Director & Literary Agent

Madeleine Milburn

What I'm Looking For

Open to submissions from writers based in the UK and internationally, with strong ties in Canada and the US, and looking for upmarket and accessible literary fiction with a strong hook, compelling characters and propulsive storytelling. I’m looking to build on the crime and thriller side of my list with a big new suspense, and also looking for an epic multi-generational family drama, or a powerful love story with a mystery at its heart.


As an established literary agent, I’m drawn to smart, compelling storytelling and an irresistible protagonist, irrespective of genre. My taste spans literary and commercial, usually landing somewhere in the middle, the ‘sweet spot’ that appeals to a huge readership. A prime example of this is Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a story that transcends a typical genre and continues to be devoured by readers all over the world. I read across the spectrum and am struck by a distinctive voice or character, a story that explores universal themes with clever plotting, one that provokes a strong emotional reaction, and one that everyone wants to continue talking about long after the last page.

First off, I want to see an original, enticing hook that gets me excited, a character who draws me in immediately, and a distinctive narrative voice that feels effortless to read.  I’m currently on the hunt for a sophisticated thriller or suspense with a twist for fans of  Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, Jane Harper’s The Dry and Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa. I’d like to represent some more high concept thrillers in the vein of Adrian McKinty’s The Chain, and a new crime series that will appeal to fans of Lee Child.

I’m also keen to find more book club fiction, for instance I would have jumped on both Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry and Miranda Cowley Heller’s The Paper Palace. I’m excited to find a big, powerful love story with a mystery at its heart or an epic family saga that crosses generations, the kind of story that you would want to push into the hands of your mother, daughter, sister and grandmother.

I am passionate about historical fiction too, and over Christmas I particularly enjoyed Joanna Quinn’s The Whalebone Theatre, Sarah Winman’s Still Life and Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet.  I like stories that explore human connection and how people cope in difficult times – my favourites in this space include Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss. I’m including all these comps because I want my writers to be avid readers!

I really do surprise myself by what I fall in love with though, so the best thing to do is query me even if your book falls outside of these guidelines. I love championing new writers – I represent authors based all over the world, not just the UK but Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. I love helping writers shape their manuscript ahead of submission and finding the perfect publishing home to launch their work, and I strive for my authors to become the most talked about novelists in the literary world.

Ten of my favourite contemporary novels (excluding my authors!)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Magpie by Elizabeth Day

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

The Likeness by Tana French

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

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