Ludo Cinelli joined Eve White Literary Agency in 2017 and is building an exciting list of clients. At BPA, we really rate this agency, so we decided to pick Ludo’s brain on the art of agenting, how to write an attention-grabbing first page, and the best way to deal with rejection. Ludo and Eve are currently accepting submissions of adult and children’s fiction as well as non-fiction.
What made you decide to become a literary agent?
Ludo: I came out of a bachelor’s degree wanting to become a novelist. I’d written a bit of fiction, though I didn’t know then that it wasn’t nearly enough to get any good at it. But I was lucky enough to make it onto a Creative Writing MA course, where I spent far more time critiquing other writers’ work than developing my own. I enjoyed that process and wondered if I could make a career of it, and knew a couple of people who worked in publishing already. After trying a few things out, I worked as an intern in an agency for a few months and realised that it was the best re-creation of what I’d enjoyed on the MA: offering constructive criticism to bring out the best in talented people’s work. That’s when I knew that it was something I could do for a living. There are other reasons too, of course – the variety, the sense of achievement when a client gets published – but the core of working with our writers is the real reason I do this job.
What is at the top of your submissions wishlist at the moment?
Ludo: There’s loads of stuff – we work on a very wide variety of books, and I’ve also found that the books that come in and excite me most are rarely the ones I expect to receive. But if I had to shoot off a few ideas: a really clever mystery that plays with form and metafiction; a romcom set somewhere or sometime we haven’t read about before; an ambitious, intergenerational drama about millennials and/or gen Z, their parents, and how they influence the world they share.
‘The books that come in and excite me most are rarely the ones I expect to receive.’
How can a writer grab your attention on the first page of a submission?
Ludo: By surprising me. Many novels I read on submission (and most of the handful I’ve tried to write) start with something entirely predictable, like a description of the weather, or a character waking up, or an unremarkable thought. There could be a reason for your opening being one of these things but, if so, it had better be a surprising one. My favourite books immediately confront me with something I don’t expect, like a subject I’m not familiar with or a thought I’ve never had.
Any advice for writers who have received rejections from literary agents and aren’t sure what to do next?
Ludo: There’s only one thing for it: keep writing and editing. I believe that most of the submissions we turn down are from writers who just haven’t spent enough time refining their work. It’s often not that the ideas or the talent aren’t present; it’s just that it takes a huge investment of time and effort to hone one’s writing skills, and many writers are (understandably) so eager to get published and have their work read that they try to rush the process by submitting it before they’ve done absolutely everything they can to make it the best it can be.
‘I believe that most of the submissions we turn down are from writers who just haven’t spent enough time refining their work.’
And even when your work is polished enough for publication, every stage of the writer’s career is filled with rejection – so the only way through it is not to let it interfere with your creative process. Most agents might not believe in your work even though it’s great (case in point: I’ve turned down a few bestsellers). If you do get an agent, you will get turn-downs from publishers. If you get a publisher, book buyers might not respond. If you get your book into the shops, it’s still not likely to get into the charts. At all stages, there will be disappointment to some extent; so only by divorcing the writing and editing process from the “results” you achieve will you focus enough on your work to make it the best it can be.
Have you had any career highlights in the past year?
Ludo: I was made managing director of the agency earlier this year, which was an exciting honour – in a boutique agency like ours, where we tend to handle routine tasks as well as higher-responsibility ones ourselves, it doesn’t mean much day-to-day, but it makes a huge difference to my confidence and my ties to the agency. Also, a few weeks ago, one of my clients, James Norbury, made it into the Sunday Times Bestseller charts, and his book, Big Panda and Tiny Dragon has sold in 24 territories – definitely a career highlight.
Can you name three books you’ve loved recently?
Find out how to submit to Ludo on the Eve White Literary Agency website and follow them on Twitter here. If you’re preparing a submission, you might like to look at some recent BPA blog posts on Agent Research, Cover Letters, Synopses and Genre.