Name: Andrew Lownie.
Agency: Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd.
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role? I ran the travel section in Foyles bookshop before I went to university. At Cambridge I decided that I wanted to work in publishing as it combined academia and business. By chance I met an agent looking to bring in a young male agent and he encouraged me to apply for the Hodder graduate scheme. I was lucky enough to be accepted but left after six months to work as a journalist and research books and might well have left publishing at that stage but the agent then offered me a job and I became an agent. In September 1985 I joined John Farquharson and Curtis Brown aged twenty-three with only a year’s publishing experience and the following year I was promoted to the Board making me the youngest director in British publishing at the time.
There’s no specific agent qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well? Every agent is different and the relationship with each author varies. I have always specialised in non-fiction, especially history and biography, and I believe I bring a knowledge of the subject and market to the areas I concentrate on. An agent needs to think outside the box constantly looking for opportunities to promote their clients – whether it is finding new revenue streams or simply developing relationships with a range of editors. I think the success of the agency is because both I and my colleague David Haviland work long hours, are conscientious and have a good eye.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with? I have the good fortune to work from home so as I don’t have a daily commute I therefore can work longer hours. I tend to be at my desk soon after 7.30 am responding to overnight emails. The rest of the day is divided between e mails – I receive several hundred a day – reading submissions, dealing with issues that have arisen, pitching proposals and having meetings with authors or publishers.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day? I blog about my week on the agency website and examples can be found at;
What do you feel a client and agent should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day? There has to be honesty, trust and communication. The author needs to know what the agent is doing, how editors have responded etc. and the agent needs to feel the author has confidence in what the agent is doing.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship? I find authors in all sorts of ways – from unsolicited submissions, recommendations from editors, other agents or authors, my own approaches based on seeing something in media, meetings at festivals and writers’ events .
What is the best way to approach you, or any agent, with a view to representation? Is there one part of an approach that makes you think this client is or isn’t for me? Email following the instructions for proposals on the agency website. A whole series of factors come into play when deciding whether or not to offer representation such as: the quality of the writing; the commercial appeal of the book not least potential rights abroad and serial; the author’s public profile especially on social media; whether I can immediately identify an editor who might be interested in the project; whether the book complements or competes with an existing client; has the author got other books in them and are they going to be easy to work with; an author’s own determination and range of contacts. If I feel authors are likely to be difficult, disloyal, have excessive expectations then I will not take them on.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends? Yes I work until 7.00 pm then return to work after 8.00 pm for several hours dealing with e mails and reading. Most weekends are spent reading submissions – the agency receives over 10,000 a year and we take them very seriously.
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out? Research and know your market and write for it not yourself.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t be impetuous. Sometimes it’s worth put up with difficult authors if they are commercial. Agents cannot afford to have an ego.
Favourite film? Where Eagles Dare
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? I’m enjoying the recent War & Peace series.
Favourite book? Too many to list.
Favourite director? Mike Nichols or David Lean.
Favourite writer? I wrote a life of John Buchan and think he’s an underrated writer with a tremendous range and sensibility.
Favourite actor (male or female)? George Clooney
There are lots of articles to help the budding writer on http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk