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Books job: This is what it’s really like to be a literary scout

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Hannah Keegan
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, literary scout Kate Loftus O’Brien talks us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights out. 

Kate Loftus O’Brien is a literary scout for TV and film and the founder of KLO Scouting. She lives in east London with her boyfriend. 

This is what her day-to-day looks like:

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

Around 7am. I’ll use the glare from my phone to wake myself up while I check Twitter and read the news – not the healthiest, but it works. I try not to read emails until I’m ready to sit down and properly answer them. A couple of times a week, I get up a bit earlier to drag myself to a 7am pilates class. If I can persuade myself I’ve done something worthwhile before 9am then I feel like the rest of the day will go smoothly. 

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I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR… 

Bringing my clients [production studios] the best stories to adapt from the world of publishing. I think of it as part spy, part matchmaker.

I GOT THE JOB…

Through working for a literary scout. I’d just graduated and moved to Berlin to work for a woman who was doing it freelance. I had no idea it even existed as a job before getting in touch with her, but it sounded great. I worked remotely while doing my master’s at Trinity in Dublin, then in 2016 I felt ready to go solo. But it was terrifying. I remember having to persuade companies I was valuable, but we slowly grew and now I have a team of two. 

It's Kate's job to get hold of manuscripts as early as possible.

MY TYPICAL DAY… 

Starts at my office. It’s light and bright, in an old warehouse. I keep the decor plain so I can think. I spend three days a week there and the other two I take meetings with clients. On a Monday, I put together our round-up of the books to read, interesting new deals and titles that match specific briefs for clients. It’s about putting things on their radar. Projects I’ve helped source include Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt and John Marrs’ The One. Then I’ll answer emails, think about what briefs need work and what books I need to get.

I try to keep my mornings for things that require a bit more of my brain, and afternoons are for talking. I’ll schedule meetings for then because they’re energising when you have a lull. I eat lunch at my desk, usually leftovers with salad leaves thrown on top, and I try to read, which is so tricky to fit in. I like stories with a dark humour and characters that have some sort of inner conflict. I get hold of manuscripts as early as possible so I can give clients time to get together the best proposal they can if they decide to bid on it. I try to finish at 6pm. 

She reads over lunch to keep on top of the latest releases.

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT…

Was hiring my assistant. At first, I had no idea if I’d be able to afford him beyond three months and now he’s been with me for two years.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is that it never ends. There’s always another manuscript, a podcast I haven’t listened to, a longread that I’ve bookmarked.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is finding compelling, unusual stories and knowing I’ve played a part in bringing them to the screen. 

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AFTER WORK…

I relax. I love the cinema down the road from me, on a Monday it’s £5 for a ticket so I’m often there with my boyfriend. I find cooking really relaxing too, it’s a good way to mark finishing work. I might make something by Nigel Slater I saw in The Guardian over the weekend. I’m obsessed with the show Succession right now – those characters are so abhorrent but addictive – so I’ll watch an episode before bed. Then I do my skincare routine, but that isn’t relaxing, it’s a duty. I’m asleep by 11pm.

My Plan B: Director

It seems so sacrilegious to call making movies a plan B, but that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. As a kid, I was always making pretend documentaries or adverts. I worked on photoshoots and film sets as an intern too, and I like the intensity of being on set.

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Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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