A literary agency based in Edinburgh

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About

Caro Clarke is a literary agent with over ten years' experience in publishing – at Transworld (PRH) and at Canongate Books as a Senior Rights Manager. They were named Rights Professional of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2021.In 2019, they co-founded the Nan Shepherd Prize for underrepresented nature writers, which kickstarted a passion to demystify the publishing industry and help emerging writers to develop their craft and build their writing careers. Portobello Literary was established in 2022 to build on that work.For more information on the type of authors we're looking for, please visit the Submissions section.

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Authors


Polly Atkin

Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her first poetry collection Basic Nest Architecture (Seren, 2017) is followed by Much With Body (Seren, 2021), supported by a 2020 Northern Writers Award and a residency at Cove Park.She has also published three pamphlets: bone song (Aussteiger, 2008), shortlisted for the 2009 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award; Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013), winner of the 2012 Mslexia Pamphlet Prize, and With Invisible Rain (New Walk, 2018).Her biography of Dorothy Wordsworth, Recovering Dorothy: The Hidden Life of Dorothy Wordsworth (Saraband, 2021), is the first to focus on Dorothy’s later life and illness.Her doctorate on Romantic legacies and the Lake District was conducted under the AHRC Landscape and Environment project, in collaboration with The Wordsworth Trust and Lancaster University. In 2019, she co-founded the Open Mountain initiative at Kendal Mountain Festival, which seeks to centre voices that are currently at the margins of outdoor, mountain and nature writing. She works as a freelancer from her home in Grasmere, in the English Lake District.

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Fiona Black

From the Highland village of Evanton, Fiona Black is an artist, musician, writer, researcher, history geek and lover of stories.She creates work inspired by Scotland's history, culture, and landscape, particularly that involving women. She tours with international folk band The Outside Track and is currently creating a series of lino prints of Scottish women from history.While completing an MLitt in Highlands and Islands Culture, Fiona met 18th-century writer Sarah Murray through reading a mass of historic travel writers in Scotland. She stood out as one of the first woman writers to write a guide of Scotland for others to follow in her intrepid footsteps (with or without the help of their maid and manservant).
Fiona was longlisted for the 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing. Since then, she has been slowly working on writing a travelogue retracing Sarah's journey through the current landscape.

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Gill Booles

Gill Booles is a copywriter specialising in emerging tech such as blockchain-based digital currencies, quantum computing, robotics, and extended reality. She began writing fiction during the COVID lockdowns of 2020.Outside of writing, Gill plays in chess club tournaments for Sandy Bell’s in Edinburgh, exercises on an anti-gravity treadmill and perseveres with riding therapy sessions despite her ignorance and mistrust of horses. She lives and works in Inveresk in East Lothian.Are You Happy Now? is Gill’s first work of fiction. She couldn’t find any book or film with a positive depiction of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, so she wrote the book she would have wanted to read on being diagnosed with the chronic condition in 2019.

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Russell Jones

Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He has published three novels (Beast Realms trilogy), six poetry collections and a graphic novel (The Wilds). His short stories and poems have also appeared in hundreds of publications internationally. He is deputy editor of "Shoreline of Infinity", a sci-fi magazine, and has edited three collections of poetry and short stories. Russell was the UK's first Pet Poet Laureate and has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh. He loves books, travelling, his dogs and (too much) food.

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JC Niala

JC Niala is interested in the ways our imaginations of the world affect how we treat it. During the growing season of 2021, she recreated an English allotment in the style of the year 1918, which became a living memorial to the 1918/1919 (Spanish Flu) and COVID-19 pandemics and the First World War. The resultant artists’ journal of poems from the project was published by Fig in 2022 and turned into an online exhibition by The Museum of English Rural Life.Her essays and poems have been published by Bad Lilies, Iamb, Little Toller’s The Clearing, and others.JC is an award-winning stage, screen writer and podcaster. Her play Unsettled is available as a secondary school/ college level Drama resource and can be used to support curricular diversification.JC’s nature writing debut A Loveliness of Ladybirds was shortlisted for the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing in 2019 and will be published by Little Toller in 2023. An extract from the book, Field notes from an African anthropologist was awarded the Frank Allen Bullock Creative Writing Prize by St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford in 2020.

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Andrés N. Ordorica

Andrés N. Ordorica is a queer Latinx poet, writer, and educator based in Edinburgh. Drawing on his family’s immigrant history and his own third culture upbringing, his writing attempts to map the journey of diaspora and unpack what it means to be from ni de aquí, ni de allá (neither here nor there).He is a recipient of the Edwin Morgan Trust’s Second Life grant. In 2021, he was shortlisted for both the Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour and Mo Siewcharran Prize.His short fiction has been published in Gutter, Speculative Books, We Were Always Here (404 Ink), and The Colour of Madness (Bluebird Books). His non-fiction has been published in The Guardian, The Skinny, and Bella Caledonia.At Least This I Know, his debut poetry collection, is published with 404 Ink.

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Wendy Pratt

Wendy Pratt is a poet, author and workshop facilitator living and working on the North Yorkshire coast. She is the author of two pamphlets and three collections of poetry. Her latest collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet competition 2020. She is the editor in chief of Spelt magazine, which seeks to validate and celebrate the rural experience through poetry and creative non-fiction. Wendy runs popular online courses and workshops and also teaches creative writing courses at York Centre for Lifelong Learning. Wendy is currently working on her fourth collection of poetry which will be published by Smith/Doorstop in 2024. Her other project, a creative non-fiction project, The Ghost Lake, was recently longlisted in the Nan Shepherd Prize.

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Christina Riley

Christina Riley is an artist and writer based in Ayrshire, Scotland. Born in Miami, Florida and inspired by the essential connections between art, literature and science, her work draws attention to the natural world with a particular focus on the Atlantic coasts of Scotland and North America.Christina’s essays have been published by Little Toller’s The Clearing, Caught by the River, Elsewhere, Minding Nature, Gold Flake Paint and others, and her book The Beach Today—a photographic diary documenting marine objects collected over three months of daily beach walks in spring 2020—was published by Guillemot Press in summer 2021.Christina was longlisted for the 2019 Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing, before later that year starting The Nature Library, a travelling library bringing books about nature and the environment to public spaces. She is currently exploring works which focus on women’s lives by the coast and the role of literature in times of climate crisis.

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Submissions

Thank you so much for considering Portobello Literary for your submission. We are actively looking for clients and are happy to chat to writers at any stage of their career.Please follow the guidelines below, which make it easier for us to review your book.If we are interested in reading or hearing more about your book, we'll be back in touch within six to eight weeks.Please note that we don't accept postal submissions.To send in your submission, please email submissions@portobelloliterary.co.uk with:
A synopsis of your book
A short bio
And, depending on whether you're sending fiction or non-fiction:
- For fiction: the first three chapters or the first 50 pages of your manuscript along with the total word count
- For non-fiction: a chapter outline and three sample chapters no longer than 50 pages.
It is helpful if your name and book title are both in the file name and within the files you're sending in the header or footer.If you have any queries about the format of your submission and can't see it answered below or you aren't able to submit in the way outlined below, do email us on info@portobelloliterary.co.uk and we can discuss.If you'd like some tips on crafting your submission, head to our Resources page.

What we're looking for

Caro ClarkeI am actively building a list of authors writing fiction and non-fiction.I have very broad taste in fiction and I’m attracted to excellent writing, clever plots, unusual settings and complex characters. I love all types of stories from niche literary novels, to speculative fiction and fantasy, gripping crime and novels with wide appeal. I am partial to fiction that transports you, steals your heart and makes you think.Some fiction I’ve loved recently: Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, Memorial by Bryan Washington, Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang, Girl A by Abigail Dean, At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, The Stranding by Kate Sawyer, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, A River Called Time by Courttia Newland and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.On the non-fiction side, I’m looking for narrative non-fiction, memoir, popular science, big ideas, travel, culture, essays, queer culture and intersectional feminism. I’m also interested in food writing and cookbooks. As the co-founder of the Nan Shepherd Prize for underrepresented nature writers, I have a particular soft spot for nature writing of any type. What I look for in non-fiction are fascinating topics, a unique perspective or one that disrupts the status quo and an engaging voice. Most of all, I’m looking for writers who are passionate about the topic of their book.Some non-fiction I’ve loved recently: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles, Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn, Inferno by Catherine Cho, Coming Undone by Terri White, Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee, The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara, Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui, Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Afropean by Johny Pitts, Dark Skies by Tiffany Francis-Baker, Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe and The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.I am always on the lookout for writers from underrepresented backgrounds.I am not looking for children’s books (picture books to YA) at this time.

Resources

If you're new to writing and seeking representation, the submission process can seem daunting. Here are some tips on how to prepare the best submission.FICTIONWhat to send?
- The sample chapters you are sending should be the first chapters.
- A synopsis should be a one or two-page document that summarises the plot (including spoilers and the ending!). A synopsis isn’t there to showcase your style (that’s what your sample chapters are for) so keep to simple sentences and get straight to the point. (Most writers find creating a synopsis to be the worst part of the writing process so hang in there.)
- Your bio should tell us a little bit about who you are, and should include any relevant information to your writing. It’s absolutely fine if it’s very short.
When to send?
- Send in your book if – and only if – you have finished writing the whole book. (If we request your full manuscript and you haven’t yet finished it, we will ask you to finish it and contact us when you're done).
- Writing is rewriting, so a first draft usually isn’t the best draft to send. Once you finish writing your book, wait a few weeks and read your manuscript again to hone and edit it. Then read it again (and again!) and edit until you’re happy with it.
- You can then share it with someone else for their (honest) thoughts and see what they say. It’s always best to ask someone who enjoys reading the type of book you’ve written. It’s good to send it to a few people, as opposed to just one person.
If you’re in the middle of writing your book and you’re not quite sure it’s working and you don’t know what to do…
- One of the best ways to learn your craft is to read a lot of books and read them critically. How is the writer making the characters shine? Is the plot interesting? Is the writing notable?
- If you can afford to, you might consider trying a creative writing course.
Books:
On Writing by Stephen King
Your Story Matters by Nikesh Shukla
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr
On Editing: How to edit your novel the professional way by Helen Corner-Bryant and Kathryn Price
Podcasts:
New Yorker Fiction
DIY MFA Radio
Monocle Meet the Writers
Longform
Death of a 1,000 Cuts
The Underground Writing Podcast
The Writer Files
Writing Excuses
Online masterclasses:
Masterclass
NON-FICTIONWhat to send?
- A synopsis should be a one to two-page document that summarises the entire book. A synopsis isn’t there to showcase your style (that’s what your writing sample is for) so keep to simple sentences and get straight to the point. (Most writers find creating a synopsis to be the worst part of the writing process so hang in there!)
- Your bio should be about you, who you are, and any relevant information on your writing or your professional experience or qualifications. It’s absolutely fine if it’s very short.
- Your chapter outline should have a description of equal length for each chapter in your book. This can include the topic you will be talking about, the examples you’ll use, the themes etc.
- The writing sample you include should showcase the very best of your book (subject-wise and writing-wise).
When to send?
- Non-fiction books tend to sell on proposal so you don’t need to have finished the book to submit, though you should have a full proposal.
- You will need to edit your writing sample a few times, making sure the extract is very strong and showcases the best of your book idea. Do spend a lot of time and thought on the chapter outline and synopsis. The structure of your book should make sense and be dynamic. It should show how passionate you are about the subject and why you are the best person to write this book. If you're not achieving that, go back and take a look at your structure.
If you’re putting together the idea for a book and you’re not quite sure it’s working and you don’t know what to do…
- One of the best ways to learn how to write is to read a lot of books and read them critically. How is the writer showing their passion for the subject? Do they have any particular personal connection to the topic? How is the book structured?
- If you can afford to, you might consider trying a narrative non-fiction writing course.
Books:
Storycraft by Jack Hart
How To Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
Write It All Down by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Online masterclasses:
Masterclass

Rights

For all rights information, email info@portobelloliterary.co.uk

Our film and TV rights are handled by Matthew Dench at Dench Arnold.

Contact

If you have any difficulty accessing this website, sending documents or have any queries, contact us on info@portobelloliterary.co.uk

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