Looking For a Litereary Agent. Here's the Best Piece of Advice You'll Receive.

Posted on 5th July, 2024
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about the seventh book-birthday of The Deserter's Daughter. That set me thinking about the very important business of getting a literary agent. Some publishers these days don't require you to have an agent but that was less common back in 2016, and in any case I was very drawn to the 'traditional' route.


At that stage, I knew all about receiving rejection letters. At one extreme I received one that took the term "standard rejection letter" to new heights by being so standardised that it applied to non-fiction writers as well as novelists; and at the other extreme, there was the one that that praised my writing and was nothing but positive about my submission, only to close with the words: "Good luck placing it elsewhere."


In fact I received a lot of positive rejections - that is, a rejection that includes a compliment about the writing. In my case, these were couched in similar fashion; namely, "compliment compliment, but..." Ah, those buts!


At the time I didn't realise how lucky I was to get this feedback. The praise gave me a boost, but it was those buts I concentrated on. The end result was another draft of The Deserter's Daughter, which in June 2016 was ready to be submitted. I sent out email submissions around 4pm one Friday afternoon, intending to send some paper submissions the following morning. On the Saturday morning I glanced at my emails and there were two from literary agents. Automatic responses, of course - and I almost deleted them unopened.


Fortunately for me, I opened them instead. Yes, the first was indeed an automatic "We've received it" message. I opened the second one and my immediate thought, as my finger hovered over the delete button, was: That's a long automatic response.

 nger obviously had more sense than I did, because it didn't hit delete

Well, my finger evidently had more sense than I did, because it didn't hit delete and that gave me time to read the message.... which was a personal email from Laura Longrigg at MBA, sent around 9pm on Friday evening, saying she had started reading my submission on the way home, was loving it and wanted to see the full MS.


Long story short. I ended up with offers of representation from two agents, but while I was enormously pleased and flattered by the second agent's interest, there was never any doubt in my mind. Various writer friends advised me to meet with both agents before deciding what to do, but I didn't feel the need for that. Out of the agents I submitted to, and also those I didn't get the chance to submit to because Laura responded so swiftly, she was always top of my list and I was delighted to be represented by her from then until her retirement.


And now we come to the advice...  

Writing this blog has reminded me of something very important that Laura said to me - or rather, that she wrote to me in an email.


Here's what happened. Laura read The Deserter's Daughter and wanted to meet me. We put a date in the diary. Then the other agent also asked to read the book. I duly sent it off and, as a courtesy, informed Laura after I'd done so. She then told me that it was her intention to offer me representation as long as we liked one another when we met.


I've put that in bold because that's the piece of advice I want to offer to unpublished authors out there who are busy querying and wondering if they will ever get taken on by an agent. Yes, the author/agent relationship is a professional one, but it is essential that you also honest-to-goodness like one another. I know authors who dislike their agent - and what must their professional relationships be like? I've met authors who are scared of their agent.


Trust me on this. I know how hard it can be to secure representation; I know how long it can take; I also understand how a writer would want to grab the first offer that comes along for fear that it might be the only offer they ever receive.


But don't sign up with an agent without meeting them. And don't sign up without liking them.


And if you are querying at the moment - good luck!


* * * *


Here are all my books that were published thanks to Laura's representation:



My Susanna Bavin author page on Amazon  




My Polly Heron author page on Amazon 




My Maisie Thomas author page on Amazon  


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