Stephen Ronson - The Last Line

X: @Stephen_Ronson

Instagram: @stephenronsonauthor

Linktr: stephenronson

Agent: Jordan Lees

Agency: The Blair Partnership

Check out our #Agent121 page to book your own appointment.

Stephen Ronson

Found his agent in an Agent121

“My agent121 was absolutely critical to getting representation, and getting published. I tell every querying writer I know to book agent121s until they find the right agent.” 

IAIP: How many years had you been writing before you found your agent?

SR: That’s a difficult question to answer. I actually started writing when I was in my late teens (thirty years ago!) , and wrote a tv sitcom pilot. Back then I got an agent and worked as a tv writer while I was at university, but that part of my career fizzled out and eventually I had to put that dream away and go to get a ‘real’ job. After about a thirty year hiatus, I returned to the idea of writing, but this time decided to try a novel, rather than tv. To be honest, being a bit more financially secure was a big thing that enabled me to think about writing again, but this time I was doing it for fun, not to pay the bills. From the time I started writing my book, to when I started querying was exactly one year, and from starting querying to signing with an agent was exactly one month. Now I look back, I realize how fast that was and how lucky I was.

IAIP: Did you find your agent with the first book you attempted to write?

SR: The first book I finished, yes. The first book I tried to write is still about two thirds complete on my computer somewhere so let’s not talk about that!

IAIP: What was the inspiration behind the book that ended up securing you your deal?

SR: My brother bought me a history of WW2 for Christmas, and when I was reading it there was a one-line mention of auxiliary units – teams of men on the home front who were asked to become guerilla fighters after the predicted German invasion. I thought of what that would have been like for someone living in Sussex, where I grew up, which was very much in the invasion zone, and almost immediately I had the idea for John Cook.

IAIP: How many #Agent121 sessions did you have before you met your agent?

SR: Jordan was my first #Agent121, and right away I knew it would be a good fit. After I met with him I had one other 121. I found the experience so positive that I did have quite a few more booked in, but then when Jordan offered representation I cancelled those and I think I donated them to other writers. I’ve been a huge fan of agent121s since then and every querying writer I talk to gets my firm advice that this is the way to get through to agents.

IAIP: Were you also querying agents at the same time? If so, what type of response were you getting?

SR: Absolutely. I had a very robust excel spreadsheet with about a hundred agents on, and I’d started with my first wave of about ten. I got one rejection the same week I queried, but other than that I was basically getting radio silence. I get it – agents are incredibly busy. That was why I was so keen to do an Agent121 – I figured at a minimum I was jumping the queue to get an agent to read my material.

IAIP: Who became your agent?

SR: My agent is Jordan Lees at The Blair Partnership. Jordan has been a huge fan of my book since the first minute of our Agent121. He’s given me great notes for both the first and second book. He’s an author himself, so I really trust his instincts.

IAIP: What happened after your #Agent121 with Jordan?

SR: In the Agent121 meeting, we agreed that I’d send the full ms. Jordan then emailed me a week later to say he’d like to talk. When we talked, we hedged around the issue a bit and then I came out and asked him – “so, is this a call where you offer me representation, or is it so you can give me feedback that I take away and resubmit?” Luckily he laughed and said he was offering me representation. I met him in person a couple of months later and since then I try to meet up with him when I’m in London.

IAIP: How long did the process of being offered representation take? 

SR: One week from the Agent121, and then probably a couple of months to get the agreement signed, but I knew that was just paperwork so I wasn’t worried.

IAIP: How did your publishing deal come about? Did you get one or multiple offers? How many books was your deal for?

SR: After I did a re-write with Jordan (which took about three or four months total), we then went on sub to a list of about ten editors. Quite quickly we started getting very polite rejections. They were all very positive about the writing, but ‘it wasn’t quite a fit’. We did get one response from Morgan Springett who was at Hodder, and he essentially said ‘I’ve got a lot of notes, but if Stephen wants to go away and do the work and re-write, I’d be happy to re-consider. Hodder is a dream publisher for me (they publish my all time hero Stephen King!) so of course I said yes to that. I spend about a month re-writing then we re-submitted to Morgan, and then a couple of months later he wrote to say he would like to take it to their acquisitions meeting. That was one of the best emails of my life, second only to the one a week later when he said the acquisitions team loved it and they’d like to publish my book. From start of sub to that moment was about five months. The initial deal was for one book, but it was important to me that we get a series up and running, so Jordan negotiated it to a two-book deal.

IAIP: What have you learned about the publishing industry since being represented?

SR: I’ve learnt a huge amount about the industry since that day when I spoke with Jordan about representation. One of my favourite sources is the Publishing Rodeo podcast, where they lay out all the facts about how publishing works, both for big name writers, and for mid-list authors like me who are not going to get the big marketing support. One of the highlights last year was that the Publishing Rodeo presenters Scott and Sunyi called me out as someone who had clearly benefited from all I had learnt from the podcast. The main thing I learnt was that you can’t sit back and let the publisher do all the publicity (because they might not do much at all). When I got an agent, I had about 100 twitter followers and wasn’t on instagram. By the time my book came out I had a few thousand twitter followers and, most importantly, I’d built connections with a large number of book bloggers and reviewers.

IAIP: How did you hear about our #Agent121 service?

SR: I think I saw you guys on twitter. I liked your twitter bio about your life goal being to meet Coldplay!

IAIP: What advice would you give to aspiring writers looking to get published?

SR: First of all, the book is NOT finished the first time you type The End. You probably need to spend another six months doing some rigorous editing, maybe taking a course on editing, and getting input from other people. Secondly, agent121s are essential. Thirdly, I’d say the agent and trad publisher model is not the only way forward. There are a number of very successful and reputable digital only or digital first publishers who will take submissions directly, and there are a lot of writers building good careers through those publishers.

IAIP: Do you have any tips on making the most of an #Agent121?

Ask lots of questions. Don’t waste time telling the agent why they’re wrong if they try to give you advice! Most of all, show that you are somebody they could work with. So if they make suggestions, make sure you note them down, clarify them to make sure you’re on the same page. The, if you’re feeling bold, ask the agent if they’d be interested in reading the whole manuscript if you make the changes they suggest.

IAIP: The Last Line is already out in hardback, audiobook and ebook. When is it out in paperback?

SR: The paperback will be out in May 2024. Book two will be along a year later – so November 2024 for hardback.

X: @Stephen_Ronson

Instagram: @stephenronsonauthor

Linktr: stephenronson

Agent: Jordan Lees

Agency: The Blair Partnership

Check out our #Agent121 page to book your own appointment.