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Profile Summary

Laura has been at PFD since 2011, having been a classicist at Oxford. She’s now an associate agent and is keen to build her list: from perhaps 500 slushpile submissions in a year, she might take as many as 5 – an unusually high hit rate, from the writers’ perspective.

Her tastes range from the literary to the commercial, and are very well and fully described in the interview below. A few highlights:

•    Laura loves big, expansive lierary fiction that’s happy to command large tracts of time and space. In her interview below, she cites John Updike, Michael Chabon and Joel Dicker . . .
•    . . . but that said, she also enjoyed The Enchanted, a claustrophobic novel about death row inmates.
•    As a classicist, Laura has a particular soft spot for anything set in the ancient world. She cites the Orange Prize winning The Song of Achilles as a particular favourite.
•    World War 2 era narratives are also of particular interest.
•    In more commercial areas, Laura cites novels that lie on the reading-group / commercial fiction boundary – that is, she particularly likes her commercial fiction to be well-written, thoughtful and with some lasting impact. She particularly cites Matt Haig’s (funny, speculative) The Humans or Emma Jane Unsworth’s “Withnail for Girls” novel, Animals.
•    Laura’s mostly looking for fiction at the moment, but would certainly consider the right non-fic project if it came along. In non-fiction, Laura prefers the “quirky, personal and narrative-led” and books on any topic that broaden out into a real investigation of politics / culture / society.
•    Oh, and cults are good. Southern gothic is good (though Laura’s probably not right for more genre horror work) . . . and you should certainly get in touch with her if you have a "good psychological YA book, a really dark commercial page turner, [or] a really big beautiful well-researched historical novel".

This summary offers only the potted highlights of the interview below and we do urge users to read the whole thing – not least as Laura is actively building a client list and positively wants to encourage more (well-written, well-targeted) submissions.



Detailed data

Agency:
PFD The Peters Fraser and Dunlop Group
Agent since:
2012
Short biography:

Laura Williams has been working at Peters Fraser and Dunlop since 2011, after completing a degree in Classics at Oxford. She is an Associate Agent, and is actively building a fiction list. She is currently looking for edgy literary and commercial fiction, psychological thrillers and high-concept young adult. Please send submissions via email.

Her clients include Jem Lester, whose novel about autism SHTUM will be published by Orion in Spring 2016, thriller writer J. Kent Messum, whose latest novel HUSK will be published by Penguin Michael Joseph in July 2015, and Tiffany McDaniel, whose Southern gothic novel THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING will be published by St Martins Press and Scribe in Spring 2016.

Client list status:
Keen to build client list
Genres this agent is interested in:
Young adult fiction, Children's & YA non-fiction, Science, Other non-fiction, Memoir and autobiography, History, Women's fiction, Science fiction, Historical fiction, Crime, thriller, action, General Fiction, Literary Fiction
Authors & books liked:

Q. What books/authors do you love in commercial fiction? (Crime, women’s)
Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth was my favourite commercial novel of last year – funny and fierce and true. The Humans by Matt Haig had the most magical turns of phrase and I kept following people around reading lines from it to them. I recently discovered Rainbow Rowell, and she’s like the comfort blanket I’ve been waiting for all my life.

Q. What books/authors do you love in literary/historical/book group fiction?
Literary: My favourite authors are John Updike and Michael Chabon. I love expansive literary fiction, ambitious with time and place – like Joel Dicker’s astonishing The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. But that said, one of the books I loved most last year was The Enchanted by Rene Denfield, a brilliant, claustrophobic novel about death row inmates.

Historical: I’m a sucker for anything set in Ancient Greece or Rome (The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller broke my heart), or World War II - I love books like The Undertaking by Audrey Magee and The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman, books that do really interesting things on a well-trodden path.

Q. How about sci-fi/horror/fantasy/paranormal/YA dystopian/erotic?
I don’t dabble much in these genres, but recently, I loved Revival by Stephen King, which totally terrified me. I love Southern Gothic. I would love to find a manuscript that scared me into next week.

Q. On the non-fiction side, are there particular areas that interest you? Does your non-fiction list have a particular slant to it?
Maybe surprisingly, my two favourite non-fiction books ever are both sports books - Friday Night Lights by H.S. Bissinger and Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan. They are so much more than sports books – they are about how investigative journalism works, about politics, history, culture, and have all the heartbreak and triumph of your favourite novel.

My tastes in non-fiction lean toward the quirky, the personal, and the narrative-led - Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding and HHhH by Laurent Binet are recent favourites. (I read a lot of WW2 books.)

Q. What (very roughly) is the balance of your list between literary fiction / commercial fiction / non-fiction?
I’m focusing on fiction primarily at the moment but keeping my net pretty wide – I’m looking for literary fiction, commercial fiction and YA also. But I am taking on the odd non-fiction project if I love it.

Q. Is there anything in particular you’d love to see at the moment?
Stories with real heart and real depth – I want to be calling all my friends to tell them about this book I’m sobbing over. I’d love a good psychological YA book, a really dark commercial page turner, and a really big beautiful well-researched historical novel that you can sink your teeth into.

Other loves & passions:

Q. Do you have any unpredictable loves?
I love eerie books about cults (e.g. The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz) and myths and legends (e.g. Ragnarok by AS Byatt). A book I recently sold is all about a little boy who claims he’s the devil. The first book I sold was about drug addicts getting eaten by sharks. So, I suppose bleakness is the common factor!

How to make a submission:
By email please.
Other advice and background:

Q. What are your biggest peeves in an opening page or opening chapter? And what do you love to see?
My advice is always get to the action as quickly as possible. I don’t want a description of characters at this point – what they’re wearing, what colour their hair is, their likes and dislikes – all that should come out naturally in the book rather than in a full paragraph on the opening page. We need to be drawn in by the story and get to know the characters as the book goes on. When I get a submission I know is going to be good I know by the time I turn over the first page, because I’ll already be drawn in.

Q. How many submissions do you see annually? And how many of those submissions will end up on your list?
I normally receive between 5-10 a week. I request a handful of full manuscripts from these submissions, and I’m working with or have taken on about five slush pile authors this year.

Attends Festival of Writing or other WW events?
No
Follow on Twitter:
@laurabirdland
Interesting links:
http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/meet-the-agents-an-interview-with-laura-williams/
Clients:
Kathryn Alton, Jem Lester, Tiffany McDaniel, J. Kent Messum, Barney Norris, Kate Sundara, Gill Wyness
Full client list:
http://www.petersfraserdunlop.com/about-us/agents
Email address:
lwilliams@pfd.co.uk

Agents of: PFD The Peters Fraser and Dunlop Group

Agency details

Website:
http://www.petersfraserdunlop.com/
About the agency:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-i-got-my-agent-j-kent-messum
Address for submissions:
No data
Office address:
34-43 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HA
Email address:
info@pfd.co.uk
Phone number:
020 7344 1000
Number of agents:
13
Accepts email submissions:
Yes
Submission type:
Standard (Letter + Synopsis + First three chapters)
Further submission info:
Please submit the first three chapters of your book in hard copy with a synopsis of the whole and a very brief CV about your writing career. Double spacing and one side only. Please be aware that we don't acknowledge receipt of submissions. We'd rather spend our time reading them. Also it's important that you include a stamped, self addressed envelope so that we can respond to you. If you want us to return your manuscript, make sure the postage is enough to cover the return.
More info on this agency:
Peters Fraser & Dunlop is one of the longest-established literary and talent agencies in London. We are proud to represent authors, journalists, broadcasters, speakers and estates with specialist expertise in the fields of literature, film, television and radio, public speaking, digital platforms and journalism.
Average response time:
8 days
Agency Transparency Index:
38/100
Member of the AAA:
Yes
Overseas offices:
No
Accepts overseas writers:
No
Follow on Twitter:
@PFDAgents
Latest news:
No data
More about the agency:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-i-got-my-agent-j-kent-messum

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