Life as a Literary Agent in Oxford

Last year I was lucky enough to get the chance to work at one of Oxford’s most prestigious literary agents, Felicity Bryan. For me this was a dream come true, not only because work experience at such a renowned agency would be a great addition to my CV but because I quite literally got to spend all day reading – my idea of bliss! Of course there were other things to be done and a real literary agent’s role is a lot more varied but I nevertheless found it an extremely valuable experience.

The opportunity also led me to discover a part of Oxford that I hadn’t before explored, yet another area of a city that never fails to surprise me with its unique beauty. North Parade is just off Beaumont Road, about ten minutes walk from St Giles, and exudes an old world charm unlike anywhere else. Not only is it a little random – a row of shops seemingly alone, branching off halfway down a busy thoroughfare – but it’s like walking into the past. Something about the imperfect stone buildings, sense of community and little family-run businesses strikes a refreshing note that is often amiss nowadays and the street looked especially magical during the Christmas market, when bunting crisscrossed the road and people meandered along enjoying steaming cups of punch.

The agency itself is down a little alleyway just off North Parade, a glass conservatory-style building with a spiral staircase that lets in all the light. It also happens to be next to a gorgeous baguette shop, from which I was always treated to a delicious lunch! I was in charge of the all the fiction submissions that came in and have to admit that a fair few of them were pretty weird! There were however a lot of interesting reads and I spent most of the day sorting the good from the bad, before replying to all authors via post or email and logging all my decisions in the database. I was at the agency for a semester and in all that time only found two potentially publishable submissions to pass on but there were a lot more that I nevertheless enjoyed and had no doubt would find success at other agencies which published similar titles. This was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the job; having to find titles which fitted the agency’s list – Felicity Bryan is fairly highbrow so any ‘chick lits’ were out of the question, no matter how much I enjoyed reading them!

All in all it was a great experience and helped cement my decision to work in editorial or rights when I graduate. Whatever happens, I know that as long as I have a job where I’m surrounded by books every day I’ll be happy!

6 Responses to “Life as a Literary Agent in Oxford”
  1. Your experience sounds like an absolute dream! I’ve never been to Oxford, but your photograph gives me yet another reason to go. 🙂

    • vickylsmith says:

      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad I’ve inspired you! It really is a gorgeous city – well worth a visit! 🙂

  2. hlstudios says:

    That is a really beautiful picture!

  3. eloucarroll says:

    Hi! I’m currently studying at OICPS and am looking to approach Felicity Bryan for some work experience – do you have any advice about this? Your blog has made me want to work with them even more! 🙂

    • vickylsmith says:

      Hi, well I just applied for an internship advertised on the Oxford Brookes work experience website so it was a bit different to approaching them speculatively. If you write a cover letter tailored to them – why you’re interested in working with them etc – and show some knowledge of what they publish, I think that would really increase your chances. Obviously I put in my CV my interest in publishing, reading and writing etc and all my relevant experience too – my bookselling job, previous work exp etc. When I had the interview I talked about how I like to write AND read, which they said no one else did (everyone else just talked about their love of writing) and I also did some research on their books beforehand so I could talk about them too. Ultimately show that you’re really enthusiastic about working there and passionate about what they do. Hope that helps – good luck! 🙂

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