As someone whose fiction has been represented by two different literary agents (the first ran her own small UK agency and the second is a director at a big London agency), I know just how important it is to have the right person out there championing your work.
The mistake I made was assuming (oh, the naivety!) that once you were signed by an agent, that was it: you’d made it. Publication was only a hop, skip and a bottle of bubbly away.
Unfortunately, as the polite rejections started to filter through from publishers, it began to dawn on me: it is most definitely not a done deal just because you have an agent.
I did a bit of research and read that, on average, agents generally place only three out of every five books they send out. Of course, it’s impossible to know if this figure is correct, and naturally the success rate differs for every agent.
But one thing I know for sure: literary agents don’t place all books they represent.
And some agents move on very quickly.
Anyway, having gone through the full literary grief cycle with two agents, I swore off the whole concept of representation.
But then earlier this year, prompted by a fellow writer, I decided to revive this blog.
I began interviewing successful authors again.
And something became clear to me: there are extraordinary literary agents out there who are passionate about their writers’ work, tenacious in their submissions to publishers and who, ultimately, keep going until they make their clients’ dreams come true.
I have either had good experiences personally with the agents listed in this post, or writers have spoken very highly of them to me.
Marianne Gunn O’Connor
Marianne Gunn O’Connor is a superstar of the Irish literary world. Given her legendary status, I was surprised that she is one of the most responsive agents I’ve come across.
I submitted the first three chapters of my novel to her earlier this year. A lovely representative from her submissions office replied within a few days and said that Marianne wanted to see the full manuscript.
Marianne got a few readers to take a look at the full MS before reading it herself. Ultimately, she got back to me saying she was going to pass on the novel, but she gave me really useful feedback as to why, and a finishing line that buoyed my spirits: “This was close!”
(This is now printed out and stuck on my office wall!)
If you’re interested in finding out more about Marianne, I highly recommend reading this interview with her on writing.ie: Literary Super Agent: Marianne Gunn O’Connor – Writing.ie
Marianne’s client roster is dazzling. In fact, she has helped a significant proportion of the authors featured on this blog get their first book deals.
Read more about their experiences with literary powerhouse Marianne here:
- Shane Hegarty, the former arts editor of The Irish Times, made headlines in 2013 when he signed a substantial six-figure four-book deal with HarperCollins for his Darkmouth series of children’s fantasy books
- Marianne appointed an editor to help Liz Nugent work on the ending of Unravelling Oliver; Marianne went on to secured Liz a book deal with Penguin Ireland
- RTÉ journalist Kathleen MacMahon landed a large six-figure deal in 2011
Some of Marianne’s recent success stories include Joseph Murray (Fling) and Disha Bose (Dirty Laundry).
Find out here how Marianne helped The Graces author Siobhan MacGowan, even though she wasn’t representing Siobhan.
You can find Marianne’s submission guidelines here.
Years ago, I met the literary agent Faith O’Grady at a gorgeous Big House writing retreat in Limerick that I was reporting on (A perfect place to write – The Irish Times).
I was struck at the time how lovely and approachable she was. After she spoke to the writers at the retreat, she was kind enough to share some tips with me about how to make sure your submission stands out from the crowd: 6 Ways to Annoy an Agent – myfirstbookdeal
Faith works for the Lisa Richards Agency and has an impressive client list including: Paul Howard/Ross O’Carroll Kelly, Amy Huberman, Christine Dwyer-Hickey, Arlene Hunt and Michelle McDonagh.
Faith’s submission guidelines are available here.
Last summer, I was interviewing an author for a newspaper feature. As we were wrapping up the interview, we got chatting about the trials and tribulations of getting a good agent.
The author mentioned that she had a new agent – Paul Feldstein of the Feldstein Agency – and that she had, in fact, turned down a highly-regarded (but condescending) London agent in favour of Paul, because she clicked with him and loved his attitude towards her writing.
The word on the ground is that Paul is far more responsive to his clients than a lot of agents. Once he signs a writer, he’s all in.
Paul runs the Feldstein Agency with his wife Susan. They accept adult fiction (excluding romance, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and adult non-fiction).
Paul’s clients include Carmel McMahon and Belfast solicitor Paul Tweed. Read my Irish Times interview with Paul Tweed about defending Hollywood’s A-list here.
The Feldstein Agency’s submissions guidelines can be found here.
Since becoming an agent, she has signed up a host of exceptionally talented female Irish writers, such as:
Sara also represents:
- Sinead Crowley (interview with Sinead coming to the blog soon!)
- Catherine Ryan Howard (interview with Catherine coming in August!)
There’s a great interview with Sara on www.writing.ie for anyone who’d like to find out more about her.
Up until late June 2023, Sara was accepting submissions through Querymanager.
However her profile has now been updated to say that she is not accepting queries at this time:
My list is very full at present and so I’m currently closed to queries. I intend to open up to new queries in September. If you have already sent me a query, fear not, I am working my way through my present reading list.
I’ll update this post once she reopens for queries.
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to interview Dublin-born Ivan Mulcahy about his extraordinary career, from his hugely successful time at news agency Reuters to setting up Mulcahy Associates literary agency (now known as MMB Creative).
He was lovely from start to finish, a genuinely interesting person with a love of literature that shines through.
Ivan has recently been writing a fascinating blog for writers about how book publishing works. You can find it here.
Irish authors he represents include Irish Times contributor Miriam Mulcahy (no relation to Ivan) whose book This is My Sea is being published in August 2023 by new Irish publisher Eriu (part of Bonnier Books UK).
We’ll be posting an interview with Miriam soon, so watch this space!
Sallyanne grew up in Dublin and studied English at Trinity College before completing an MPhil in American Literature at Queens’ College, Cambridge
She represents a number of Irish authors including Sarah Davis-Goff and Service author Sarah Gilmartin.
Read how Sallyanne landed a book deal for Sarah Gilmartin here.
According to the MMB site, Sallyanne enjoys both working with debuts and established authors. Her fiction tastes are wide-ranging, from the literary to the very commercial. She will: “fight to champion anything that makes her laugh or cry (preferably both)”.
Sallyanne is also interested in memoirs, food writing and thought-provoking non-fiction.
It’s worth noting that MMB’s submission process is a little different to most other agencies. Full details are available on their ‘Book Submissions’ page.
There’s an excellent interview with Sallyanne by Lucy Callaghan on writing.ie. According to the interview, both Sallyanne and Ivan Mulcahy (above) are particularly interested in receiving submissions from Ireland.
In all my dealings with Gráinne Fox (and I have sent her several manuscripts over the years – sorry, Gráinne, for adding to your reading pile!), she has always been really lovely and responsive.
She’s originally from Dublin but now lives in New York working as a literary agent for Fletcher & Co (which has been taken over by United Talent Agency).
On the Fletcher site, Gráinne says she’s “passionate about Irish writing, and always keen to read more”.
In terms of Irish clients, she represents One Dublin One Book author Nuala O’Connor.
She also reps Lauren McKenzie whose first novel The Couples was launched in July 2023.
Here’s what Lauren said in her interview with us about the important role Gráinne has played in her writing career:
Grainne is a wonderful agent, so experienced, so astute and completely upfront. She edited the book with me before we sent it out on submission and she’s kept me fully informed along the way. It’s a working relationship that’s hugely important to me.
Charleen Hurtubise, whose debut The Polite Act of Drowning was recently published by Eriu, is also on Gráinne’s client list.
In her interview with us, Charleen had high praise for Gráinne:
Gráinne knows the industry, she is level-headed, and without a doubt I trust her. She helps me make sense of the complicated world that is publishing, grounds me with solid advice, and keeps me focused on the goals worth striving towards.
Read the full interview with Charleen here.
Brian has over two decades’ experience in publishing, most recently as editor at Transworld/Doubleday Ireland (an imprint of Penguin Random House) where his authors included Donal Ryan, Hilary Fannin, Colm O’Regan and Conor O’Clery.
Brian comes highly recommended by Charleen Hurtubise (The Polite Act of Drowning). He did some early groundwork on her debut and she says he has a great editorial eye and is “an absolute gentleman!”.
Brian also runs popular writing courses in the Irish Writers Centre.
Nelle Andrew works at the Rachel Mills Literary (RML) agency in London. She was crowned Literary Agent of the Year in 2021 at the ‘Nibbies’ – the Bookseller Awards.
Nelle represents rising Irish star Aoife Fitzpatrick.
Aoife, whose debut novel The Red Bird Sings won the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, told us in a recent interview how much Nelle has helped her writing career:
Nelle encountered The Red Bird Sings while reading the submissions for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and when we first spoke, she understood the book so well, it was uncanny. I was lucky to be signed on a partial manuscript, meaning that I benefitted from Nelle’s support and insight for over a year before the book was submitted to publishers.
Read the full interview here to find out how Nelle secured Aoife’s first book deal.
The agency Nelle works at, RML, is particularly interested in female voices.
Nelle is open for submissions and is actively looking for exciting new voices regardless of what stage they’re at in their writing career.
More information on what Nelle is looking for can be found here.
His stable of writers includes several Irish authors such as Colm Toibín, Sinéad Gleeson and Una Mannion.
Sinead Gleeson had been the fiction judge in several of them and, unbeknownst to me, she sent my published stories to her agent Peter Straus.
I was in the middle of a Shakespeare class when I got an email from Sinead to call her straight away. Peter Straus wanted to talk to me. – Una Mannion
Read the full interview with Una to find out how that led to an offer an representation, and how having Peter on side “has been completely integral” to getting her novels published.
Full details on submissions to RCW agents are available here.
Literary agent Simon Trewin is the founder of the literary and media rights agency Simon Trewin Creative. Although London-based, Simon has a keen interest in Irish writers.
His client list includes Sam Blake (aka Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin), John Boyne and Paul Lynch.
In Sam Blake’s interview with us, she explained that she met Simon through her work as a literary scout. This encounter ultimately led to an offer of representation for her own novel:
Simon was one of the agents I’d initially met at an event and then started scouting for. In a chance conversation over coffee, I mentioned my writing (he hadn’t realised I was a writer too!) and he asked to see the book. Which was fabulous, but also terrifying
And this is how her first book deal came about, thanks to Simon:
Simon had lunch with Mark Smith (who had recently sold Quercus) and who was in the process of setting up a UK fiction wing for huge Swedish publisher Bonnier. Mark wanted to see what became Little Bones. They had lunch on Thursday and Mark offered a three-book deal on Friday morning!
For anyone who’d like to find out more about Simon, there’s a great piece on www.writing.ie with an audio recording of him talking with Sam Blake about how to approach agents and catch their eye.
Simon’s agency is currently open for submissions. According to their site (www.simontrewin.co.uk), they will contact you within two weeks of receiving your material if they are interested in taking it further.
They are not accepting submissions of poetry, children’s literature or fantasy at the moment.
This post was all about exceptional literary agents that every Irish writer should know about. However, it is not an exhaustive list by any means.
We would love to hear from other Irish authors who have had great experiences with their literary agents. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org