Book Broker – An interview with Andrew Lownie

Interview with literary agent Andrew Lownie on how to query nonfiction manuscripts and biographies

Agent: Andrew Lownie


Preferred genres:  Biography, history, memoir, politics.

Bio: Andrew Lownie is a former director of Curtis Brown and has run his own agency since 1988. A former Cambridge history fellow, he is president of the Biographers’ Club and the author of lives of the writer John Buchan, the spy Guy Burgess, and a forthcoming dual study of Lord and Lady Mountbatten.

1) What stands out to you in a good submission?

A proposal written in the format I request which shows that the book is commercial, is a new contribution to the subject, is well written, and that the author has a strong platform.

2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?

Sending genres I don’t handle, not customising the submission to the agency, poor grammar and spelling, and clearly sending to lots of other agents.

3) What's a typical early warning sign that a manuscript isn't structurally sound? 

The chapter synopses in the proposal.

4) Are you currently open to submissions?

Yes but just in non-fiction.

5) Is there anything in particular you are looking for right now?

History, memoir, and biography with international, film, and serial appeal.

6) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?

Don’t submit too early, spend time on creating a good proposal in my format with chapter synopses, ideally finish the book before submitting, and research the commercial market for your subject area.

7) What do you love most about being an agent?

I love the authors, that every email has the possibility of opening a new world and being a bestseller which can change the life of the author, and that books do make a difference. 

8) What do you find the most challenging?

The number of emails and editors who don’t respond or share my enthusiasm for a book.

9) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?

Jeremy Dronfield who also reads for the agency. A Cambridge Ph.D., he is an accomplished novelist, ghostwriter, and historian. After several books which performed well, his latest, The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz, has been sold in fourteen countries and went to number one on Amazon.

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