How I Found the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency (Part 3)
8 Apr 2008
In February and November 2006, I reproduced as articles some of the author comments on their author pages on the website on how they came to the agency. The articles proved to be of great interest. Prospective authors say it gives them ideas of how to find an agent and a very good sense of the agency and how it operates. Here is a third article of such extracts covering some authors from A to F and , if there is continued interest, further such articles can be added as we work our way through the alphabet.
"Through a friend of a friend, I heard about Andrew’s Biographers’ Club. I went to a few enjoyable meetings and discovered that Andrew was behind the Best Proposal competition which I had entered for previously. I put some biographical projects to Andrew, which he liked — and he then set me the task of filling his demanding Proposal Requirements. I grumbled a bit to myself, but they did add shape and focus to the what I eventually produced. Since then he has been patient and made several very creative suggestions."
The agency was recommended to me by a fellow writer who had been in the business many years and spoke glowingly of its reputation. I ‘cold-called’ the agency through their general email address, submitting my proposal with first chapter. Within less than a day I received a personal and friendly e-mail from Andrew asking for further information. Within little more than a week, his reader and then Andrew himself had finished the manuscript and offered me a deal. Within hours of our emailed agreement, Andrew had personally pitched my book to a dozen editors. The Andrew Lownie Agency is fast, efficient and easy to work with.
"I had spent the last three years trying to find an agent/publisher who would read my work. Like most other prospective writers, I was dismayed by the volume of rejections but continued to persevere in the hope that someone, somewhere, would see potential in my work. Andrew Lownie was that man and, as luck would have it, he was also a literary agent. I found out about the agency while researching the work of another of his clients, a process that lead me to the agency website. A quick read was enough to convince me that Andrew may just be the agent I was looking for. My initial approach was answered with a speedy reply and within a few days, much to my delight, I had signed on. As a new writer, breaking into the business can be a soul destroying experience, yet Andrew’s infectious enthusiasm and confidence was, for me, a complete departure from my previous experiences in the world of publishing."
The Tears of Sheba was my first book and I had no idea where to look for the right agent. But knew I needed one in order to get the manuscript read by the right people. I went to the bookstore one day, found books similar to my own, and read the Acknowledgments page to find out who the authors' agents were. Andrew Lownie represented several authors with books similar to my own. He took me on and I soon realized I had made the right choice.
"Andrew was strongly suggested to me by a friend who was already well published in the realm of military and intelligence history. I was unsure whether the nature of my book was the right sort of thing for a commercial publisher, but I found Andrew's expert knowledge and infectious enthusiasm to be very encouraging and so I went ahead with the project. The advice proved to perfect and resulted in a prize-wining book. Over the least ten years, with his assistance, I have placed three books with wonderful publishers and secured impressive advances. I couldn't have done it without him."
On meeting Andrew I was immediately impressed by his efficiency and thoroughness. He took the time to talk things through properly, and had many useful insights and constructive suggestions. Practical, no-nonsense types are not usually noted for their upbeat personalities, but Andrew is an exception: he seems to genuinely enjoy what he does, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I left the meeting thinking that he would be a good person to have on one’s side, and made up my mind to sign with the agency.
"I was looking for a pro-active agent: you know, one of those who returns your calls and tells you where things have been submitted to - then what responses there have been. Frankly there are some who don't! I meet fellow authors/ journalists at parties, functions or interviews and know there are even worse stories out there. I started fishing for names and rapidly got a longish list of agents - to avoid! I can't remember who mentioned Andrew first as an exception to the rule, but he was straight on the short list. Lots of people had "heard good things'' about him. I was concurring when he replied to my letter with some positive suggestions - rather than the `Dear Sir'/ mis-spelled form letter I got from some other agents, which showed they hadn't even noticed that I was already published. Bless them."
"The Commissioning Editor with whom I had worked closely – and directly – for many years resigned and I did not feel that my previous agent was the right person to develop a new publishing relationship. I knew of Andrew by reputation in my field and was most impressed by his professionalism and by the enormous amount of practical guidance on his website. I am particularly attracted by his success in placing work in my adoptive country, as my previous agent frustrated my ambition to be published (rather than simply distributed) in the States."
I first met Andrew in the early nineties at a social event, and decided then and there that I wanted him to be my agent when I had the time and opportunity to write a book. In 1997 I became one of his authors, and in no time at all he had secured a book deal for me with a prominent publishing house and a good advance for a first time author. I consider him to be one the best literary agents in the UK, and I’m honored to have him as my agent. He works extremely hard to get those deals, and always has time for his authors, and is always there to advise and protect us. And he’s a jolly good fellow too. Thanks Andrew!
"Fed up by not being able to find an agent to represent me, despite having written over a hundred books, I sat down one evening and started emailing every agent in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. At 11.30 that night, I got an email back from Andrew. We spoke at 8.30 the following morning and met the next day. This was a revelation after being snubbed for years."
"I came across the agency by chance, having responded to a newspaper article inviting submissions to the Biographers Club Prize, which Andrew founded. I hadn't previously sought representation as I was at the earliest stage of research and wrongly assumed that agents would require at least a couple of chapters for consideration. Andrew and I met, he offered to take me on and, liking him very much and impressed by his knowledge and efficiency, I was delighted to sign up. He helped turn my rambling proposal into a sellable piece and has been an absolute star ever since!'
“After completing the manuscript of my first book I went through various discouraging attempts to win over a series of somewhat self-important agents, and eventually gave up. I was subsequently introduced to Andrew by my publisher, and was immediately put at my ease. I’ve since discovered that he also represents several colleagues and friends, all of whom have nothing but praise for him. I only wish I’d met him earlier.”
"I found Andrew Lownie after searching through a web listing of literary agents for those which specialised in non-fiction. My decision to approach him was based on the quality and helpfulness of his website and, in my short acquaintance with him – so far – that has been matched by the efficiency of his dealings with my book proposal. "
"Upon first conceiving the idea for my book I scoured a number of writer's handbooks for suitable agents and then checked their websites. Andrew's was by far the most informative and appeared to be eminently approachable. This good impression was enhanced by his name appearing in the acknowledgements of a number of excellent history books and the frequent references in the Bookseller magazine to deals he had concluded. When I first contacted Andrew he replied immediately and has proved extremely knowledgeable and helpful throughout."
"First point of call for finding a literary agent is clearly the Artists and Writers Yearbook. A quick look through the agents section shows that at least 30% refuse to accept any unsollicited submissions - so they are out. Another 50% probably don't do current affairs - so they are out. What is probably unique about the AL Agency is that because it does non-fiction and current affairs, it is open to unsollicited approaches offering new material. Moreover, AL does not just send out computer-generated 'get lost' letters, he actually seems to look at the proposals he receives and responds effectively. And, in my case, what was really important, was that AL doesn't seem to give up - after all, it took about 3 years for me to get a contract."
"I was recommended to another agent for my history book. I duly wrote a short letter explaining my idea and asking if s/he would read the proposal. After a month of waiting for a simple 'yes or no' reply ,I lost patience and googled a list of literary agents. The Lownie agency stood out as specializing in non-fiction; after a quick visit to the website (in its earlier incarnation) I decided to email Andrew my letter and got a reply the next morning. Of course the day after Agent 1 also got round to replying but by then it was too late!"
'My discovery of Andrew Lownie is the happy end of a sad story, the break-up of the literary agency, PFD. I had received the recommendation from both my publisher and my former agent, who described Andrew as the “King of History and of Biography”. What I did not know at the time was Andrew's fancy for hard work. When, on a Wednesday, I knocked at his door at Great Smith Street, he not only opened the door himself, he made the tea and brought in his cakes on tray: I immediately knew I was dealing with somebody serious. We signed a contract on Thursday and on Friday the emails began to pour in. We haven't ceased communicating since. This man is a bundle full of ideas and energy.'
After the publication in 1986 of my first book, Menzies and Churchill at War, I was approached by Andrew, who was then establishing himself as a literary agent. We had an enjoyable discussion over dinner in Cambridge, during which I was mightily impressed with his energy and enthusiasm. However, I was contractually tied to a publisher and there seemed no role that Andrew could then play. Nevertheless, we kept in touch over the years until, with the publication of my latest book, Conquest, I approached Andrew to handle the UK and US rights, as well as the rights for a forthcoming book on Churchill, Into the Abyss. Again, I was impressed with his insightful comments and his commitment to getting a proposal just right before submitting it to a publisher. His help is already beginning to produce results.
"I found the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency in the agent listings of the annual Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - not by chance but because I went looking for it there. I'd read and admired Juliet Barker's biography of the Brontes, and was hoping to find a publisher for a proposed biography of Thomas Hardy. The Yearbook listings helpfully include each agent's big-name authors, so I wrote off. Andrew responded to my letter immediately and with warm encouragement, and he has since guided me through the challenging process of working up a successful proposal and securing a contract."
Trying to find the right literary agent was starting to feel a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. So when a Film Director whose opinion I value, personally recommended Andrew Lownie , I listened carefully to his words: “Extremely hardworking, very professional and above all, he will not cheat you”. Music to my ears! I feel confident that Andrew will do his very best for me.
"My own reasons for engaging Andrew Lownie as my agent are several. When I first decided to write, I contacted an ex-university chum who had encountered some difficulty with an agent he had selected from one of the usual manuals upon the subject, and who had set up a deal which was clearly ridiculous. Andrew (for no fee!) had rescued him from this. When I encountered a competitive situation for a synopsis which I had prepared, I sought advice from a good friend (in the world of books) who immediately put me in contact. Andrew organised an auction, and the outcome was, to say the least, energising. We are about to put together our fourth project."
"As a first-time author, I was clueless about agents. So many and all so similar. I scoured the internet listings and checked the usual hard-copy resources at the library. Under the non- fiction and history categories, I kept seeing Andrew's name. I checked his website and was impressed. When I sent my query, he responded immediately with detailed questions. Then he requested my full manuscript, read it carefully, and obtained some independent reader reports. Never had another agent gone to this extent or showed such professionalism. It was the ultimate confidence builder. Fortunately, he offered to represent me. If I'm ever featured at book signings, Andrew will certainly be the one to make it happen."
"I was fortunate enough to meet Andrew before I had gone too far down the wrong road to getting my biography written and published. Initially, I didn't have the confidence to write it myself having never written a book before and after meeting an agent who introduced me to a ghostwriter and the first chapter was produced, it all began to look very wrong. Enter Andrew who helped convince me to write the first few chapters myself before going out to the publishers. But after several passes I pretty much gave up hope. Andrew did not, however, and six months later he called to tell me we had an offer. Andrew also played a part in convincing me to write my first fiction book and since then I have not looked back. Good agents are hard to come by and I consider myself fortunate to have Andrew Lownie."
Andrew was suggested to me by another agent, as someone who specialised in journalists who write books, with an interest in first person story-telling. The website created an impression that Andrew would be approachable, decisive and focussed. This proved to be the case as he responded to my first email within a couple of hours. After months of feeling that I was fighting an uphill battle alone, I quickly came to feel that Andrew completely “got it” and would be an excellent person to have in my corner.
"I had been looking for an agent for some time, having published two books with Penguin without one but knowing that I needed an agent for the kind of books (popular science) I then wanted write. I discovered the agency through my wife, Diana Reich, who was then the Director of English PEN. Andrew was on the PEN committee. We met and worked hard on proposals for a while before success with The Gecko's Foot. Andrew's work was absolutely vital in launching me as a popular science writer."