How to Hook An Agent - February 2024

17th February 2024 9:15am to 1:30pm, Bloomsbury Publishing

Are you writing a book for publication but unsure of how to find an agent? Get the inside track on the submission process from leading UK literary agents at this intimate half-day event in the heart of literary London

Held in the historic surrounds of Bloomsbury Publishing, home to authors including Margaret Atwood, Kamila Shamsie, Benjamin Myers and Sarah J. Maas, 'How to Hook an Agent' is your chance to meet and work with UK literary agents, who will help develop your pitch and offer all of the guidance you and your book need to have the best possible chance of success.
 
The event is designed for writers preparing to embark upon the process of seeking representation, or those looking for pointers after having already queried a number of agents.

Attendees can expect to be placed in small workshop groups, with all agents invited on the day spending time with each group to discuss the role that the agent plays for the writer, trends within the current publishing marketplace, and also offer plenty of practical guidance on how to grab the attention of a prospective agent via the submission package (covering letter, synopsis and opening three chapters).

All writers in attendance will enjoy a ten-minute 'speed-dating' session with an agent, while there will also be opportunities throughout to network with their writing peers.

Schedule

09.00-09.30: Registration and welcome breakfast
09.30-10.15: Seminar 1 - The role of a literary agent
10.20-11.05: Seminar 2 - The covering letter and how to pitch your book
11.15-12.00: Seminar 3 - Is my book ready? The synopsis and opening chapters
12.20-13.30: Agent one-to-one sessions

Speaker profiles
Laura Macdougall

As a literary agent, I am lucky to work closely with a huge range of writers, across fiction and non-fiction and at different stages of their careers. I read widely and eclectically, and my list reflects my broad tastes as a reader. I have a background in classical languages and philosophy, so as well as being seduced by great writing and by an author with something new to say, I have a particular interest in books that tackle questions of what makes us who we are and the events – big or small - that shape human lives.

I represent a diverse spectrum of commercial fiction – saga, romance, historical, book club and ‘up-lit’ – and literary fiction, ranging from the quirky to the daring and experimental. I’ve always been a big fan of historical fiction and also have a soft spot for novels that explore the complexities of relationships and family life.

My non-fiction list is equally varied, spanning illustrated books to parenting titles, history, popular philosophy and gardening. I also represent a fascinating wealth of narrative non-fiction, from Scottish nature writing to death, hormones, materials science, politics, manufacturing and the recent history of gay bars. A writer who can successfully communicate their passion, whether that’s about something niche or obscure or a global phenomenon, will always be of interest to me.

As a queer woman, I represent a large number of LGBTQ writers and I’m particularly keen to hear from those who also identify as LGBTQ and who are exploring the full spectrum of LGBTQ lives in their writing. I’m a former judge of the Green Carnation Prize and in 2019 I won the inaugural Inclusion Award from the RNA for my work championing diversity and inclusivity in publishing. In 2017, I was included in the Bookseller’s list of Rising Stars and in 2022 I was shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year at the annual industry awards (the "Nibbies"). 

I am always keen to hear from new writers. At the moment I’m particularly keen to find: an epic family saga in the vein of Maeve Binchy or Rosamunde Pilcher; an engrossing, compelling love story (especially it it centres on queer or other under-represented voices and stories); a comic novel about the menopause; an engrossing historical novel; novels about friendships or sisters. In non-fiction, I’m looking for ‘big ideas’ books as well more narrative non-fiction (by which I mean non-fiction that reads like fiction) on a wide range of topics. I’d love to hear from authors writing in the areas of: nature; popular science, psychology and culture; sport; history; race, class, gender, sexuality and identity.

I started my publishing career in 2010 in the fiction department of Hodder & Stoughton, working with authors such as David Nicholls and Stephen King, as well as publishing some literary, reading group and historical fiction titles. I then switched sides, becoming a literary agent at Tibor Jones & Associates before joining United Agents in the summer of 2017. 

Books that I don't represent, but which I’ve read and enjoyed in the past couple of months, include: In Memoriam by Alice Winn; Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors; Maid by Stephanie Land; Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang and Weyward by Emilia Hart. You can find more information on my Pinterest page.

PLEASE NOTE that I do not represent books for young adults or children. I also don't represent science-fiction, fantasy or horror. I also take on very little crime fiction, unless it is historical. In non-fiction, I don't represent any titles in the Mind, Body, Spirit genres, nor am I looking for any cookery or food writing. If you would like to submit your work to me, please send the first three chapters and a synopsis (for fiction) and a detailed proposal (for non-fiction). Please copy in Olivia Davies when you submit your work to me.

https://www.unitedagents.co.uk/lmacdougallunitedagentscouk

Juliet Pickering

I am proud to represent a list of intriguing, conversation-starting writers, across both fiction and non-fiction. Most of my authors write contemporary stories, often led by themes of love, identity, and coming-of-age; for me, vital qualities to a great story include emotional depth, authenticity, a warm, engaging voice and irrepressible energy. I want to be surprised, and to read everyday experiences and relationships told with nuance and colour. Our lives are rich, complicated and varied, and I like my books to reflect that too.

Favourite authors include Kate Atkinson, Claire Keegan, Curtis Sittenfeld, Elizabeth Strout, Shirley Jackson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nora Ephron. I’m drawn to rich and multi-layered stories of women, families, friendships and relationships, and love small communities with a strong setting and lots going on beneath the surface; I prefer the small and intimate to the epic and world-affecting.

I want to bring under-represented experiences to both editors and readers, and to broaden the books we’re publishing to include everyone. I’m a proud feminist and celebrate books that empower us, or that make us feel recognised and heard.

Alongside literary, book club and commercial fiction, I represent non-fiction writers including memoir, pop culture, social history, cookery and food.

In case it’s helpful to know what I don’t represent, I do not work with the following genres: poetry, Young Adult or children’s, fantasy, supernatural, dystopian, sci-fi, thriller, horror or crime fiction, business, diet or health books. I tend to enjoy historical fiction only if it’s set after 1900!

I worked for Waterstones before joining the agency A P Watt in 2003. I moved to Blake Friedmann in 2013, becoming Vice Head of the Book Department and a Bookseller ‘Rising Star’ in 2017, and a Director in 2020. In 2021, I was delighted to win the Romantic Novelists’ Association Agent of the Year Award. I regularly visit literary festivals, courses and events, and enjoy giving talks and holding workshops for writers. I have been a judge for the Bristol Short Story Prize and Manchester Fiction Prize, and I’m on the board of the Working Class Writers’ Festival

http://blakefriedmann.co.uk/juliet-pickering

Kerry-Ann Bentley

Kerry-Ann Bentley is a literary agent at TGLA. She is looking for literary, upmarket and commercial fiction, as well as narrative-led non-fiction, memoir, and select poetry. Kerry-Ann was previously an agent at Janklow & Nesbit, where she began her publishing career in 2020 in their New York office. She graduated from the University of Essex with a First in English & United States Literature and earned her Masters with Distinction in Caribbean Literature & its Diasporas from Goldsmiths, University of London. Read her manuscript wishlist here.

"I’ve always been obsessed with storytelling and the escapism good books provide. I’m passionate about writers who help us uncover more of who we are, where we come from, and what’s possible as a culture.”

https://www.thegoodliteraryagency.org/kerry-ann/

Monica MacSwan

I joined Aitken Alexander in 2018, and am now an Associate Agent. I started my career in publishing at Felicity Bryan Associates and Profile Books, and then went on to work in translation rights at United Agents and Aitken Alexander. Since 2020, I’ve worked in the books department as Emma Paterson’s assistant, as well as previously with Chris Wellbelove too. In my role, I have worked alongside them editorially on their books, including Assembly by Natasha Brown and Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein.

I am actively building my own list of authors, which includes the poet Belinda Zhawi; CEO of the dating app Feeld, Ana Kirova; Novara Media journalist Moya Lothian-McLean; and Peter Apps, whose book Show Me The Bodies won the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Writing. In fiction, I represent the novelist Nicola Dinan, whose debut work Bellies sold in the UK (Doubleday) in a five way auction and in a pre-empt in the US (Hanover Square Press). It has also been optioned by Element Pictures in a television deal after a major auction with Nicola attached as screenwriter.

In fiction, I’m drawn to tightly-plotted literary novels that have a clear intent and a command of form, such as Anna Burns’ Milkman, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Blindness by José Saramago or any book by Tayari Jones, Emily St John Mandel, Brit Bennett or Yaa Gyasi. I also admire novels that are funny and use wit to make sense of their frustrations with the world like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters, The Topeka School by Ben Lerner, Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados, Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra and Fuccboi by Sean Thor Conroe.

In non-fiction, I like to read books by academics, critics and journalists who want to shift public discourse by putting forward a new framework for their subject of expertise. Good examples are Putin’s People by Catherine Belton, The Spirit Level by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe, Revolting Prostitutes by Molly Smith and Juno Mac, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk and The Windrush Betrayal by Amelia Gentleman. I also enjoy reading non-fiction that mines the uniquely personal to reflect on much larger structures of power, such as In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, Free by Lea Ypi and Afropean by Johny Pitts. 

Outside of the agency, I have written about books for Bad Form and gal-dem.

https://aitkenalexander.co.uk/literary-agents/monicamacswan

Booking & payment

This event is priced at £175 (incl. VAT). This fee is payable in full online, though please note that payment instalment plans are available for all W&A events, writing courses and editing services. Contact W&A Admin on events@writersandartists.co.uk so that we can find a payment schedule that works for you.

If this event is Sold Out, please look out for more How to Hook an Agent dates by visiting our Events homepage. If you would like to be added to the waiting list for this particular event, please email events@writersandartists.co.uk and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

To view our event refund and cancellation policy, please click here.

Accessible to All

It’s of real importance to Writers & Artists that our events and courses remain accessible to all.

  • This event will take place at the offices of Bloomsbury Publishing, which is fully accessible. If you’d like to attend but have any questions or concerns regarding accessibility, then please email AccessWA@bloomsbury.com

  • Joining instructions and full guidance will be circulated by W&A Admin in the days leading up to the date of the event.

  • Supplementary materials will be made available to all participants on the day of the event. This will include written text and visuals. Please contact us in advance so that we can make arrangements to be sure all documents appear in a format that works for you.

  • There will be no recording of this event, so please be sure to bring a notebook or laptop to make the notes you need.

  • Food will be provided at this event. Please be sure to respond to the joining instruction emails from W&A Admin if you have any dietary requirements

Location

Bloomsbury Publishing
50 Bedford Square
London
WC1B 3DP
United Kingdom

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