An Interview With… Amanda Preston

Hi everyone, and this morning I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Amanda Preston to the blog. Amanda co founded LBA Books with Luigi Bonomi in 2005. She was kind enough to answer some questions, particularly about that all important query letter.

Below the interview, you can find what she looks for in submissions.

Over to you Ananda…

1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans?

I always wanted to travel the world so when I left university, my first thought was to try and be a travel writer and work for the Lonely Planet. That way I could visit as many countries as possible and be paid for it too! I did work experience for the Lonely Planet and I quickly discovered that all their writers only wrote about countries or cities that they had lived in (at the time a writer had to have lived in the place for 10 years), so I had to rethink my career plans! By chance and by great luck, I did a temping job at a literary agency which resulted in getting a full time job there and I’ve never looked back. I’ve always been an avid reader and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to do a job which involves doing one of things I love most.

2) If you had to choose between literary and commercial, which would it be and why?

That’s a tough question. I’ll happily read literary or commercial (and a lot of books fall into that crossover bracket), as long as the storytelling is well-written and I’m hooked from the start.

3) What do you consider a standout query letter?

For me, it is when it is obvious the author clearly reads in the area they are writing in and is able to pitch their work in one or two lines – instantly telling me what the book is about while simultaneously grabbing my attention.

4) On the other hand, what wouldn’t attract you to a submission?

When an author is clearly dismissive of the area they are writing in and it is obvious that the author doesn’t actually enjoy reading in the area they are writing in

5) What are your views on the crime and thriller market currently? Do you feel that there is a sub genre in need of more representation?

The crime and thriller market is still a buoyant market in terms of sales (you only have to look at the Sunday Times bestseller fiction charts and the Amazon kindle top 100 charts to see this) and it is great to see more and more high-concept, clever debuts being bought (with a more diverse cast of characters and in less typically associated roles in this genre) but I would love to see more.

6) Do you have a genre that you read for pleasure?

I would happily immerse myself in any genre, as long as the book captivates me.

7) Is there any genre of book that you wouldn’t read?

No, I don’t think there is.  

8) What was the last book you read, that wasn’t one of your clients, and if so, did you enjoy it?

I’ve just read The Last by Hanna Jameson and really enjoyed it. Great concept, great writing and incredibly gripping.

9) Once you leave your desk for the day, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening, what do you do to relax?

To get home I have a 15 minute tube journey and a 15 minute walk from the station so I usually listen to a podcast. On Fridays, the general agreement in my household is that it is pizza and movie night and no work!

10) If you had a choice of Freddie Mercury or Rod Stewart, who would you choose and why?

Freddie Mercury. Whenever I hear one of his or Queen’s songs, I’m reminded of my mum.

Bio: I read English Literature and Latin at Manchester University. I have been an agent for over 20 years, first working at Sheil Land Associates, and then in 2005 I set up LBA with Luigi and I’m a director of the company. I run the Good Housekeeping Competition with GHK and Orion. In 2018, I won the RNA Literary Agent of the Year award.

What I Look For: I represent a wide range of authors, from award-winning debut novelists to popular fiction bestsellers and quality non-fiction. Whether commercial or literary, I like innovative and well-written storytelling, fantastic concepts and I want to be hooked from the start. Ultimately I’m looking for unforgettable books that demand to be talked about and shared, regardless of genre, and that I’m still thinking about days after finishing. I’m not looking for fantasy, science fiction, children’s fiction or poetry.

Thanks so much for visiting the blog Amanda. It has been a pleasure interviewing you.

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