List of UK sci-fi-friendly literary agents (and some pitching tips)

In the process of pitching my sci-fi book (a little more info on that here via Sheffield’s Writers Workshop) I’ve collated a shortlist of UK literary agents friendly to science fiction. I thought I’d share that here – if anyone knows of others not on this list, please let me know and I’ll add them (contact me via twitter or email: danolner at gmail dot com).

I used three sources. The first – the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook – you should get if you haven’t already. As well as an agency directory, it contains excellent how-to articles on publishing and drafting pitches (as well as plenty of info on self publishing). Second, Jericho Writers’ agent match database has a free trial – I nabbed a bunch of names from that before the trial ended. Searching for “science fiction” mainly brings up agents saying, “absolutely no science fiction”, but a few others remained! Last, I’ve picked up a few names from hanging round on publishing twitter.

As well as the Yearbook, there are many advice sources for prepping your pitch (again, Jericho Writers have a load of blog posts including a great one titled “how to get a literary agent“) and I’d also recommend booking an agent chat through Jericho’s 1-2-1 service, if it’s within your budget. It’s only 15 minutes, but you get to submit and then discuss an email pitch, synopsis and writing sample with an actual agent (and at the time of writing, there are three to four sci-fi friendly agents on there – Julie Crisp, Laura Bennett, Helen Lane and possibly Robbie Guillory, though I’ve left him off the list below). Sheffield’s own Writers’ Workshop also has several writers to book consultations with, if you want lengthier advice.

Here are the main things I’ve picked up while researching how to pitch. Rule number one: research the agent and the agency. Via the links below, check each agency’s submission guidelines – they all vary slightly. Make sure you do what they ask or you’ll get rejected before anyone reads a word of your pitch email. Then make sure you’ve read what each agent says they want and what their interests are, and write each pitch email accordingly (of course you’ll use bits repeatedly in different emails, but try and make each at least a little bit bespoke to show you know what that agent is looking for).

Sci-fi friendly agents range from those fully immersed in science fiction and fantasy to others looking for the next literary science fiction classic (who maybe wouldn’t be caught dead using the phrase “science fiction” but are happy to receive “speculative fiction”). Take note and pitch accordingly. Relatedly – I’ve not annotated this list by how much of a long shot any particular agent is. Again, read their blurb to get a sense of whether you feel comfortable pitching to them.

Getting picked up by an agent is hard – they have to believe in the commercial potential of your book, and believe they can convince a publisher it’s going to make money. (I’ve only had one manuscript request followed by rejection, so will likely be moving on to self-publishing later this year.) But there’s a tonne you can do to maximise your chances if you digest the wealth of information that’s out there (including while you’re writing – think about how much you want to shape your book along commercial lines versus purely writing the book you want to write).

I’ve read that if you’re not hearing back after 15 or so pitches, you probably need to take another look at the book. There are currently nineteen names here, so that’s a reasonable number to test that theory.

If you’re thinking about self-publishing – I’ve read several books on the topic, and the best one I’ve found so far is David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. It’s a fantastic practical guide to all the steps involved, as well as providing an overview of the self-publishing landscape and its pitfalls.

Anyway – the list, in alphabetical order (agent and name of agency, if they’re part of one). Note: some may be closed to submissions, either for certain times of the year or longer. They’ll say on their pages.