crime/thriller writers go?
I highly recommend Harrogate for budding writers! It’s always incredibly inspiring, energising, and friendly. The panels are brilliant. They introduce you to authors you might not be that familiar with but also allow you to hear from authors you know and love. I’ve never been to a dull panel—they are always thought-provoking and often hilarious. The authors all bounce off each other and demonstrate real generosity towards each other and their work. The ‘tent’ is a great place to read books, catch up with people and make new friends. If you feel the need for a break, then nipping off to walk around Harrogate (or shop!) is absolutely part of the experience.
Stephanie Glencross’s Top Tip
Check the submission requirements on the website of the agency/agents you are approaching. Keep the covering letter brief but informative, and state the genre along with the title towards the top of the letter/ email. It can be frustrating when what might be a good submission gets hindered by a covering letter that doesn’t really tell the agent much about the sort of book it is, what comparisons you might make, or doesn’t include a little about the background of the writer.
For details on how to submit to Stephanie, visit https://www.davidhigham.co.uk/agents-dh/stephanie-glencross/