How I Found the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency (part 5)
13 Apr 2009
Andrew Lownie extracts a fifth selection of how authors came to the agency.
In 1995, as I was finishing my biography of Bonar Law, I mentionedto a distinguished historian and close friend, that I was thinking of seeking a literary agent. Having negotiated publication of my previous books myself, I thought it time to put this in the hands of a professional. Andrew and I met (remarkably, we were living in the same building in Bedford Square at the time), and after a long talk about books and publishing, we agreed to work together. He has represented me ever since. He is knowledgeable, tireless and professional, and I have been pleased to recommend him to first time authors and seasoned veterans alike.
I had a proposal for a non-fiction book, and approached a number of agents by letter (their names gathered from the Writers and Artists Year book). The vast majority turned me down, but Andrew wrote back suggesting I send him a more detailed proposal than the one I had. Within a few days, he had contacted me to say that he and his reader liked it, and that he had decided to take me on. Less than two months later, Andrew secured a two-book deal. I've been with him ever since, and never once have I doubted his absolute commitment to his clients. From my experience, I can say that he will not hesitate to stick with a project he believes in, even if it takes longer than anticipated to find a home for it.
After completing a few chapters of my first book, a history of Hungary, I made direct approaches to several publishers, picked from The Writer’s Handbook; all responses were negative. I then took the advice of The Society of Authors, which was to find an agent. I approached two or three of the big names, again without success. A writer friend suggested that I should write to Andrew Lownie. I did so: Andrew’s response was immediate and helpful. Mine was not an easy book to place but Andrew’s perseverance was eventually rewarded and one published book led to others and the sale of rights. It has been and remains an enjoyable and rewarding relationship.
I began looking for a literary agent by typing ‘Britains biggest and best literary agent’ into a search engine. I found Andrew Lownie. I called him up, surprised to be speaking to him directly, and asked him lots of questions . Andrew took the time to help me understand what a literary agent was and why I would find it beneficial. That week I called up many other agents but didn’t find they really cared, and had a ‘factory-like’ mentality when it came to publishing books. Andrew had a love for the stories. I went back to researching Andrew a little further ad found he was perfect for me. He had worked with new-authors, specialized in non-fiction and was very highly regarded by publishers so had all the great contacts in the business. I submitted my manuscript and he called me the next day (on my birthday) to get things moving. And he really moved fast. He has been friendly, approachable and professional, and answers his emails immediately.
As a first-time author, I needed guidance in finding an agent from those established in the business. Although my initial information came from fiction writers, it was pointed out that the Andrew Lownie Agency had a particular expertise and reputation in the biographical and non-fiction field. This was confirmed when, despite the atmosphere of recession and downturn in the book-market, Andrew was able to place our book, 'Never Say Die', with the major publisher, Harper Collins, within a matter of weeks.
After my first book, The General Against the Kremlin, I was keen to find a literary agent, specialising in history, for my next book. Andrew had represented a friend of mine and secured an extremely good deal for his first book. My friend recommended him without reservation. I was already aware of his formidable reputation and liked the fact that he was not simply an agent but an author too. Furthermore, as the biographer of John Buchan, he was interested in the same period of history as I am. When we met, he immediately offered all sorts of helpful suggestions and leads. I had been told that he was “the best in the business.” He provides thoroughness, discipline and knowledge of the market: the essential combination of virtues in a literary agent.
I was a friend of the poet D.J.Enright whose daughter is married to Toby Buchan. He knew Andrew as the author of an excellent biography of his grandfather, John Buchan, and advised me to get in touch, a move I have never regretted.
I'd been wandering around Africa for several years, reporting on wars, famines, brave entrepreneurs and crazy monetary policies. I wanted to write a book about why Africa is so poor and how it could become less so. Another agent told me that Andrew was interested in big subjects, intelligently explored. So I sent him some chapters, and he took the bait.
I found the Andrew Lownie Agency on the recommendation of another agent who had decided against taking my latest book on because of serious doubts about the commercial viability of its unusual mix of history and fiction. Andrew had no such doubts, and he responded promptly and with considerable enthusiasm. More importantly, he drove the book forward, offering much expert and welcome advice on the structuring of the proposal. In a short space of time, despite the unconventional nature of the product, Andrew quickly established promising contacts with a number of leading publishers at home and overseas who were sympathetic to what I was doing, and soon secured the sale of the international and UK rights.
Not having a clue how to get my work published, my partner looked on the internet for a literary agent. We were drawn to Andrew, because his agency specialises in non-fiction and takes unsolicited manuscripts seriously. So, lacking in self-confidence, yet having written my memoir, Andrew seemed the man to go to. What also stood out about the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency was Andrew himself is a published author and knew about the emotional issues that authors can face. As soon as we first met, I knew Andrew was the right person to sign with and that he would endeavour to use his expertise in the publishing field to help get my book 'out on the shelves
Given that at the time I was seeking representation I was based in Australia, this gave me pause in approaching a number of literary agents who it appeared were not prepared to take on overseas clients. This was not the case with Andrew, who was already representing a number of my countrymen. Also Andrew, unlike many of his colleagues, had a well-developed website, which enabled me to gauge his ability to represent me based on his track record with similar books in the genre. Finally, Andrew, again unlike many of his colleagues, was prepared to accept submissions by email which, for a foreign-based author, greatly cut down the cost and the time delay in the process.
How I found the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency? Well, in fact Andrew was recommended to me in late 2003 by my editor at Macmillan, Georgina Morley. I have been with him ever since.
I was beginning work on a biography of Rudolf Hess; Andrew was recommended to me for his knowledge of the intelligence world. He helped me greatly with introductions and photocopies from the PRO, now National Archives - and Hess has since gone through four editions in this country, and others abroad.
I spent several decades as an academic writing lots of books for modest-to-miniscule royalties from academic and educational publishers. When I finally made my escape from the university sector I received advice from a friend, Robert Baldock, who, as a publisher with Yale University Press was well-placed to know the good agents. He recommended about five names. I approached Andrew first and was pleased to find that he already knew about my work. We met, I liked his businesslike approach, and in a short time we were negotiating for the first book. I am now finishing my fourth book with Andrew. I think many university academics are nervous about adopting this route. But they have nothing to fear. No-one has told me I have too many footnotes or that I'm consulting too many primary sources. I'm writing original books but for a much wider audience and for much better remuneration.
After a five-book series, my publishers decided to dispense with my considerable services and I realized I needed an agent! I stuck a pin in the Writers and Artists Year Book, came up with Farquharson (Curtis Brown) and had lunch with ‘their Mr Lownie’. Over an excellent lunch, Andrew told me he was going solo a week later and gave me a choice: did I want to stay with Farquharson or go with him. There was, of course, no contest. The rest is History (plus a bit of True Crime, Crime Fiction, Ghosting, Lectures etc., etc.).
MARGUERITE van GELDERMALSEN
I was living in Sydney when a London publisher became interested in my memoir. My contact in the UK said I would now need an agent on the spot and put me in touch with Andrew Lownie and I soon realised how lucky I was to have Andrew there so I didn’t need to think about all the contractual and financial work that is involved in the publication of a book. I was then able to concentrate on the writing and am now free to enjoy the feed-back.
Containing clear advice, useful information and articles, and a strong sense of what the Agency stands for, Andrew's website impressed me enormously. As an editor and journalist seeking to write books, I was looking for an Agency which specialises in taking on writers with a journalistic background. Andrew responded immediately to my proposal, as he continues to do along each step of the publishing process. He is an experienced, calm voice who delivers.
I was on the outlook for an agent after publishing a couple of books without one and Andrew was recommended to me. He found a publisher for my next book and then established me as a regular author for Atlantic Books, which has been a fruitful partnership for all three parties concerned.
I had been finishing my autobiography and was looking for an agent who could effectively represent my work. I was told by Writers Direct, a new website set up to help new authors, to contact Beverly Swerling Martin of Agentresearch.com. Beverly was impressed with my story and along with 5 other names, suggested the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. Being a great fan of Cathy Glass and seeing the success he has had with getting deals for her, I wrote to Andrew.
I was very impressed with the quick response and advice I had from him, although at first, he had said the market was too difficult for him too take my book. However, he recommended that I send it straight to a publisher. I sent the synopsis and three chapters, as I had with my package to Andrew and the publisher rang me the same day showing interest and wanting to meet up. I then e-mailed Andrew with this information and asked if he would represent me. We signed contracts and this lead to a deal for my book to be published by Harper Collins in November. The thing I like most about Andrew is his straight talking. He is honest and frank, just the way I like people to be.