Monday, April 3, 2017

Ask the Industry Expert: Literary Agent, Jo Bell

March saw hundreds of publishers and agents take part in London Book Fair, and this month we're delighted to welcome literary agent Jo Bell to the RNA blog. Amongst other things, Jo will be chatting to Helena Fairfax about her experiences at LBF.
Welcome to the blog, Jo, and thanks for dropping in!

Please tell us a little about the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency, how long it’s been established, and how you became involved in setting it up.
Family is very much at the heart of the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency. My parents, Eddie and June Bell founded the agency in 2000, a natural transition following Eddie’s highly successful career in publishing as Chairman and CEO of HarperCollins publishers.  Today the agency is run by Paul Moreton, my brother-in-law, who also comes from a strong publishing background as head of Children’s Sales at Penguin Books.  After years of learning my trade, from gate-crashing author dinner parties at home, being a sales rep in central London, working at HarperCollins as Children’s Sales Director and UK Sales Director for Parragon Books, the call of agency life led me to join the family business in early 2016. 

What genres do you represent?
At the Bell Lomax Moreton Agency we are encouraged to work on passion projects, authors that we enjoy reading, talking about and spending time with.  For me this covers many genres from contemporary romance, women’s fiction, crime, thrillers & suspense, and humour.  I also love a strong inspirational voice with a passionate story to tell, whether that be a real life story or one in a fictional setting.

What is it you are looking for when a manuscript lands on your desk? Are there any specific plots or themes you’d like to see?
When I’m reading a manuscript, it’s the whole package that I’m interested in.  Firstly, I’m keen to grasp an understanding of who the author is, then I’ve got to be instantly intrigued by the idea or story, and finally I’ve got to enjoy the writing, not just from the beginning of the story but right through until the final word. 

Do you ever find authors outside the slush pile? If so, how?
Yes, we do!  We often read and attend creative writing course anthology launches and prizes.  It’s a great way to meet new authors and get a sneak peek at their work too.

You attended the London Book Fair this month. What was your role at the Book Fair and how important is this event for you and your agency?
All our agents at the agency attend the London Book Fair. We talk to editors about our authors, sell their stories and continue to build relationships with publishers.  Attending fairs is a great way to showcase the authors we represent. It is one of the many important roles within agency life.

What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Sell yourself as an author, pinpoint your story’s heart concisely, and ensure your cover letter/email is the shop window to your writing.

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
The Thorn Birds by Collen McCullough. I read it again recently and got totally lost in the forbidden love story and the vast sweeping landscape of the Australian setting.

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most in the past twelve months, and why?
The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani.  I know this book has been published for a few years now, but I only managed to read it towards the end of last year and I devoured it!  Adriana Trigiani’s writing just makes my heart happy and sometimes that, to me, is what reading is all about.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love spending time with family and friends, pretending to be a runner and walking our standard schnauzer Reggie (you never quite know what he’ll get up to next!).

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
An inspiring adventure!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Jo, and for your thoughtful answers.(We love your dog's name!)
If you've enjoyed Jo's interview, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!

Helena Fairfax is a romance author and editor. Her novels have been shortlisted for The Exeter Novel Prize,the Global Ebook Awards and the I Heart Indie Awards. You can find out more about Helena's books and editing services on her website


Thank you, Helena and Jo, for a most interesting interview.

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Elaine Everest said...

Thank you Jo and Helena for a very informative interview.

Rosie Dean Musings said...

Great interview. I love The Thornbirds too. Now I'll have to check out The Supreme Macaroni Company!