Andrew Lownie offers some advice on how best to present yourself to an agent.
Authors are often angry, frustrated or shocked by the responses or lack of responses from agents and it might be useful to give some background and advice which might help with pitching to agents.
Your book is special to you and may one day be to other people but at the moment it is just another submission. Authors need to remember that agents are inundated with submissions. Most have full lists already and need to concentrate on their existing clients. Of course we are looking for new talent but the chances of selling books from the slush pile are small.
Some agents claim they have never sold anything from the slush pile though I take it very seriously, and personally look at almost twenty thousand submissions each year . Given each submission may be over forty pages long, that is a lot of reading to fit around the reading of my existing clients’ work, such as the fifty delivered manuscripts each year, and the normal work of the agency…
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I have kindly been allowed to share a link to an interview with Andrew Lownie on Writers’ Clinic over on Anita Andrews’ writing blog. Here is an introduction:
With bestselling authors such as Cathy Glass, Laurence Gardener and David Craig, literary agent Andrew Lownie continues to prove he is a hot agent to have.
Authors seeking advice, tips and representation will devour Andrew Lownie’s website which allows you to tiptoe in the literary world. He represents largely non-fiction, although his list of fiction authors is impressive in itself.
Having worked in Foyle’s bookshop, Hodder & Stoughton and Curtis Brown, he set up his own agency twenty years ago. When he started though, he needed to supplement his income as an author and freelance journalist for The Times and The Spectator. He has lost none of his hard working ethos.
´I receive about 200 e mails a day, most of them with queries or forty page proposals attached, quite apart from fax, phone and post which have to be dealt with. Several articles on my website deal with a ‘typical’ day or week and give fuller information but I generally start at 7.45 am and work through to 6.30 and then again from 10.30 to midnight in the office from Monday to Friday but, as I work from home, I also spend several hours each weekend either in the office or reading manuscripts or delivered books. There are usually several meetings a day with authors, publishers or TV producers, a lunch and some sort of event in the evening.
´Much of my time is spent assessing new submissions, chasing publishers for advances or decisions, liaising with editors, TV producers or authors on queries which have arisen on placed projects. Twice a year thousands of royalty statements come in and have to be checked, copied and payments made if the books have earned their advances.´
Click here for the rest of the interview (you’ll need to scroll down a little bit) and find out things like what he thinks of rejection, or why he gives short shrift to writers’ block.