We are very lucky to have a huge number of industry professionals attending the RNA conference in Leeds this year – agents, publishers and editors – and over the coming weeks, we will be hearing from them about what they do and what they are looking for from their one-to-one sessions with RNA members over the weekend of the conference in July.
Today, we welcome Jo Bell, who is an agent with Bell Lomax Moreton. So, over to you, Jo.
1. Please could you start by telling us what your current role is and what it involves?
As a literary agent at Bell Lomax Moreton, my days are generally filled with reading and listening to people’s stories. Reading stories that come from the heart, telling the lives of emotional and engaging characters both fictional and real. When working with authors, I most enjoy the submission process; shaping and selling someone’s story, often at the start of their career is a real honour and at BLM we like to be as creative as possible when submitting to publishers. After that it’s onto firming up deals, combing through contracts and supporting authors on their publishing journey. I just love it!
2. What type of submissions are you personally looking for at the moment?
I’m always searching for an epic family love story, well, who isn’t? I’d love to find more women’s fiction that’s kind, upbeat and enlightening, with a page turning storyline. I really enjoy a story with a massive heart and comforting writing; it can come from many genres including crime, contemporary romance, thrillers and suspense. I’m also interested in a strong narrative non-fiction journey too.
3. Is there anything you wouldn’t accept right now?
At BLM we don’t accept science fiction submissions.
4. RNA members are sending you only their first chapter and a synopsis. Can you give them any tips on how to grab your attention in such a short submission?
I like a first chapter to be similar to shaking someone’s hand when you meet for the first time. It feels strong, but not bone crushing or limp (yuck). Warm, but not sweaty and just long enough to want to enjoy each other’s company that little bit longer.
5. And what about the synopsis? Do you have any tips for writing a really good one?
Keep the synopsis to one page, yes, I know this is hard but it works. Focus on getting across the key characters and plot lines (even the spoiler alerts). The synopsis is not a marketing tool, so don’t try and write the back cover copy for your book, it’s more functional and should leave the reader desperate to dive into your story.
6. What are you most looking forward to doing over the conference weekend aside from your one-to-one sessions?
Sadly, I’m only attending the one-to-one sessions at the conference this year. I’ve got a yearly charity jam selling commitment to attend on the Saturday and have to dash back to the south coast.
7. Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
Dadventures by Alex Gregory, it’s a wonderful non-fiction book packed full of warmth. I know I’m cheating as Alex is an author of mine, but his book completely sums up what I’m looking for and love working on. Family, adventure and heart!
Thanks so much, Jo, for taking the time to answer these questions for us. Enjoy the conference!