Laxfield Literary Associates wants to help East Anglian authors get their big break.

East Anglian Daily Times: Emma Shercliff has over 20 years' worth of publishing experience and has worked in Paris, Melbourne, Abuja and London Picture: Emma ShercliffEmma Shercliff has over 20 years' worth of publishing experience and has worked in Paris, Melbourne, Abuja and London Picture: Emma Shercliff (Image: Archant)

Lockdown prompted aspiring authors across the world to put pen to paper this summer. But if you’ve finally finished that dream novel, what’s the next step?

Perhaps Emma Shercliff can help? Based in Laxfield, Emma has just launched Suffolk’s first literary agency and is hoping to tap into a whole new, undiscovered demographic of talent on her doorstep.

The entrepreneur, who has over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, decided to set up Laxfield Literary Associates as the result of a recent report from Northumbria University’s professor Katy Shaw, which highlighted the lack of literary agencies and publishing opportunities outside of London.

“Accessing an agent can be a huge challenge for an author, and this challenge is exacerbated if one lives outside the UK, or even outside London. I really want to do things differently, and for Laxfield Literary to be seen as open and accessible,” she says.

East Anglian Daily Times: Emma pictured here at the Aké Arts and Book Festival in Nigeria Picture: Emma ShercliffEmma pictured here at the Aké Arts and Book Festival in Nigeria Picture: Emma Shercliff (Image: Archant)

Emma has worked in a number of countries including Iran, Nigeria, the United States and Australia, but upon settling in East Anglia quickly realised the need for author support in the region.

“Having helped organise the Low House Litfest, a literary festival in our village pub last year, I became aware of just how many incredible authors were based nearby, and how much support and interest there was in writing from this part of the world.”

With lockdown making working from home and remote meetings a normal part of business practice, now proved to be the perfect time to get the ball rolling with establishing her agency.

“I’ve worked from home as a publisher for several years, but it was during lockdown that I realised I could make a virtue out of being based here, rather than feeling I was somehow deficient for not being based in London.

“Everything’s changed, and this was the right time to bring an agency to Suffolk.”

Laxfield Literary Associates – which officially launched on Thursday, October 1 - is especially keen to work with authors from under-represented backgrounds, those with care-related responsibilities, and authors based in Africa and the Middle East.

“This came largely through my experience of working with African authors over the last five years, and from conversations with authors from a variety of backgrounds, and from rural areas. There are a lot of writers who have no idea how to access the publishing world, or who feel the agenting process is closed to them, and I want to try to open up those networks.”

In the past, Emma has worked with a number of African authors including winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Leye Adenle, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Olumide Popoola and Emmanuel Iduma.

“I also became increasingly aware that there are lots of authors with caring responsibilities who may need extra support. For example, I worked closely with two authors who were single parents who were invited to a major literary festival, but there was no provision for childcare. When I raised the question with the festival, they were very responsive but they just hadn’t prioritised this as an issue.

“There are so many small things like this within the publishing industry – such as launch parties always taking place in the evening - meaning those with caring responsibilities find it difficult to attend. That’s the sort of thing I’m keen to lobby for on behalf of my authors.

“If the publishing industry is truly committed to widening the range of authors from different backgrounds and life experiences, then we need to be able to support their particular requirements in order to be truly inclusive.”

To coincide with the opening of Laxfield Literary Associates, the agency is also launching its inaugural New Anglia Manuscript Prize.

Sponsored by the National Centre for Writing in Norwich, the competition will look for the best new writer from Suffolk and Norfolk in the form of a debut novel from an unpublished writer.

The winner will receive a cash prize of £500, and an offer of representation from Laxfield Literary Associates