In October, we were thrilled to announce that Elinor Davies was opening to submissions as our latest associate agent within the commercial to upmarket fiction space. Just a few months into her new role, we quiz her on her publishing journey so far and the best way to make your submission stand out.

Tell us a bit about how you got into agenting.

I actually started out in a very different career – albeit short lived – as a holistic therapist, but ever since I was a child I had wanted to tell stories, so I decided to go back to university and study for a career in publishing. Strangely enough, in the very first term of my first year, I did a group assignment that looked in depth at the role of literary agents and felt immediately that it was a job that would suit me. I liked the mix of working editorially with authors but also selling rights and luckily, as I was graduating, the perfect assistant role came up here at MMA (I still feel like it was too good to be true sometimes).

Since then, I have been learning and growing, working with a few different agents. It has been great for sampling different sides of the market as well as a masterclass in agenting. We have such a supportive team here and a nice mix of agents, some in the early stages of their careers as well as powerhouse agents who are and have been rocking it for a long time. I’m always in awe at the constant book deals being closed.

What’s been the most memorable experience since you started at the agency?

That’s a tough question – there have been so many special moments and experiences since I started at MMA. Doing a speech at a book launch was certainly the most frightening thing I did, and actually just the other day, I switched my kindle on and the welcome ad was a book I had worked on from the first draft through to publication so that was a very special moment. But I think my most memorable experience has to be my first London Book Fair. Nothing beats the buzz of the book fairs for celebrating our industry and our authors and in that first year, we had a bit of trouble with much of the team coming down with Covid (not so great) but it did mean that I got to step into the international rights team and take lots of meetings with publishers from all around the world. It was a baptism of fire having only been at the agency a few months at that point. We had around 80 titles to pitch that year! But I loved every second and it was great to see first-hand the amazing work our international rights team does to champion our books and authors abroad too.

How are you finding the transition from assistant to associate?

So far it’s been pretty smooth. I still do everything I did as an assistant but with the added bonus of being open to submissions and being able to meet with editors and authors and creative writing schools to bring in titles that I’m passionate about. I love doing editorial work so this side of the role has been fun! I’m taking my time to find projects that are right for the list I want to build and that have something special to capture the market, but so far it’s been an exciting and satisfying process. I recently signed my first author who I can’t wait to shout about very soon and I’m hoping there will be many more to follow too.

What can a prospective author do to make their submission stand out to you?

The submission inbox is crazy busy so a well-written submission letter really helps. Although we read everything that comes in, it’s definitely true that a strong submission letter usually precedes a great manuscript so that’s the first thing that grabs my attention. I love to see an author who knows their book inside out and can confidently pitch it in one concise elevator pitch as well as tell me exactly where they see it sitting in the market.

What advice would you give to an author about to submit to agents for the first time?

I’d say the most important thing is to research agents before submitting. Know who they are and what they’re looking for and who else they represent. If they’re the right agent for you, you will know from their wishlist because you’ll be able to tick off so many of their criteria. If you find yourself trying to find ways to make your manuscript fit what they’re looking for then they’re probably not the right agent for you. That’s not to say there isn’t an agent for you out there though – and finding the right fit is so much better than just finding a fit.

What would be your perfect submission find?

Right now, I’m LOVING anything with a feminist angle but especially in the crime thriller genre. To have something in that space land in my inbox would be a dream come true. It still needs to stand out through the voice and I love books that can blend dark and funny together. I’m also really keen to find Welsh authors to represent in this space because although it’s a small market, we have some incredibly talented Welsh noir writers out there and I’d love to help propel them into the spotlight.

Which authors do you love to read?

Some of my top books this year have been debut authors like Joanna Wallace and Alice Slater. I love when a character can surprise me by saying something brutal or doing something entirely unpredictable and both of these authors blew it out the water. I can’t wait to see what’s next from them both. I also can’t get enough of Taylor Jenkins-Reid and love the world she’s created by blending the same characters loosely across her novels, and I’m obsessively reading Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s books too. I started with the popular, Before The Coffee Gets Cold, and have become addicted to these heart-warming – but also heart-breaking – stories of humanity. I’ve read the full set of his books that have been translated into English over the last few months and I’m unashamed to say I wept through every single one.

What’s next on your reading list?  

I recently picked up Days At The Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa and can’t wait to read it. Who doesn’t love a book about someone discovering the magic of books?