Q & A with literary agent, Hannah Ferguson

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LWC caught up with literary agent, Hannah Ferguson, this week to ask her a set of Q and A ahead of her talk in December. Hannah is an agent at The Marsh Agency and will be speaking at the club on Tuesday, 4th December. If you are a Full member of LWC then tickets are free, otherwise, book your ticket here.

1/Please give us a brief biog.

A/After finishing a Masters in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths in 2007 I began as an intern at The Marsh Agency, becoming a full-time member of staff in January 2008. I now work as a literary agent and am continually building my own list of authors. I represent mainly fiction, and my interests lie in commercial fiction, women’s fiction and accessible literary fiction. I represent women’s fiction favourites Ali McNamara, Miranda Dickinson, Andrea Semple and Kirsty Greenwood. You can find me on twitter @AgentFergie.

2/What are you working on now?

A/My workload is quite varied at the moment as I’m covering two maternity leaves until the end of the year, so I’m working on all sorts from literary fiction to nature writing to popular non-fiction. But in terms of my own workload, I’m working with a very talented author on her debut novel which unravels parallel stories set in WWII and the present day as the two central characters make their way through their particular time and place. It’s a beautiful novel about secrets and lies, the ties between us all, and the sacrifices we make for love.

3/What are you looking for?

A/I think I have quite an eclectic taste, so it can be difficult to know what I’m looking for until I’ve found it (I realise that is really unhelpful!), but I would say in general terms I’m looking for fiction with voices and characters I care about. It doesn’t have to be action packed, but it does have to be gripping. Something with an emotional pull, by an author who has a long-term vision for their career.

4/What book would you have liked to have represented?

A/This is an almost impossible question! There are so many books I would have loved to have worked on, but some of my favourite books are Life of Pi, The History of Love, Memoirs of a Geisha, and pretty much all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels.

5/What three authors would you invite round for tea?

A/I would obviously invite all of my authors round for tea and cakes, but I do that anyway! So in a fantasy tea and cakes scenario I would say Beatrix Potter (I’ve always loved her), Stephen King (he has a lot to teach about writing) and Roald Dahl (he fuelled my imagination as a child).

6/What catches your eye in a submission?

A/We get so many submissions I think the key to standing out is being succinct in your approach. We have limited time to read through submissions, so the more succinct you are, the more information we’ll read about your work. Injecting personality and passion whilst still remaining professional is a good start, and making your synopsis structured like a blurb you would find on the back of a book is brilliant.

7/Finally, what top tip could you give to an unpublished writer?

A/There are so many tips that get bandied about, but I think what it all boils down to is perseverance. If your work gets turned down by an agent, it doesn’t mean it’s no good, it just means they weren’t the right agent for you at that particular time. Always keep going and remain true to yourself as a writer.

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