Another Agency Week

Andrew Lownie looks back on a recent ‘typical’ week.


Overnight submissions include: a biography of a minor Tudor courtier – no profile and too small; a memoir of driving around the world; a coffee table book “All the Kings Men” about 125 of the worlds very best Elvis Tribute Artists ; a “gothic Victorian novel” ; Pyramids of Britain arguing that Stonehedge etc were inspired by Ancient Egypt; a road trip following the despatch from the Battle of Trafalgar in a 55-year-old Austin A30 from Cornwall to London; Chinese Medicine Secrets : lose weight and boost energy naturally; a memoir of growing up in the North of England in the 1960s; an historical novel about a black naval officer in the Napoleonic wars; a book on “the case for the abolition of parliamentary inviolability” addressed to Andrew Towne Literary Agency; a letter with no address, e mail or phone number asking for my “close Consideration” which is all I could give it; a sailing memoir around Skye, the memoirs of a judge and “an artbook with Photografy(sic)” .

Write to three different authors about their newly delivered books which read over weekend.

E mail discussion with journalist author suggesting he make his book 20-30 chapters rather than 10 as looks less academic. Send to a reader for a second opinion.

Update from my Polish sub-agent with progress of current submissions there.

Answer questionnaire from a postgraduate student about publishing military books.

Give advice to novelist client about a self-publishing option for one of his science fiction titles.

Meeting with new military history publisher and she expresses interest in several titles.

Turn down: the memoir of a geek “with around 50 pictures, 5 graphs and 15 illustrations”; screenplay for a supernatural thriller; “a story chronicling the day-to-day challenges and revelations of life with a chronic health condition (Chemical Sensitivities)” ; a dictionary of erotic words; How to Smoke Cigarettes Sensibly, Safely and Serenely; Combating Stress with Self- hypnosis; “a bitter sweet tale (told in diary form) of one man’s struggle to come to terms with life after living the rock and roll dream and finding salvation through wine” – presumably producing not drinking it; a children’s book; a travelogue which included a spell in a Jordanian jail; a guide to doing business in Africa; a footballer’s memoirs about his gambling addiction and an historical biography which bit specialist for my list but suggest possible publisher.

Try and place backlist audio for one of my crime novelists.

Established true crime writer seeks representation and I ask for various proposals. Will be difficult as backlist spread between various publishers and he’s made money by writing lots of books for modest advances. Will be difficult to change his mind set and/or find publisher wanting a long-running series.

Italian studying publishing at UCL seeking work placement

Check Australian contract and make a few comments .

Chase Brazilian advance at request of author.

Pitch biography of Nick Clegg to a dozen publishers. Author can deliver quickly to beat competition and in case coalition breaks up or produce less instant book for next year which may be easier for publishes to schedule. We give them the option.

E mail author to say unabridged audio rights sold.

Chase film company on submission. Casual no after several months and no return of books. Par for the course.

Check when subsidiary rights income was paid to publisher as not credited on royalty statement being checked. Appears publisher still chasing some payments but also forgotten to credit ones that have come in.

Comments from my contracts specialist on a children’s book contract where terms lower than usual.

Forward pdf of new book to Marsh Agency for them to submit.

Suggest to publisher put forward a writer for a prize which especially appropriate for his book.

Meeting with young female presenter who writing cookbook to discuss how to make her proposed book more distinctive.

Turn down very good novel by UN official in Kabul as don’t feel I’m the right agent to sell it.

Forward enquiry from French publisher about backlist title to Marsh Agency.

Give advice to author putting together a proposal.


Pass on review to author which read in Literary Review last night.

Submissions include: the biography of an obscure American blues musician; a book on Kabbalah; “a novel passed (sic) on my experiences working in a live music bar in the Red light district of Bangkok”; a science fiction novel; “ a radical book I have written regarding the absurdity and dangers of political correctness, and how it is leading to the down fall of first world nations”; a business parable about two dolphins; a book about Barack Obama’s two younger brothers; the memoirs of a sex addict; an account of a year spent working in one of America’s most notorious youth programmes; a blog by someone on the reality show ‘Paris Hilton’s British Best Friend’; a cerebral palsy memoir; Could You Spot a Serial Killer; a paranormal romance; an account of life in a Hungarian travelling circus during the 1940s; a Scandinavian cookbook; “a series of emailed short stories, travel tales, factoids, poems, book reviews, character studies, and observations on world events which I was directly or indirectly involved in, from earthquakes to the invasion of Georgia to the Obama inauguration”; a ”Self motivational book for teenagers”; a book described as “ Non Friction, mistery and abit of a thriller”; “a creative nonfiction memoir about the author’s real-life experiences after inviting elderly in-laws to move into her home”; “a humorous, heavily sarcastic guide to correct behavior for any self-respecting horror film character”; a book on the Gypsy musicians of Paris during the Belle Epoque and something described as “a blend of ancient wisdon mixed with modern science and carries a unique metaphysical perspective regarding the sexualization process.”

Agree to look at submissions from authors where the agent supposed to look at them at Festival of Writing, which I also attended in April, wasn’t able to.

Author sends link to radio programme he has appeared on and big feature in Norwegian magazine and I circulate to Marsh Agency and some of his publishers.

Forward some royalty statements to author in Israel and arrange for them to be checked.

Discuss special sales deal with author which pays about 19p a copy but decide it may just expand his readership.

Chase authors about e book addenda they have to sign. Rather than holding out for terms, I’m signing deals on two year licences at 25% so at least some income is coming in whilst the thorny issue of e book terms and whether they should be part of publisher’s contract thrashed out.

Urgent phone call straight after lunch asking why I’ve not turned up to give a talk on publishing to a writing course. I have it in the diary for tomorrow and clearly slots changed. Dash across in taxi and give the talk.

Eventually give up on author, whom I thought had potential, after weeks of e mail correspondence and various reader reports trying to shape a proposal .

Discuss with my Canadian sub-agent trying to reissue backlist of an author who has just moved back to Canada and has published on various Canadian subjects.

Pitch a business book to several UK publishers.


Submissions today include: the memoir of the first professional, one-legged firefighter in the United States; an anthology of stories about becoming a country & western star; an historical thriller set in the Middle East; a misery memoir; a study of war films of the 1940s; the biography of an aviation pioneer and another of a world championship piper; Bible Stories for Grown Ups; a guide to land combat; a raw food recipe book; What Foreigners Need to Know About America, From A to Z.; Sri Lanka’s Ethnic War; a book on the British who served with the American General Custer; a collection of Bulgarian short stories; a breast cancer memoir; Great Scottish Americans; “ a “multicultural” Young Adult novel; “an illustrated, popular science, non-fiction collection of six stories about a year’s journey to the Caribbean and meeting the people of the Caribbean working to save endangered species” which probably needs to be fronted by a celebrity or be a tv tie-in and a drug memoir where the author adds “I am not able to submit the synopsis by e mail due to the fact that I am currently incarcerated.”

Chase Indonesian agent on a submission and Chinese sub-agent on payment which seems caught between intermediary banks.

Bidding war on audio rights in recently-published title. Go through contracts identifying audio rights unsold by either publisher or myself, make list and seek rights reversion in unsold audio rights controlled by the publisher.

Discussion with royalties chum at Little Brown trying to get my head round a recent royalty statement.

Alerted by my Polish sub-agent to an auction she has just held for a forthcoming title. A record advance which augers well for selling US rights.

Send book proposal to a Sunday paper in the hope a piece based on it might drum up some publishing support or at least some remuneration for author.

Forward sales summaries of the week’s bestseller lists to two authors who are in the lists.

Meet old friend, who editor at Penguin, for drink.


Submissions today include: a memoir of mental illness; invitation to a “Summit on Child Abuse & Human Trafficking” - the exact nature of the invitation unclear; a script dated May 2004; a fantasy novel; a book on “highs and lows of hiring, living with and in some cases firing nannies”; a compilation of “letters that I have written to people in my past present and future”; a “50,000-word manuscript in simplified English”; a “supernatural religious thriller”; an historical novel set in 17th century Amsterdam; an account of “ a six week journey returning by land from an extended sojourn in Asia in which we travelled rather haphazardly by train, sleeper bus, car and camel through the driest deserts of Western China, to the border mountains of Kazakhstan”; a book, “about how to make personal decisions in order to avoid dying” and a book which “is a mixed bag of everything to do with life really, philosophy, comedy, romance, “bro-mance”, work, nightlife, absolutely anything at all” which could be a difficult book to categorise.

Discussion with US editor as author doesn’t like title they’ve given his book and chase the accounts department as slow in paying signature and delivery advances.

TV enquiry for author to appear on history programme. Forward and suggest a few other agency historians.

E mail from rights director at publisher to say second serial for forthcoming book sold to Daily Telegraph. Modest payment but good publicity.

Go through contract and e mail comments to contracts director at publishing house.

Chase an author slow to return Spanish tax-exemption form.

Put forward some publicity ideas to publisher for forthcoming book which doesn’t appear to be receiving much attention.

Enquiry from ghost writer seeking work and put her details on file.


Submissions today: a history of the early air operations by the Royal Air Force in support of SIS and SOE from 1940 to 1942; a “7,800 word non-fiction short story set in Haiti”; “inspiring stories of those behind the wheels of the taxicabs that millions of Americans enter into and exit out of each day, and also the tales of the drama and life changing events that transpire between driver and passenger in this world within a world” ; the memoirs of a waiter at one of Hollywood’s most famous restaurants;, a joint biography of a child survivor and the British medical army officer who liberated Bergen-Belsen; a backpacking memoir of a trip in 1971 through Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia; tv drama script; two novels set in Portugal in 16th century written in Portuguese; a book “ written entirely by spirit – by spirit I mean dead people in heaven”; a genealogical “atlas” of the major dynasties of Europe and the Near East, ranging from Ancient Egypt to the 20th Century and “a dark biblical comedy crossed with a slasher movie”.

Coffee with tv producer to go over list.

Obtain sales figures from previous UK & US publishers for an author’s new publisher.

A gentle nudge to author who owes me a proposal.

Quick lunch with biographer I met at conference in US last month.

Meeting with author who has amassed collection of photos of London and other cities on e bay and now wants to turn no books, postcards etc. I say I’ll try and place a column in Standard.

Telephone interview for US publishing website.

Agent comps arrive from the courier company many publishers use. I’m asked to sign against initials of Andrew Lownie Literary Agency – ALLA. Now I like the sound of being called that.