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Profile Summary

Joanna pursued her love of books as a copyeditor, freelance reader, and other general editorial services for writers, agents, and publishers. In 2012, she set up Hardman & Swainson with fellow agent Caroline Hardman, having met and worked together at Christopher Little Agency.  It was no small endeavour, with the agency beginning with 18 authors on their roster and an ambitiously diverse list of interests. Joanna is interested in fiction manuscripts ranging from literary, literary commercial, crime and thriller, and YA. 

Not one to turn away a good book, Joanna will also entertain non-fiction works, for instance, memoir, science, philosophy, history, and nature. But like many agents interested in non-fiction work, Joanna likes a strong narrative thread running throughout. 

One area not listed in Joanna's main genres of interest is fantasy. While straight fantasy might not be of interest, Joanna loves an original fantastical YA, evidenced by her handling American author Malinda Lo's UK interests. Having a teenage daughter has furthered Joanna's interest in YA, and she loves to receive compelling Young Adult reads, be they grounded in the real or away with the fairies. 

Many of Joanna's favourite reads include an element of humour. That's not to say she is looking for comedy, but even the best dramas are occasionally undercut with humour. In the blackest of times, some levity is necessary. Her love of humour-infused literature is complemented by a love of vibrant, larger than life characters that will have you wondering whether they are real people you've actually met.

With such varied interests, Joanna is looking for someone to take her by surprise. If your piece is truly unique, with a captivating voice, fascinating plot, and characters that will stay with readers for years to come, send your manuscript through. 


Detailed data

Agency:
Hardman and Swainson
Agent since:
2012
Short biography:

After a degree in French from Newcastle University, I ran a business for several years, providing a range of copy writing and editing services. During this time, my love of books and an interest in writing led me to freelance for a number of literary agents, including Darley Anderson and Eddison Pearson. Submissions are the life blood of publishing but many need further work and development. Because of the sheer volume of submissions there simply wasn't enough time in the working day to provide feedback and it was my experience and enjoyment of reading hundreds of manuscripts that instigated setting up The Word Association, a literary consultancy. I am endlessly fascinated by writing and in my job as an agent I enjoy nothing more than working editorially with authors. I met Caroline while working as a reader and in-house editor for Christopher Little. When the opportunity arose to set up Hardman & Swainson it was too good to miss. Growing up I read an unhealthy number of Agatha Christies and hard-boiled detective novels and I love crime fiction from both sides of the Atlantic. After school, while travelling through France and Spain and living in a tent, I read all the novels of Charles Dickens. So I guess I've always been a bookworm.

Client list status:
Keen to build client list
Genres this agent is interested in:
Young adult fiction, History, Science, Women's fiction, Crime, thriller, action, Historical fiction, Literary Fiction
Authors & books liked:

I read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction and want to keep our list diverse. In fiction, I'm looking for complex, larger-than-life characters. Dolores Price in She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb, is so brilliantly portrayed I sometimes forget I've never actually met her. Amy in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl - like her or loathe her, she'll stay with me forever. Whatever the genre, whether literary or commercial, for adults or children, historical or contemporary, thriller or crime, I'm looking for originality and distinctive voices. I especially like fiction threaded with humour - not necessarily of the laugh out loud kind, it's often much subtler than that, but you can't have too many good observations and insights. On the non-fiction front, I enjoy narrative non-fiction, especially popular history and science. I also enjoy nature writing. While it's all very well drawing up a wish list, ultimately I'm a fisherman. So send me what you've got. Take me by surprise, and keep on surprising me. I'll know what I'm looking for when I see it.

Other loves & passions:

After school, Joanna went on an impressively low budget tour of Spain. In her words, "When I left school we lived in the middle of nowhere on the moors in Yorkshire. I treasure that, now, but at the time I was determined to get away as soon as possible, so worked for a month in the local paper mill, saved up GBP400 and hit the road with my twin sister. It was basically a year of living hand to mouth, busking a bit, picking fruit for cash as it ripened in different regions and every now and then having to phone up dad to borrow some money when we completely ran out ... What a time!" Music is also important to Joanna: "I come from a family of musicians - my grandfather was a wonderful pianist, my mother and father are professional violinist and viola player respectively. So music runs in the blood and I love to sit down at the piano now, or play my guitar or fiddle. I'm not nearly as good as I'd like to be! I love all sorts of music but if I could have anyone's voice it would be Sandy Denny's. Other than that, come winter I'm a bit of a knitter."

How to make a submission:
Agency standard submission.
Other advice and background:

Manuscripts imbued with cynicism, arrogant characters that have no wit or verve or anything else going for them, and authors who for some reason don't like the characters they have created. Sometimes the ideas can get a bit repetitive. The number of manuscripts I've read about internet dating, for example, which are the thinly disguised experiences of the author - but that's not so much depressing as ... here we go again! Asked to talk about the most common mistakes she comes across in fiction, she says, "Luckily most writers have sorted out the nuts and bolts of their writing before they submit, so tenses, point of view, grammar and punctuation - the tools of the writer's trade - tend to be okay. The shortcomings are often harder to pin down, but time and again I'll read submissions where not enough happens on the page: either there's a lack of action or too few insights and observations to keep us interested. In cases like this, it doesn't matter how beautiful the writing is. Relevancy is also a frequent problem: the writer goes off on a tangent, very often into back-story, before they've even got us hooked, so the narrative loses momentum. Characters' motivations often aren't clear so the characters don't add up, psychologically. I think the reason for this is quite often because the writer wants to make the character fit the story, whereas it makes much more sense for the story to arise out of character. And the 'mistake' that makes me cringe is when the work of 'fiction' is too obviously the writer's autobiography dressed up as fiction. On a different note, I think there's a place in publishing for the paid independent editor / literary consultancy. I think a lot of writers would have a much better chance when submitting to agents if they had their work looked at beforehand, and got some good, informed advice which would help identify the problems I've mentioned above. People complain about this 'monetizing' of the slush pile, but think of any other profession. You wouldn't expect to become a musician without hundreds of hours of music lessons, for example. The best way to learn to write is to keep on writing, but the objective, informed opinion of an independent editor can be invaluable." See the "We Sat Down" interview link below for this interview in full.

Attends Festival of Writing or other WW events?
Yes
Follow on Twitter:
@JoannaSwainson
Interesting links:
http://wesatdown.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/we-sat-down-for-chatwith-joanna.html
Clients:
Jackie Bateman, Oggy Boytchev, Sara Crowe, Stuart David, Michelle Flatley, Lucy Lawrie, Julien Musolino, Nick Russell-Pavier, Catherine Simpson, Samantha Wilson
Full client list:
http://www.hardmanswainson.com/about_joannaswainson.html
Email address:
joanna@hardmanswainson.com

Agents of: Hardman and Swainson

Agency details

Website:
http://www.hardmanswainson.com/
About the agency:
Founded in 2012, Hardman & Swainson is a dynamic London-based literary agency with a diverse range of clients. We pride ourselves on providing an excellent service to our authors, working closely with them at all stages of their careers. We have an international focus and make it a priority to sell our clients' work in as many territories as possible. The agency represents quality writing of all kinds and we welcome submissions and queries from new and established writers. Please see our submission guidelines for more details. We are a member of the Association of Authors' Agents
Address for submissions:
No data
Office address:
4 Kelmscott Road, London SW11 6QY
Email address:
submissions@hardmanswainson.com
Phone number:
+44 (0)20 7223 5176
Number of agents:
3
Accepts email submissions:
Yes
Submission type:
Standard (Letter + Synopsis + First three chapters)
Further submission info:
We welcome submissions and are actively seeking to represent both established and new talent. (However, please note that Caroline will not be looking at submissions until further notice.) We accept submissions of literary fiction, women's fiction, historical fiction, crime and thriller, horror, YA, middle grade, memoir, narrative non-fiction including popular science and history, other quality non-fiction. We are very selective in taking on new authors so don't be disappointed if your work isn't for us. Please don't send us poetry, plays / screenplays / scripts, or very young children's / picture books. We are interested in international fiction, but US authors may be better served by an agent in the US in the first instance unless there is a compelling reason to have a UK agent. FOR FICTION: Include a brief covering letter, the first three chapters or about 5,000 words, and a one page synopsis. FOR NON-FICTION: Include a covering letter outlining your book and why it has a place on the bookshelf, why you are qualified to write it, and a sample chapter. We want to see everything in one hit, so please include the sample material along with the query - either as an attachment or in the body of the email. Please direct your submission to ONE agent (more info here) and send by email to: submissions@hardmanswainson.com and not to our personal email addresses.
More info on this agency:
Founded in 2012 by Caroline Hardman and Joanna Swainson, Hardman & Swainson is a dynamic new London-based literary agency with a diverse range of clients. We pride ourselves on providing an excellent service to our authors, working closely with them at all stages of their careers. We have an international focus and make it a priority to sell our clients' work in as many territories as possible. The agency represents quality writing of all kinds and we welcome submissions and queries from new and established writers.
Average response time:
0 days
Agency Transparency Index:
76/100
Member of the AAA:
Yes
Overseas offices:
No
Accepts overseas writers:
No
Follow on Twitter:
@HardmanSwainson
Latest news:
http://www.hardmanswainson.com/news.html
More about the agency:
Founded in 2012, Hardman & Swainson is a dynamic London-based literary agency with a diverse range of clients. We pride ourselves on providing an excellent service to our authors, working closely with them at all stages of their careers. We have an international focus and make it a priority to sell our clients' work in as many territories as possible. The agency represents quality writing of all kinds and we welcome submissions and queries from new and established writers. Please see our submission guidelines for more details. We are a member of the Association of Authors' Agents

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