Meet the agents: David Haviland

David is a literary agent at the The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. He is also a writer, editor, and ghostwriter, with a number of bestselling books to his name. Andrew Lownie, founded in 1988, is now one of the UK’s leading boutique literary agencies with some two hundred non-fiction and fiction authors.

When did you come into agenting? What did you do before? And why agenting?

I’ve worked with the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency for nine years in a variety of roles, before taking on authors myself as an agent. In that time, I was ghostwriting, editing, developing proposals, as well as writing my own books, so it was really a natural progression to taking on authors myself.

What sort of books do you love?

I love stories that are dramatic and surprising, with intriguing and appealing characters, that try to address interesting, troubling question in the real world. I love crime novels and thrillers, but I find it frustrating when many of these books are purely mechanical and plot-driven, without any emotional or thematic tension.

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Have you ever opened a new manuscript, read a single page, and thought ‘I’m going to end up making an offer on this’? What was it about that page which excited you?

No, because being able to write terrific prose is only one of the skills I’m looking for. Lots of writers can write good prose, and can craft a scene, with good dialogue, and so on. However, crafting an effective, novel-length narrative is a quite different skill, and arguably more difficult.

What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?

I’m not very keen on empty boasts. Occasionally I receive cover letters in which unpublished authors tell me that they’re the new F. Scott Fitzgerald or Kerouac, and I’m afraid the impression it creates is that they’re a bit deluded.

What Unique Selling Points do you have as an agent or agency?

The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and has grown to become one of the UK’s leading non-fiction agencies, with authors in the bestseller lists every week, and placing over fifty books a year with UK publishers, quite apart from foreign rights and film deals. Now it hopes to do the same with fiction.

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