Agent Q&A with Laura Macdougall

For our inaugural #UAqna, we handed the helm of the @UA_Books twitter feed to Laura Macdougall for a live twitter Q&A. For those who weren't able to tune in live, here are all the questions that Laura answered. You'll be able to follow news of upcoming Q&As and submit questions of your own using the twitter hashtag #UAqna - we'll be putting a different agent in the hotseat each time.


Q: Hello, I would be ever so grateful for any tips you have for writing a synopsis. #UAqna — @SiriEllis

A: I know that writing a synopsis can often be the hardest part of a submission! Try and keep it to no more than one page and make sure you outline your main characters and the important plot points, but ideally in an interesting way so that I want to read more! #UAqna LM



Q: #UAqna I'm interested to know whether a novel that features a heroin addict as a central character would be off putting to agents, albeit a sympathetic portrayal of someone who is trying to pull his life together — @MarianDillon17

A: I don't think it would be off-putting at all. There are many published novels featuring much more unsavoury characters! It will depend on your portrayal of this person, as well as the execution of your story. #UAqna LM



Q: #UAqna Hi, sorry to ask such a selfish question, but are there any agents at UA who are interested in romantic fiction? From the website I couldn't tell. Thanks for your time. — @ChristinaPi

A: There are no selfish questions; we're open to everything! And yes, we're interested in all genres, but for romance I would say myself and perhaps @AriellaFeiner. But please only submit to one agent here at a time. #UAqna LM



Q: What was it about the ms from @ruthmariehogan #thekeeperoflostthings that first told you it was something special? #UAqna — @SandraJDaniels

A: This is an easy one! It was the opening paragraph. I defy anyone who reads the opening lines of @ruthmariehogan's #KeeperOfLostThings not to want to read on. You just know something magical is going to happen and you feel in the hands of a master storyteller. #UAqna LM



Q: What is most important to you... An author's voice or the plot? Do both have to be right for you to consider working with an author? #UAqna — @AndreaMHutchins

A: Personally, I would say the voice is the most important, as it's so subjective. Plot can be worked on in editing but an author's voice evokes a very personal response and is specific to them and almost impossible to change! So no, both don't have to be right. I have taken on authors where we've completely overhauled the book in edits and rewritten the plot. I've taken them on because there's something special about the voice that makes me want to keep reading #UAqna LM



Q: What would you love to see in your inbox? #UAqna — @AndreaMHutchins

A: Right at this moment I'm looking for: an epic love story; crime fiction; sagas; 'up-lit' (think #KeeperOfLostThings or #EleanorOliphant); true crime; witty commercial fiction with a different take on modern life; humorous, illustrated non-fiction. #UAqna LM



Q: How did you feel when you negotiated an eye-watering six figure deal for @Joe_Heap_ for #therulesofseeing #UAqna — @SandraJDaniels

A: One of the best parts of this job is securing a deal for a debut author. If the advance happens to have a few more zeros on the end, then that's a bonus! I just felt delighted for @Joe_Heap_ and excited that his characters had found such a good home @HarperFiction #UAqna LM



Q: Oh hi! What catches your eye in a cover letter, and what’s the best one you’ve received? #UAqna — @Joe_Heap_

A: The best cover letter I've received would have to be @ruthmariehogan's for #KeeperOfLostThings. It was polite but also funny, quirky and entertaining - much like the woman herself - and really showed she'd thought about how to introduce herself and her book. #UAqna LM



Q: In order to snag an agent, I keep hearing how important character voice is, especially on the first page. Can you show me an example of great voice on page 1? Can you have great voice and start in the 'action'? Getting different advice about that. Thanks! #UAqna — @JillMjjillian

A: I will refer you to #KeeperOfLostThings and another book I represent, #TheWickedCometh, which is out next week. They're very different books, and voices, but both powerful in their own way from the opening sentence. #UAqna LM



Q: What is your definition of “voice” and what gets you excited about voice when you read sample pages? #UAqna — @SpyWriter01

A: Voice is what makes a writer unique. It's their own distinctive character and how they express it. I think all readers know from the opening of a book whether it will be something really special that they will love or something they just appreciate but don't fall for #UAqna LM



Q: #UAqna what do you look for in intern and assistant applications? — @polesofie

A: I personally can't speak to specifics and qualifications, but most important - of course! - is someone passionate about books, who reads widely and is able to think critically about what makes books successful and what readers are looking for (or might be looking for) #UAqna LM



Q: Hi Laura, what role do you think writing competitions can play in opening up opportunities for writers starting out? Thanks #UAqna — @HPersaud

A: They can be useful as some can bring you to the attention of agents, but if you really want to find an agent for your novel or non-fiction, work out how to best use your time - it might be better to keep editing and honing your work, or revise your submission letter #UAqna LM



Q: How important do you think is being social media savvy for today's author's? Especially debut authors? #UAqna — @AndreaMHutchins

A: If it comes naturally to an author, it can be a huge bonus - a lot of discovery of new books and writers takes place online. But I don't think an author should ever be obligated to have a social media account. #UAqna LM



Q: What's your advice for a newbie writer dealing with chronic pains? Disclose in the cover letter or mention it later? Would it hurt chances of getting an agent? #UAqna — @Endalia

A: If that does influence a potential agent then they're probably not right for you! It should be all about the writing and whether that speaks to the agent. At some point it will have to be discussed so I personally would say it's best to be honest from the start. #UAqna LM

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