Literary Agent

Jessica Leeke

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What I'm Looking For

Book club fiction that ignites conversation; unique voices; novels with a razor-sharp pitch; ideas based on a true story; cloistered settings; twists; strong characters and unforgettable settings; books with an emotional punch.

Submissions

As a former publisher, you’d think I’d know specifically what I’m looking for, but experience has taught me there is nothing more exciting than the novel we don’t see coming.

I want to help a story find its widest possible audience, but breadth of appeal doesn’t always mean a book has to please everyone. Sometimes it’s the novel that divides the room that has the biggest impact.

When it comes to book club fiction, I love novels that ignite conversation, a standout voice I’ve never heard before, an elevator pitch that’s so neat and tidy I can tie it in a bow and present it in the palm of one hand. ‘A cloistered setting’, ‘inspired by a true story’ or ‘small town drama’ will always see me sit upright at my desk. Whether it’s a contemporary novel that demonstrably speaks to the issues of the day – be they relatable or perspective shifting – or an historical novel that can inspire a creative Marketing team to bring it to life beyond the page, I’m excited. General fiction with a nod to genre – a crime but not a crime novel, a love story but not a romance, a thrilling plot but not a thriller – are also most welcome. And a deceptively straightforward novel with a single, spectacular twist is for me.

My taste and experience also runs upmarket where I’m drawn to character and setting. I love voices that span decades and continents and fiction that demonstrates the power of acute observation to skewer a certain age and stage. While I enjoy working on buzzy, breakout books, I love reading slower more intimate fiction and I am here to champion quality writing with a writer’s longer term career in mind.

I’m also seeking upmarket comfort reading with heart and humour – bittersweet, eccentric, witty – especially with a domestic setting and an ensemble cast.

Favourite examples of the above include:

HEARTBURN  by Norah Ephron for its humour

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler for that twist on page 77

THE APPEAL by Janice Hallett for its ensemble cast

TOMORROW AND TOMORROW AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin for its tone

FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters for its plot

FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser Akner for its social comedy

SMALL PLEASURES by Clare Chambers for the true story that inspired it

STANDARD DEVIATION by Katherine Heiny for its wit

BROTHER OF THE MORE FAMOUS JACK by Barbara Trapido for its heart

WATERLAND by Graham Swift for its setting

SORROW AND BLISS by Meg Mason for its observation

SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn for its mood

HAPPY ALL THE TIME by Laurie Colwin for its charactersation

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON by Sara Collins for its voice

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett for its exploration of identity

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus for its relevance

TOM LAKE by Ann Patchett for its form

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