Meet the Agents: An Interview with Davinia Andrew-LynchHarry Bingham
This is an interview with literary agent Davinia Andrew Lynch. Davinia was previously an associate agent at a highly reputable film and television agency, and worked simultaneously as a freelance children’s fiction editor and reader for various publishers, literary agencies, consultancies and scouts. You can find Davinia’s Twitter feed here, the Andlyn Agency page here and of course her Agent Hunter page here.
What would you love to see at the moment?
The UKYA scene is exciting at the moment; I’m loving that women’s and LGBT issues are more often being discussed in open and compelling ways, and within all types of genre. I really hope this continues. When it comes to diversity across the board however, there is definitely still room for improvement.
I want to see more protagonists from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, main characters with different disabilities, more working class heroes. And, I want to see them outside their stereotypical setting. Push the boundaries of what may be expected of them and their stories. Recognise their cultural influences, yes, but let them be a part of a much bigger picture. I would love, for example, to see a black female protagonist at the heart of a horror or thriller (do remember though I’m open to all genres – I do need to sleep at night!).
I believe, there is room in the current commercial market for these types of characters. A brilliant story with captivating characters will always demand to be read.
Within the middle grade arena, anything that suggests epic adventure makes me go slightly giddy at the knees! I’m also partial to a bit of magical realism. A good, moving family drama for younger children is also a winner, but it can be difficult to achieve originality – so if you think you’ve got something that hits the mark, it will catch my eye.
In terms of picture books, my tastes are eclectic. I am, however, mainly looking for author-illustrators and if you solely write picture book texts I am unlikely to offer representation. This also refers to illustrators who do not have long term plans to write children’s books.
A quick list of novels loved in recent years:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (Laini Taylor)
Throne of Glass series (Sarah J. Maas)
Panther (David Owens)
Oi Frog! (Kes Grey, Jim Field)
Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit Book Burglar (Emma McKenzie)
Tinder (Sally Gardner, David Roberts)
Fire Girl (Matt Ralphs)
What would your top tips be for anyone who wanted to submit work to you?
Apart from following the submissions guidelines on the Andlyn website (because really, it’s amazing how many people don’t!), I’d say keep an eye on the Andlyn Twitter account (@andlynlit) and blog; this will have updates of news and the agency submissions ‘wishlist’. There’s also my personal twitter: @nocturnalreader which has my general musings and may give you some extra tips!
Also make sure, when submitting, you have a completed novel. It’s rather frustrating when someone sends the first three chapters and can’t follow up with a full manuscript upon request. Saying that you can get it finished within the week also does not bode well…
What’s the best thing about being an agent?
Championing creativity is incredibly rewarding; to have other’s share in your appreciation of a clients’ skill and therefore see them achieve success is a thrill.
Negotiating is fun – I think I’m always fair, but am more than prepared to stand my ground when it comes to getting the best deal for my client.
Working through various edits to get a manuscript right is also satisfying. I don’t want to take short cuts, and as an agent I want to make sure that I’m giving my clients the best chance of recognition from the relevant creative industries. At this point, it’s also about working as a team and it’s a really great way of getting to know the author.
Last, but certainly not least, I love discovering new talent!
I was formerly an associate film/TV agent, and a freelance children’s fiction editor; setting up Andlyn was my chance to incorporate my favourite elements of each of those roles.
Are there any genres within children’s/YA that you’re not interested in?
For the time-being, Paranormal Romance and Dystopia are not my priority. To note: I am not saying that romance within in a story will effect immediate dismissal, but if it is the driving narrative factor within a paranormal setting, then I am not the right agent.
I just feel that these areas of the market are over saturated and, frankly, I am dystopically-para-romanced out!
What was your favourite book as a child?
I’m going to take liberties with this answer because it depends on what age I was. So here are some of my favourites:
Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? – Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams and William Nicholson
Tales from Puddle Lane series – Sheila McCullagh
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / The Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
The Bartimaeus Trilogy – Jonathan Stroud
Q. What’s your favourite book you’ve read recently? It doesn’t need to be a children’s/YA!
Stonebird, Mike Revell’s debut novel. It’s brilliant – funny, so moving and magical. Seriously good storytelling. I can’t wait for his next!
What’s your biggest turn-off in a covering letter? What would you really hope to see?
Starting with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ can be annoying; I think you’ll find this applies to quite a few agents. It is common courtesy to put a little effort into doing some research about the agencies to whom you’re applying – I’m the only agent at Andlyn so I’ll be reading the submissions. At larger agencies, seek out the agent to whom you think your material would be best suited, and address it to them.
Also, I think verbose and bombastic letters can be a little trying.
What I’m looking for is a succinct cover letter with a short (around 100 words) paragraph about yourself, a logline (a two line summation of your story; including tone, genre, target market etc…) and a word count. If you’ve been previously published, that can be good to know. If you’ve self-published with a certain amount of industry recognition, it can be also useful to know the details of that. Within all this, an injection of personality helps!
I know that letter specifications are subjective but there are universal conventions which should be adhered to – so use them, at least!
What’s your balance between YA and Children’s?
I’d like there to be a fairly even distribution between PB, MG and YA authors but as I’m very much at the beginning of building my list there will no doubt be fluctuations in that balance.
Do you accept Nonfiction YA and Children’s and if so, what is of most interest to you?
Certainly, I’d be happy to look at non-fiction submissions but it isn’t an area I’m actively looking to develop at the moment. I’d say ‘lifestyle’ books would be of most interest though.
Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I love anything which is ‘Victoriana’ i.e. botanical gardens, exploration, conservatories or inventions. Heath Robinson illustrations and Steampunk rather float my boat and I have a weird obsession with terraniums. A book which includes any one of these will automatically set my heart a flutter. But, if someone found a way to combine these elements in some brilliantly mad-cap way – well… wow!
Would you take on an author who had self-published? What kind of self-pub sales would make you sit up?
Yes. But, although sales are important, they wouldn’t necessarily determine my offer of representation.
Do you look for social media and online presence? Do you care?
Naturally, if I’m considering taking on a writer or illustrator I will do my research. If someone is online then you can learn a lot about them and this could help determine whether I offer representation or not.
However, an inactive social media presence or even an aversion to social media, has no bearing on the strength of their manuscript.
In terms of self-promotion, a social media presence can be both a help and a hindrance. One can sometimes find an issue of, ahem, oversharing…
When people are pitching the concept for a book to you, what do you find is the most common failing?
Comparisons can be helpful:
‘The novel is [book one] meets [book two]’ = intriguing.
‘My book is [such and such] but better.’= Lazy and slightly complacent.
Especially in terms of face to face pitching, I do sympathise with the author’s situation. They are under pressure to sell their book in a way that is favourable to the agent, but, what is amenable to one individual may be intractable to another. I try to give all submissions equal consideration, but the level of enthusiasm and confidence from the author will always be a contributing factor.
Q: Which 3 famous people (alive or deceased) would you invite to a dinner party and why?
George Gershwin (composer), Jane Goldman (writer extraordinaire) and Pam Grier (actress). They are some of my favourite creative individuals, and they represent my various interests at different time of my life. They’d also provide fantastic conversation methinks!