Monday, November 5, 2018

Interview with UK agent Louise Buckley of Zeno Agency, who's seeking North American authors

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker
by Jenni Keer, represented by Zeno Agency

Zeno Agency Ltd
Primrose Hill Business Centre
110 Gloucester Avenue
London NW1 8HX

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Louise Buckley is an associate agent with Zeno Agency, a literary agency based in London, England. The company represents an esteemed list of authors, comprising major brand-names, high profile award winners, talented debut authors and prestigious literary estates. Primarily, it specializes in representing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, but is expanding into other genres.

Louise joined Zeno Agency in 2016, following six years working as an editor at two major trade publishing companies. She’s actively building her list of authors and is especially looking for Women’s Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thrillers and Psychological Suspense, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Literary Fiction. She’s also looking to represent selected nonfiction.
Louise is particularly interested in representing some North American authors and has graciously agreed to be interviewed on Quick Brown Fox.

QBF: First, a big welcome to Quick Brown Fox.
Louise: Thank you!

QBF: Do you have suggestions for how authors can get their manuscript in shape before starting the submission process?
Louise: Many! But my top tip would be to find some beta readers who can offer objective, honest feedback on your query letter and your novel or nonfiction proposal. 
Close friends and family are usually not the best sources of feedback. They won’t want to hurt your feelings and may not be the best judge of the quality of something. 
Writers groups, and trusted acquaintances are probably better bets – or, if these aren’t options, a professional opinion from an industry expert can help pinpoint what needs improving before you submit.

QBF: What sort of books are you especially looking for?
Louise: At the moment, I am particularly on the hunt for a strong crime novel or mystery; I love a good whodunnit or even a why-dunnit that keeps me guessing until the end! I would love to see an epic love story something that spans time periods, continents or generations. I also tend to be captured by a strong or unique voice and well-formed, fallible characters who you can’t help but root for.

QBF: Is there anything you see too much of or that seems overdone these days?
Louise: As one of the biggest and most esteemed agencies in the UK representing SF and Fantasy, I tend to primarily receive submissions in these areas. Whilst I do represent authors in these areas, I am particularly keen to see submissions in other genres.

QBF: Are you accepting any Young Adult fiction?
Louise: Yes! I am interested in older/upper YA (age 14+). Although in my experience, YA is a tough sell right now and so I am being very selective about what I take on.

When All Is Said, by Anne Griffen
represented by Zeno Agency
QBF: Can you tell us about your process when you’re considering a project.
Louise: I read the query letter first and then look at the sample. If I am enjoying the sample and sufficiently intrigued from the query letter, I will read the synopsis.
If I enjoy the sample and think the pitch and concept has potential, then I will request the full manuscript. 
If I love the book but I feel it needs a lot of editorial work before I would consider representing the author, I may go back saying how much I love the book but that I have reservations and want the author to undertake some editorial work. Sometimes they send something back and I decide it isn’t for me after all. On other occasions they may send it back and I think it’s brilliant and then I call to offer representation and discuss any further editorial thoughts. 
Sometimes something needs editorial work but I am certain I could sell it, and in this instance I would offer representation before the author undertook the editorial work.
In nonfiction, if the author hasn’t provided any sample chapters, I may ask them to provide a couple of sample chapters.

QBF: Besides a great book, what else you look for in a client?
Louise: I would say the qualities that you need in all good working partnerships (because the author-agent relationship is definitely a partnership); kindness, respect, an openness to constructive feedback, honesty, good ideas. The relationship between agent and author will ideally last the duration of the author’s writing career and so it benefits both parties to display these qualities. Of course, you can’t always know at the start whether you will connect with each other, but ideally an agent will be looking for these qualities in a writer and a writer will do their research and try to find an agent who understands their book and is easy to get on with.
Many agents may say a social media presence is something they look for, which can be helpful with nonfiction, but in my experience is not important at the early stages of an author’s fiction writing career – the quality of the novel is much more important to me!

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch,
represented by Zeno Agency
QBF: Can you tell us something about how you work with authors?
Louise: I am a hands-on agent. I don’t represent a huge list of authors at the moment so I can dedicate lots of time to working with my authors editorially and explaining who, what, where and why, when questions and situations arise. I try to communicate regularly and make sure that I am available when needed.

QBF: Can you tell us something about working internationally?
Louise: We are a small, boutique agency in the UK. This means that I handle and sell all my client’s rights, including publication, film, audio and translation rights across the world. We are fortunate that we have established close relationships with a large network of sub-agents internationally, who sell our books in each of their respective territories/languages, and our film sub-agent is based in L.A.
I also sell directly to editors in North America. We don’t work with a sub-agent in the US and Canada, so I make sure to keep track of marketplace news and meet with US editors at book fairs. The agency also makes a point of attending international writing conferences and conventions, where many North American editors are present.

QBF: What would you like writers to know about the publishing industry?
Louise: That it’s a tough old business. Many writers think that if you write a good book and a strong query letter then you are sure to secure representation. But the arrival of the internet has made the route to publication available to everyone and more people than ever are writing books. Therefore, your book really needs to stand out from the crowd.
Additionally, it can sometimes be a case of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes an author will write something that happens to fit into a trend six months down the line. Or meet an agent or editor and really make an impression. Luck can be a big factor in whether you are successful. It’s a hard pill to swallow. But with hard work, research and perseverance, you will hopefully still get there! Don’t give up!

Query Louise at:
In the subject line, please be sure to put: SUBMISSION {Title of novel} by {name}. Full submission guidelines here.

Literary agent Stephanie Sinclair
If you’re interested in getting published, soon or somewhere down the road, don’t miss the upcoming How to Get Published workshop Saturday, Nov 17, in Mississauga with literary agent Stephanie Sinclair (see here). 
For updated listing of How to Get Published workshops see here (and scroll down).

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