WriteWords talks to Laura Longrigg of MBA Literary Agents|
Tell us all about the agency; history, ethos, list etc
MBA Literary Agents has been going for over 30 years; it started as an agency for film and tv script writers and branched out into books when it took over a couple of literary agencies. The list includes fiction, non fiction and childrens and film and tv work remains a big part of our agency – often script writers want to write novels and novelists want a script writer for a novelisation of their book, so the synergy works very well!
How do you find writers?
I am lucky in being recommended by various organisations, including the Romantic Novelists Association and literary consultancies; I also attend writers conferences, university creative writing courses and MBA runs a prize for unpublished fiction called the Harry Bowling Prize. Otherwise we receive lots and lots of submissions, like every agency, from the general public. They all get read of course, but ones directed to individual agents, with a good sense of why they have picked you, are likely to get read quicker and with more attention.
What excites you about a piece of writing-
I ask to see the first few chapters of a book and a synopsis (sent by post), I don’t accept email submissions although other colleagues at MBA do.
It’s incredibly important that the beginning of the book – the first few pages – is as good and original as possible. That’s what makes us sit up. A clear, fluent writing style and a good dramatic situation and above all a character you immediately want to know more about. Also the synopsis needs to be short (ie no more than a couple of pages) and clear. If you can describe the novel in a sentence – ie The Silence of the Lambs meets Henning Mankell (sounds crass I know, but it does really help!) – that is really useful for agents and publishers. It’s amazing how often we have to ‘pitch’ book ideas, to colleagues, foreign publishers, film producers, editors etc etc and the more you can make any of these overworked people sit up with as few words as possible – the better!
and what makes your heart sink?
-and what makes your heart sink?
Bad spelling and grammar, single-spaced type (very hard to read), something that pretends to be fiction but is actually clearly autobiography (much better to be clear about which it is).
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