Meet the agents: Lisa Eveleigh

We’re interviewing Lisa Eveleigh, founder of and primary agent at The Richford Becklow Agency. Lisa studied literature and after graduating, Lisa worked at the BBC. Her publishing career took off in 1986, when she joined A.P. Watt Ltd., the world’s oldest literary agency. She was the first agent to recognise the talent of authors Helen Dunmore, Philip Kerr and Joseph O’Connor.

Richford Becklow are actively looking to take on new authors and encourage and represent a range of writing talent. They’re open to reading well-crafted and thoughtful writing in all genres.

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

I joined A P Watt in 1986 from the BBC, where I was a researcher at Radio 4, haunting the books cupboard. We frequently had authors as guests on my programme and I became fascinated by their relationships with their agents.

What sort of books do you love?

I’m frequently asked this, so I put a comprehensive list of authors I admire on my site, The Richford Becklow Agency.

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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?

Yes, perhaps half a dozen times. It’s a thrilling feeling. In each case it was the perfectly balanced blend of style, tone, intention and execution.

What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?

Receiving them during the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs, and calling them ‘query’ letters, which is a ghastly term.

Are you most drawn to beautiful writing? Or a wonderful plot? Or a stunning premise? Or what?

All the above at one time or another, and I love gentle humour, as well.

Tell us how you like writers to submit work to you. And how you’d like them not to submit work.

I only accept email submissions, and for novels I ask for the first three chapters and a synopsis. For non-fiction I like to see a comprehensive chapter breakdown as well as chapters and synopsis.

Where do most of your authors come from? The slushpile? Personal recommendation?

75% are unsolicited but nevertheless welcome, 25% is via personal recommendation. I also look for authors for specific projects.

Do you need good personal chemistry with your authors?

It’s essential.

Do you get involved in shaping an author’s career?

Yes, if appropriate. Some authors don’t welcome this, others are delighted to share the process.

If you had one bit of advice to give to new writers, what would it be?

Put your novel away for at least two weeks when you’ve finished a first draft. Then read it aloud to yourself, and submit it only if you’re satisfied that it is the best book it can possibly be.

Have you enjoyed reading more since becoming an agent? Or are there times it feels like a chore?

I read as widely and eclectically as I always have. Reading manuscripts is never a chore as I’m always optimistic when I open an email. However, the cumulative effect of a series of poor scripts can produce slight ‘manuscript fatigue’. The remedy is to re-read an old favourite immediately.

Do you like your authors to tweet or blog … or do you really not care?

I’m impressed when I read a thoughtful blog by a writer and social networking is increasingly important to the marketing process. Twitter is also great fun, and new writers can learn a lot from the publishers, authors and agents who tweet. I have lists of authors and publishers I follow and you are welcome to use them. (I’m @richfordbabe.)

Which is most important: the editor, the publisher or the advance?

The right editor will offer a reasonable advance, work effectively and sensitively with the author to enhance the book, and cheerlead and campaign for both author and book within the publishing house.

If you weren’t an agent, what else would you be?

Hmmm. Perhaps a chef? I love the creativity and alchemy of cooking.

Do you secretly have a book in you? And if so, tell us more…

I do, and it’s not a secret. In my spare time I’ve been researching a biography of a nineteenth century social and political hostess.

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