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.
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.”
Nelle AndrewRachel Mills Literary
Natalie JeromeAevitas Creative Management
Carrie PlittFelicity Bryan Associates
Vicki Willden-LebrechtThe Bright Agency