This month saw the exciting opening of the Liverpool Literary Agency (LLA) – the first of its kind in Liverpool. The development represents a promising move towards achieving more regional and social diversity in publishing.
There are comparatively fewer literary agencies based in the North of England than the South, which exacerbates the difficulties already faced by Northern writers in being distanced from the busiest area of UK publishing. The arrival of the agency is therefore particularly encouraging news for Northern writing, especially as the LLA has expressed a focus on promoting Northern – and particularly Liverpudlian – voices.
The team hope to help link their clients to the ‘Big Five’ publishers, combating some of the main challenges facing authors in today’s publishing world, as co-founder Clare Coombes explained to The Bookseller this month:
"We started as an editing company with a diverse list of clients comprising accountants, taxi drivers, sport scientists, NHS workers and hospitality sector workers, alongside more experienced writers with qualifications in Creative Writing or other literature-based subjects. They all had one thing in common – the publishing industry seemed inaccessible, London-centric and intimidating.”
By providing opportunities for writers to form contacts and access editing support, this development will hopefully help to facilitate a rise in Northern literature across the publishing industry.
A further challenge for many writers is the fact that publishing services can be very expensive, eliminating opportunities for those from less-privileged backgrounds. Coombes notes that reducing this barrier is a key focus for the agency, which has pledged to represent Northern writers from underrepresented backgrounds:
“We are inspired by a recent report, Common People: Breaking the Class Ceiling in UK Publishing, which confirmed our belief that many promising authors see their careers stall in the face of limiting barriers, including “a lack of support networks and contacts, lower levels of self-confidence and the publishing industry’s lack of social diversity.”’
In light of this, the LLA offers not only a path to a publishing deal, but also support that will “go beyond editing.” This includes a mentorship package which, as their website explains, “covers mentoring of a full novel from the first chapter onwards; story, structure and shaping edits, through to courses, masterclasses and workshops.” These services will be of particular use to writers who are just beginning their books or those who are planning to self-publish, instead of taking the route of traditional publishing. The variety of support available is encouraging and promises to help foster an exciting variety of books and writing.
The LLA is the most recent of several major developments in Northern publishing, with HarperNorth, the newly launched division of HarperCollins, having opened in Manchester earlier in the summer. The two businesses seem likely to work closely together, especially due to their neighbouring locations. HarperNorth’s publishing director, Genevieve Pegg, acknowledged the relationship in an interview earlier this month:
The agency has also been involved with local literary events and festivals. A particularly important connection is its partnership with the Liverpool-based writing and literature organisation Writing on the Wall, which “promotes and supports equality, diversity and inclusion.” Part of the LLA’s role will be offering professional support to new writers and supporting ventures like writing competitions and the creation of anthologies. The team recently thanked the organisation for its support through their social media channel, stating:
Additionally, the LLA has also been actively involved in sharing resources and tips for authors on how to enter the industry. Co-founder Clare Coombes participated in a recent ‘meet the agent’ panel hosted by Comma Press, as part of the National Creative Writing Industry Conference. The panel covered the process of submissions, how work is accepted or rejected and how authors can contact agencies. Sharing this information helps to further “de-mystify” the industry, reflecting the agency’s goal to make publishing more diverse and accessible.
Despite only recently opening its doors, the LLA has already signed its first authors, including debut author Jacob Riley. The LLA team shared the news on their official Twitter account, describing Riley’s novel as "[a] beautiful written allegorical story of youth activism – challenging poverty, prejudice & militant religion.”
We look forward to seeing how the agency develops and discovers an exciting range of new Northern voices!