Q and A with May’s guest speaker, literary agent, Lorella Belli

1/Please give us a brief biog.
I worked for various publishers and literary agencies before setting up my own agency in 2002. I am particularly interested in first-time authors, journalists, multi-cultural and international writing, and books about Italy. I represent several award-winning and bestselling authors of both fiction (from literary to genre to YA) and non-fiction (current affairs, memoirs, biography, autobiography, popular music, popular science, popular history, business, lifestyle, general self-help, travel, sport, women’s issues, fashion, and food/wine).

2/What are you working on now?
A brilliant new crime series set in London, a book about women and body image, a YA adventure series, a popular science proposal, commercial women’s fiction by a successful self-published author, plus new projects by existing authors.

3/What are you looking for?
Exciting new crime fiction with an unusual setting or unconventional hero/heroine, all kinds of historical fiction with strong characterization and great narrative, ‘grown up’ women’s fiction (as opposed to chick lit) which would work well for book clubs; in non-fiction anything topical, written with authority and aimed at a wide readership (in particular inspirational memoirs with a unique story, set in the present or previous decades, popular psychology, cookery from someone within the industry/strong media profile, an original mainstream book about art, and dancing)

4/Which book would you have wanted to agent?
I can’t just pick one, but would have loved to represent THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco, SMALL ISLAND by Andrea Levy, WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Charlotte Bronte, POSSESSION by Antonia Byatt, AFFLUENZA by Oliver James, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, MEN ARE FROM MARS AND WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS by John Gray, THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank, BLACKLANDS by Belinda Bauer and Marian Keys – as you can see, I have very broad taste!

5/Which author would you have round to tea?
Stephen Fry and Martina Cole, how about that?

6/What works for you in a submission letter? And what doesn’t?
It works when I can tell the author is serious about a writing career as well as being talented, has done his research about what we represent and above all the market she/he is writing for. It doesn’t work for me the generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ approach, which is being sent to every other agent in town.

7/What top tip would you give to an unpublished writer?
Be patient, persevere and be in it for the long term, if you have talent, sooner or later other people will realize it too.

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