The first Liverpool-based literary agency has opened its doors this week, pledging to link northern writers from under-represented backgrounds to the "big five" publishing houses.
The Liverpool Literary Agency will also work to connect writers with independent publishers operating in the north of England.
Among its agency services, the company will offer editing support separate to its agent profile, including a mentoring package designed to guide authors from "concept through to completion", in addition to proofreading for those intending to self-publish, and a range of courses, masterclasses and workshops.
Co-founder Clare Coombes explained: "We started as an editing company with a diverse list of clients comprising accountants, taxi drivers, sport scientists, NHS workers and hospitality sector workers, alongside more experienced writers with qualifications in Creative Writing or other literature-based subjects. They all had one thing in common—the publishing industry seemed inaccessible, London-centric and intimidating. So, we knew that it was time to go beyond editing, especially as costs and contacts are the main barriers for many of our writers.
"We are inspired by a recent report, Common People: Breaking the Class Ceiling in UK Publishing, which confirmed our belief that many promising authors see their careers stall in the face of limiting barriers, including ‘a lack of support networks and contacts, lower levels of self-confidence and the publishing industry’s lack of social diversity.’
"We’ve had a fantastic response from publishers so far, and our initial list is an exciting mix of virtually every genre."
The agency has a partnership with Writing on the Wall, a writing and literature organisation, and though this will host writing competitions and edit anthologies.
Mike Morris, founder and co-director of Writing on the Wall, said: "This is a brilliant opportunity for under-represented writers from the north, and will help to support equality, diversity and inclusion in the publishing industry. It’s especially great news for writing and literature in Liverpool."
Genevieve Pegg, publishing director at HarperNorth, said: “All of us at HarperNorth are delighted to have a new agency nearby. Clare and the team combine their market savvy and editorial know-how with great local knowledge. We’re already enjoying exciting submissions from LLA and we look forward to discovering more voices from across the region to bring to readers everywhere.”
Katy Shaw, professor of Contemporary Writings at Northumbria and author of the Common People report, sees the launch as another step towards expanding the industry geographically, as the agency follows two large publishers opening offices in the north.
"I am delighted to see another practical example of how the benefits of our research are stretching across the UK and how the research findings are already fostering new changes within the UK publishing industry," she said.
"By diversifying the geographic base of the publishing industry we are making vital steps to enhance the range of people who can work in that industry. On the back of HarperCollins and Hachette opening offices in the regions and nations, this is another success story and legacy from the Common People report. We are all very proud and look forward to reading the range of new voices that the agency will gift us in the years to come.”