Today I’m pleased to welcome Laura Longrigg, literary agent with the MBA Literary & Script Agents.
Hello, Laura. I’m delighted (at last) to welcome you to the RNA Blog. We first got in touch a year ago, when one of your authors was on the short-list for the RNA Comedy Award. Since then I believe you’ve had some more good news.
Indeed! I am delighted that two of my authors were shortlisted this year for the 2020 RNA awards, Jean Fullerton in the historical saga category and (for the second year running) Mary Jayne Baker for romantic comedy Both are also active RNA members.
What do you look for in a romantic comedy to give that laugh-out-loud factor?
It’s a very subjective thing, comedy. I sit stoney-faced in front of Carry On Films while my family falls about laughing. In books, it depends on your mood, your personality, perhaps your age—but let’s face it, we all need as much humour as possible at the moment. For me the key to comedy is acute observation of human foibles, the odd scene of slapstick madness, and above all dialogue that isn’t all one-liners/jokes, but builds through one’s knowledge of the characters so that as reader you are living the conversation as they speak it, as it were. I do love word play, malapropisms, deliberate mishearing—I am sure you get the picture!
Congratulations on the considerable number of your clients who’ve either won or been shortlisted for various literary prizes over the quarter of a century you’ve been in this business. Can I ask how you rate such awards and what difference you believe they make to an author’s career?
Thank you, I am very proud of the authors I have worked with, all who have won awards and those who haven’t (yet). Winning an award is a very special moment in an author’s life—it’s a huge lift to the spirits and the confidence, and for the agent, it’s affirmation that you were right about a book being all the superlatives you have always (truthfully) attributed to it. It also of course helps hugely in exploiting rights like translation, film and TV, etc, when you can describe an author as ‘award-winning’.
Over your many years as an agent, you’ve covered a wide range of fiction—romantic saga, crime, thrillers, saga, historical… Do you have a favourite genre, so when you start to read a manuscript you think, “Oh, good, another X”?
No, I start each book hoping I am going to think ‘Oh good…’ whatever the genre. Although I am aware that categories come and go in fashion—sagas for instance have probably never been as popular as now. Romantic comedy was huge (cupcakes, cafes, pink pink pink) a few years ago, but perhaps not so much now.
New writers sometimes struggle with that all important submission, especially producing an attention-grabbing synopsis? Do you have any tips?
I am impressed when a writer has thought about their readership, their literary influences, has an interesting story of their own (in relation to their submission); I probably look more closely at someone who comes via a literary consultant or creative writing course, or who has won or been shortlisted for some sort of writing prize, or had short stories published (although I don’t generally represent these per se).
Do you look for anything in an author apart from a brilliant book? (such as social media presence)
I do, but probably not with as much expertise or social media presence as I should have.
Can you tell us the last published book you read which you really enjoyed and why?
I have recently read EDUCATED by Tara Westover. It felt easier to read memoir than fiction, I am not sure why and she had such an awful childhood and has come through it in such spectacular fashion, although not without considerable personal cost. It felt like the right book to be reading in March 2020, somehow.
A story of hope, by the sound of it, which we all need at present. The pandemic is leaving no aspect of life unaffected. What are your particular concerns for the publishing industry?
I do have some concerns that books published this year will struggle as they will have no print outlet for some months to come. While agents are still welcoming submissions and publishers will continue to make offers, not least because they have lists to fill for next year, things are going to be hard for a while, though in my recent experience they are doing the very best they can in the most difficult circumstances.
Thank you so much for sparing the time to talk at such a challenging time, Laura. And to everyone, keep safe, keep well and try and keep reading!
For more on MBA see their website: www.Mbalit.co.uk
Laura was talking with Susan Leona Fisher: Website: http://www.SLFisherAuthor.co.uk