Literary Agent of the Year

Introduction

Sat between writing and publishing, agents had to deal with double disruption in 2020, stepping up their care of authors while dealing with havoc in schedules and sales. These seven rose to the challenges brilliantly. In a sign of the young talent flowing through agenting, four—Nelle Andrew, Amanda Harris, Natalie Jerome and Carrie Plitt—appear on the shortlist for the first time. 

Winner

Nelle Andrew

Rachel Mills Literary

From Caroline Michel’s assistant to Literary Agent of the Year in barely a decade, Nelle Andrew is one of the industry’s brightest rising stars.

When she moved on from PFD last year—not to another big agency, but to start-up Rachel Mills Literary—her authors followed in droves. Those clients include Pandora Sykes and Bryony Gordon, who she has steered carefully through publishing, and commercial fiction names including Heidi Perks and Adele Geras. New authors she has nurtured include Louise Hare and Costa-winner Sara Collins, and in 2020 she scored six-figure deals for Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s début. She also picked up a hatful of screen deals, handling rights personally rather than outsourcing.

To these authors and more, Andrew has been a brilliant editor with an instinct for partnering them with the right publisher; determined to prioritise long-term careers over short-term success. “Her belief in me pushes me to achieve things I never thought possible,” said one.

To publishers, Andrew is a tough deal-maker but a superb partner on the editing, positioning and promotion of her clients. “She’s the consummate deal-maker and a very skilful negotiator, but scrupulously fair and principled too,” said one c.e.o. She has also been one of publishing’s most effective champions of equality. As well as bringing more diverse authors into the mainstream, she has been a calm and compelling voice on industry inclusivity, and an inspiration for other agents of colour.

Judges admired Andrew’s unerring eye for talent and emotional intelligence that gets the most out of every author and book. “What Nelle has done in her short career is extraordinary,” they said. “She’s an incredible advocate for her authors and you feel her passion… anyone in the world would want her as their agent.”

The Shortlist

  • Nelle Andrew
    Rachel Mills Literary
    The Rachel Mills Literary agency owes much of its early success to Nelle Andrew. A fearless negotiator and forensic editor, her clients include media figures like Bryony Gordon and Pandora Sykes and commercial fiction names like Heidi Parks, all of whom hit the Sunday Times lists in 2020. “The kind of agent who makes other authors jealous,” said one client.
  • Clare Conville
    C&W
    Clare Conville is shortlisted after the 20th birthday of her C&W Agency, and nine years on from her last appearance. She has been instrumental in the burgeoning sales of Matt Haig, and a guiding hand to Dolly Alderton, Rachel Joyce and more. She has even found time to set up a publishing and film business of her own, Cheerio.
  • Sam Copeland
    RCW
    RCW director Sam Copeland is one of the widest ranging agents around, looking after thriller writers including Alex Michaelides, literary names like Julia Armfield and children’s authors including Holly Jackson and debutant Annabel Steadman, for whom he secured huge deals in 2020. Being published himself has given him a good understanding of what authors need.
  • Amanda Harris
    YMU
    In her first year at the YMU agency after leaving Hachette, Amanda Harris has transformed its publishing arm. Specialising in TV personality brands including Ant & Dec, Claudia Winkleman, Philip Schofield and Ant Middleton, she secured several seven-figure deals in 2020. “Amanda has changed the game in premium brand and platform publishing,” said one publisher.
  • Natalie Jerome
    Aevitas Creative Management
    In her first year as an agent—and in the first year of the Aevitas Creative Management agency at that—Natalie Jerome has been an important force for diversity in publishing. Through deals for Lenny Henry, David Harewood, Alex Holmes and others, she is giving long overdue voice to Black British voices.
  • Carrie Plitt
    Felicity Bryan Associates
    After the sad passing of Felicity Bryan, Carrie Plitt showed the legacy of her eponymous agency is in safe hands. She sensitively dealt with the wave of interest in Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and took her to an international audience with a host of translation deals.
  • Vicki Willden-Lebrecht
    The Bright Agency
    The Bright Agency that Willden-Lebrecht founded 18 years ago came of age in 2020. Her great skill is steering clients to concepts that fill spaces in the market, then maxing media and licensing deals. Benji Davies, Yasmeen Ismail and Jacqui Lee won prizes, and she set up the Bright Foundation to donate picture books to locked down Londoners.