A literary agency based in Edinburgh
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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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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.
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 PricePodcasts:
New Yorker Fiction
DIY MFA Radio
Monocle Meet the Writers
Death of a 1,000 Cuts
The Underground Writing Podcast
The Writer Files
Writing ExcusesOnline masterclasses:
MasterclassNON-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 RentzenbrinkOnline masterclasses:
If you have any difficulty accessing this website, sending documents or have any queries, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org