A surefire way to determine an agent is the best fit for your manuscript/writing career is by learning everything you can about them. Such information is great when choosing who to query and deciding who you’d love to work long term with. As a site dedicated to guiding writers through the publication journey, we’ve put together awesome agent interviews for you!
Today we’re introducing Literary Agent Laura Bennett from the Liverpool Agency!
Path2pub: How did you become an agent?
LB: I had a bit of a winding road. I did my degree in imaginative writing, and then because all the publishing jobs were in London, I then did my PGCE and became a teacher. When teaching grew too stressful, I took a couple of years out and did my MA in writing while working as a private tutor. I then took a part-time job as a TA, intending to write in my free time. This didn’t happen. I struggled a lot with work anxiety and left my job just before the pandemic.
I joined the company in early 2020, it was then the Liverpool Editing company, and I came in as a freelance editor. When Clare (our Director) decided to make the change and become an agent, we shifted to be the Liverpool Literary Agency. Clare started to mentor me to become an assistant agent and then an agent, but I had to take some time off as I had a baby! When I came back in January this year, I started taking on my clients and continue to be mentored closely.
Path2pub: What genres do you represent and why did you decide ‘these are what I want to help bring to the world’?
LB: I represent “speculative fiction” from YA to adult. Mainly science fiction and fantasy, but I’ll consider something that’s more horror, or more contemporary with a fantastical twist. These are the genres that I read widely in, and have always been most interested. I believe there’s a lot of great British talent out there in these areas that maybe isn’t being nurtured, and I don’t think there are a lot of agents in the UK who focus exclusively on these genres. I absolutely love getting to know more geeks too! But on a more serious note, I’m passionate about getting some less-heard voices into the genres. And especially for YA, I want to get those books out there that I wish I’d had when growing up.
Path2pub: This is amazing. What instantly catches your eye in a query letter/manuscript?
LB: I like a strong voice. I want personality in both. I need information in the query letter, especially genre, word count and themes, but I want the writer’s personality to come through. In the manuscript, I want a strong point of view with a character that feels unique, and some great descriptive parts. An explosive start (physical or emotional!) is a great way to hook me in.
Path2pub: What is that element that makes you know at once that a story is not for you?
LB: A common issue with my preferred genres is too much exposition. There is typically a lot of world to explore, but I want it drip-fed to me through the narrative, rather than thrown at me all at once. I also strongly dislike any violence against women or LGBTQ+ characters used to further the plot of another character.
Path2pub: How hands-on are you editorially?
LB: I prefer not to be too heavy with it. As a new agent who doesn’t have a lot of time (I have a one-year-old daughter who I’m primary carer for), I can’t take on projects that are a long way from ready for submissions. I do enjoy editing, though, so I’ll often make some suggestions for improvements to pacing or over-arching story. I’ll highlight some proofreading issues as I read, too – if there are any! If I really love a manuscript but it needs a little more editing, I’ll still consider it. I’m hoping that once my little one is at nursery, I can think about taking on a writer or two who might need a bit more editing.
Path2pub: Do you have goals for how many clients you want to acquire in a year?
LB: I do! I’m aiming for about ten. This is my first year and that feels like a good number to have out on submission and working on new projects. After this first year of building my initial list, I’ll take on a lot less.
Path2pub: Thank you for sharing that! What is your favorite trope?
LB: I’m quite a fan of a reluctant hero, but I do like to see fantasy tropes subverted.
Path2pub: What are some books you think everyone should read?
LB: There is a great one called Wonderbook, which is all about writing fantasy and world-building. There is also the Heroine’s Journey by Gail Garriger, which examines the tropes around female characters and how they differ from male. For fiction books, some of my favourites are the Expanse series, Discworld, anything by Neil Gaiman or Becky Chambers and T.J. Klune. Most recently, Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree just made me so warm and happy!
Path2pub: If a writer could write a book specifically for you, what would you want it to be about?
LB: Oh, I have far too many. I’d love to see more feminist myth retellings, or queer romance stories. Right now, the book I really want is sort of a cosy sci-fi, like Legends and Lattes but in space. Give me a retired space adventurer setting up a crazy alien orphanage or something!
Path2pub: Those sound amazing! What advice do you have for querying writers?
LB: Don’t be discouraged, but think critically. If you’re getting lots of form rejections and no-responses, look closely at your query and sample, and seek out ways to have them critiqued. There might be something simple that’s getting you overlooked. It could be word-count, it could be the way you’ve described your genres.
Path2pub: What are your non-publishing related hobbies?
LB: Right now… very little! I have a tiny terror that’s just starting to walk. Pre-baby times, I played a lot of video games, board games, tabletop RPGs, and LARP.
Thank you for stopping by and for an insightful interview, Laura!
Laura is part of the team at the Liverpool Literary Agency. She has been a teacher, a teaching assistant, and has both a BA and an MA in creative writing. She believes passionately in bringing a wide diversity of voices to speculative fiction. You can check her submissions guidelines here.
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