Literary Agent of the Year

Winner - Karolina Sutton

Karolina Sutton

For Karolina Sutton, 2019 was the culmination of a 12-year career at Curtis Brown during which she has built one of the most distinctive and diverse lists in publishing.

As Margaret Atwood’s sole agent since 2016, she was the mastermind of the literary event of the year, scoring rights deals in 38 territories for The Testaments and supporting live events, backlist rebranding, merchandising, major league media coverage and much more. By the end of the year, the novel had sold more than 700,000 copies in all editions in the UK, and scooped a share of the Booker Prize.

Remarkably, the other winner, Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other, had also been Sutton’s client until a switch before the Booker (to Emma Paterson at Aitken Alexander). Her work for Evaristo showed her commitment to lifting lesser-known names into the mainstream, and an instinct for literary talent that has also seen her launch the likes of Emma Healey and Imogen Hermes Gowar in recent years. On the non-fiction side, she had a trio of bestsellers in 2019 with Philippa Perry’s The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, Tara Westover’s Educated and Oliver Bullough’s Moneyland, while continuing to manage the doyenne of the colouring book, Millie Marotta.

Gentle with clients and tough at the negotiating table, Sutton is a champion of both authors and publishers, and squeezes the last drop of potential out of every book. The judges applauded the glowing testimonials from both sides of the publishing fence. “She’s kind, supportive, protective and honest… she changed my life,” said one of her authors, while a leading publisher added: “Karolina is one of the greatest agents of our time and is constantly learning, adapting and pushing to be the best she can be. Our industry is lucky to have her.”

The Shortlist

  • Clare Alexander
    Aitken Alexander Associates
    Clare Alexander helped a host of authors achieve critical acclaim in 2019, with three reaching the Women’s Prize shortlist—Pat Barker, Diana Evans and Oyinkan Braithwaite. Her instinct for talent and her loyal support of clients inspire great admiration.
  • Sarah Ballard
    United Agents
    Sarah Ballard of United Agents had a standout year, nurturing the bestselling fiction début of the year in Bridget Collins’ The Binding , and helping Hallie Rubenhold to capitalize on her Baillie Gifford Prize triumph with The Five.
  • Abigail Bergstrom
    Gleam Titles
    Abigail Bergstrom of Gleam Titles is leading a new wave of literary agents plugging publishers into the zeitgeist. Within influencer-focused agency Gleam Futures, she has turned social media phenomenon Mrs Hinch into a massive book brand.
  • Jenny Brown
    Jenny Brown Associates
    Brown's Edinburgh-based business raised the profiles of narrative non-fiction, crime and literary fiction writers, including Kathleen Jamie, Shaun Bythell and Clare Hunter. Beyond the agency, she did a lot of work to promote Scottish publishing too.
  • Sam Copeland
    Sam Copeland of RCW steered a remarkable year for Alex Michaelides, whose début The Silent Patient, plucked from the slush pile, sold more than two million copies worldwide. From children's authors to celebrities, his roster is impressively broad.
  • Clare Hulton
    Clare Hulton Literary Agency
    Clare Hulton of Clare Hulton Literary Agency agented the uber-bestseller of 2019: Pinch of Nom . Hulton’s transformation of two unknowns into multi-book, multimedia superstars is reward for 10 years’ hard work on her agency.
  • Madeleine Milburn
    Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency
    Madeleine Milburn of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency had a bestever year for deals and big hits from authors including C J Tudor, Fiona Barton and C L Taylor—as well as keeping sales rolling for Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant.
  • Karolina Sutton
    Curtis Brown
    Karolina Sutton did what no literary agent has ever done, before and will probably never do again: represent two Booker Prize winners in a single year. She helped to steer lots of other bestsellers too.