Today we’re delighted to welcome Louise Buckley, a literary agent from the Zeno Agency. Hi Louise, welcome to the RNA. Let’s dive right in with the questions.
What type of submissions are you personally looking for at the moment? I would really love to see an epic love story – something that spans generations, or continents, or historical periods. I am also keen to see anything written by BAME authors and more diverse voices; I am aware of the part I play as an agent in finding those voices, and also I want to read about experiences that are different to my own.
In addition to this, I am keen to see more general ‘women’s fiction’. Much of what my agency represents – and therefore receives – is science fiction and fantasy, and whilst we represent some hugely bestselling and esteemed authors in these fields, I am looking to attract other genres also. Women’s fiction has always been my emotional heartland and is what I published the most of when I was an editor. So I am always looking for the next Jojo Moyes, Dinah Jefferies or Lucy Diamond.
I would also like to receive some saga! Particularly sagas set during the First or Second World War.
Is there anything you’re definitely NOT looking for? I am not keen on regency romances, erotica or anything that feels overly American to me. I am also not currently looking for any paranormal romance or urban fantasy.
Do you look for anything in an author apart from a brilliant book? (Such as social media presence?)
Social media presence is not important to me and I represent a couple of authors who aren’t on social media. For me, the quality of the writing and the emotional connection with the protagonist is far more important – I’d rather a writer spent their time focusing on honing these qualities than building a social media presence.
Your submission guidelines ask for three chapters and a synopsis. Can you give them any tips on how to grab your attention in those first three chapters?
Start your novel in the most exciting or tense place you can think of. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of authors who start with backstory, or a character waking up to start their day, or describing the weather, and then tell me that the story really gets going in chapter five. I don’t have time to read that far. If I am honest, the quantity of submissions I receive means that I usually don’t have time to read beyond the first page or two – so you really do need to start in a place that will grip me (and publishers and readers) from the off.
And what about the synopsis? Do you have any tips for writing a really good one?
My main tip is to not worry too much about the synopsis. Writing a synopsis is hard and so many writers worry about it, but for me it’s not as important as the query letter or the sample.
If I have to offer advice though I would say keep it short – one – two pages – and focus on getting down the main plot points and narrative arcs, and how the book ends.
Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
I recently read The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, which I really enjoyed. It’s part dark psychological suspense and part coming-of-age story about a young teenager who ends up living with family she didn’t know existed in a small town in the US. It’s quite dark and looks at themes such as incest and murder, but at its heart it is also about a young woman finding herself and coming to terms with her past. It’s brilliantly written – Engels is an excellent storyteller – and very atmospheric too.
If you could describe your working day in just three words, what would they be?
Enjoyable – I love being an agent and supporting writers
Varied – on any given day I could be doing completely different tasks
[A] juggle – I am a mum to a 20-month-old, and still working on the perfect work-life balance!
[Sorry, this is more than three words!]
We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next ‘big thing’ – what do you hope to see more of in 2018/2019?
I would love to see a big, breakout historical fiction title, as I feel that it has been a few years since we have seen something like The Miniaturist capture readers’ attentions. There have been a few big deals for historical fiction in recent months (with books such as The Familiars by Stacey Halls) but nothing that has really broken out big time yet.
You can find submission guidelines on the Zeno Agency Website.
Louise was talking to Rhoda Baxter. Rhoda writes feel good stories about strong women and nice guy heroes. She especially likes it when they make her laugh. You can find out more about her award nominated books and mentoring services on www.rhodabaxter.com
She also writes multicultural fiction as Jeevani Charika.