Former bookseller Jonathan Ruppin is launching a literary agency.
Following a 15-month stint at digital start-up Orson & Co as literary director, Ruppin decided to start an agency to seek out new voices, including those outside of London, which he believes are neglected by the publishing industry. He has been “quietly plotting” his new venture since leaving the digital platform in April.
The former Foyles web editor also has on his CV compiling the Paperback Preview supplement for The Bookseller for three years and judging 12 literary prizes including the Costa Novel Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Desmond Elliott Prize and the Romantic Novel Association Awards.
He told The Bookseller: “I had a lot of knowledge about being an agent already and I have formed great relationships with publishers from my roles over the years. I will also use the opportunity to find those writers outside of the M25 as the publishing industry has acknowledged it is London-centric. I am being proactive in finding writers, through contacts, and through internet research.”
Ruppin said he will consider a mix of commercial and literary genres and will concentrate on fiction with some non-fiction focus.
He said: “The majority of titles on my list will be fiction because that is where my expertise and passion lies. I am very open-minded in terms of what I will consider because I realise it is not all about my taste. I am very broad-minded when it comes to consider.”
“My 18 years in retail have given me insight into publishing trends. In terms of non-fiction it used to be about what it was like for kings and queens but now it is about what it was like for me.”
Ruppin will be working remotely and mostly based in London.
He said: “I won’t take on any staff for the time being. It won’t bring in any profit for a while but if all goes well, I will take on staff in the future.”
Ruppin started off in publishing in 1995 before working in Foyles on the shopfloor and then at the head office, including eight years as the retailer’s web editor, a role he left in 2016.
Ruppin said the industry has changed “hugely” since he entered it 18 years ago. He said: “When I first started, it was about the Net Book Agreement and the end of that has changed things hugely. The internet has changed things in a large number of ways. I also think there is more of an understanding that readers are open-minded and curious in their reading habits.”
He is excited about the more adventurous behaviour of some indie publishers in the industry. He said: “I think the independent sector is doing some very interesting things. Perhaps taking some risks the bigger publishers aren’t taking. There is room in all areas of publishing and there are some imprints that look at exactly what readers want.”
Ruppin is member of English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee – he also founded its Translated Literature Book Club in 2015 and continues to run it at London’s Free Word Centre.