The Good Literary Agency was founded in 2018 explicitly to represent British authors from backgrounds under-represented in UK publishing including writers of colour, working class, disability, LGBTQ and anyone else who feels they or their stories are under-represented.
About the Agency
The agency was founded by Nikesh Shukla and Julia Kingsford. They had met in 2015 when Nikesh was looking for a new literary agent after his previous agent had left agenting to become a publisher.
Nikesh had had the idea for a book of essays by writers of colour about race and immigration in the UK called The Good Immigrant. They made the decision to publish it with the crowdfunding publishers Unbound. It was funded within three days and J. K. Rowling contributed and became its patron. It was published in September 2016, was Radio 4 Book of the Week and has gone on to sell over 100,000 copies and win the Books are My Bag Readers Choice Award.
It sparked a conversation in the UK publishing industry about representation. Not long after publication Nikesh was talking to Julia about whether there was more they could do to increase representation across publishing. At the same time the Bookseller was doing some research into representation in publishing which demonstrated the scale of the problem and Nikesh and Julia began to talk to people across the publishing community.
Broadly publishers complained that they weren't sent enough work by under-represented writers by agents and agents complained that when they did submit, publishers either didn’t buy them or paid very little for their work. It was obvious to Nikesh and Julia that there was a pipeline problem and that's when the idea for The Good Literary Agency started to take shape.
This was all happening in late 2016. Over the following months Nikesh and Julia put together a full business plan and budget, talked to publishers, agents, authors, writer development agencies and a whole host of prospective partners and funders before applying to Arts Council England for seed funding for the first three years of operation via their Ambition for Excellence fund.
Funding was announced in December 2017, recruitment began in February 2018 and the agency opened for business on May 14 2018.
How we work
The Good Literary Agency operates slightly differently to other agencies.
Rather than choosing to submit to a specific agent we ask authors to make a general submission which we evaluate as a team before deciding whether to offer representation.
We also place a lot of emphasis on development work for authors who we believe are talented but whose manuscripts could benefit from some additional editing before submitting to publishers. This will look slightly different for every author - and of course not every author will need it. We do this because we believe that talent is universal but recognise that there are structural inequalities inherent in society that mean that those who are, for example, educated privately, go to the best universities, enter professions that encourage writing skills to be developed or who have either the time or money to do creative writing courses are able to develop that talent more than those who don't have those opportunities. We took inspiration from the story of Harper Lee. It was the novel eventually published as Go Set a Watchman which she originally sold to her publishers and they then spent two and a half years helping her turn it into To Kill a Mockingbird. We are committed to recogising talent and working editorially with clients to develop their work to be the best manuscripts they can be.
To find out more about our submissions process please visit our submissions page.
In 2018 we were awarded three years worth of seed funding from Arts Council England. We have also been supported by New Writing North and publishers including Penguin Random House and Hachette.