History

Our agency was founded in 1988 by Felicity Bryan, previously a director at Curtis Brown, and now represents over 200 authors across a wide range of genres. In addition to Felicity, it has three full-time agents and one associate agent, and employs a further team of six, as well as a fully-paid intern, rotated every three months.

Timeline:

1973 — Felicity joins London lit agency Curtis Brown, after being plucked from The Economist by mentor Graham Watson, who counted Daphne du Maurier, Gore Vidal and John Steinbeck among his list.

1980 — Felicity founds the Laurence Stern Fellowship in memory of her friend Larry Stern. Each year it sends a young British journalist to work on The Washington Post. Alumni include James Naughtie, Mary Ann Sieghart, Jonathan Freedman, Cathy Newman and Gary Younge.

1981 — Felicity moves to Oxford with her husband.

1988 — After spending years commuting to London, Felicity sets up her own agency in an Oxford flat on North Parade, with three aims: to expand her list to include local authors; to encourage academics like Diarmaid MacCulloch, to write for the general trade and get serious money for serious books; and, most importantly, to be a truly international agent and not make London her first point of call. Milan, New York, Munich, Tokyo… all, she vows, will get equal billing.

FELICITY: “The day I phoned my authors to tell them my plan was one of the most moving of my life. They cheered me on. I remember Miriam Stoppard exclaiming: “I’ve been waiting years for you to do this!” Authors are independent beings used to taking risks. So a group, including John Julius Norwich, Mary Berry, Matt Ridley, Martin Meredith and Artemis Cooper, loyally came on board.

1988 — Rosamunde Pilcher, whom Felicity had represented for over ten years, publishes The Shell Seekers. It goes on to sell more than 5m copies worldwide and spend 30 consecutive weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, being adapted for both stage and television, twice. The resulting success allows Felicity to purchase the North Parade flat and begin the process of turning it into the FBA offices you see today.

1991 — New client Karen Armstrong sweeps the board at Frankfurt with A History of God – Felicity’s first international non-fiction bestseller. It is now a classic, having sold in 40 languages around the globe.

1996 — Local author Iain Pears and his smash historical debut, An Instance of the Fingerpost, garners $2m in deals before the manuscript is even delivered.  It goes on to sell in 28 languages.

2001 — Having already taken on Michele Topham and Carole Robinson as rights and account managers, FBA takes on its second agent, Catherine Clarke, to represent not only non-fiction but also children’s fiction, a fast-growing market.

FELICITY: “Catherine’s arrival changed everything. We were now an expanding agency with a future. At her first Frankfurt she did a six-figure deal for John Dickie’s Cosa Nostra, which became a worldwide bestseller. She then turned her hand to children’s books—which I knew nothing about—at just the time the market was expanding. She rapidly proved to have a nose for the market: first novels by Jenny Downham and Annabel Pitcher took Bologna by storm. Sally Gardner won the Carnegie and Costa Awards, Liz Kessler became an international brand, and David Almond, author of Skellig, arrived.”

2001 — That same year, associate agent Sally Holloway joins the agency – like Felicity, a fan of representing journalists with books on economics and current affairs – and goes on to make Tim Harford’s Undercover Economist an international bestseller in 27 languages.

2006 — After a lengthy period of agent-hunting to fill the agency’s gap in adult fiction, former film producer Caroline Wood is recruited to join the expanding FBA team.

FELICITY: “Caroline’s arrival was thrilling. She sold Martin Walker‘s Bruno crime series to Diogenes, which has now sold over 3 million copies in Germany. Anna Hope, Rhidian Brook, Gill Hornby and others have since put us firmly on the international fiction map with amazing bestsellers.”

2010 — Felicity arranges a management buyout, bringing Catherine and Caroline onto the board as shareholders, with Catherine as md.

2010 — Felicity is awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Oxford Brookes University for her work in publishing.

2016 — A new agent, Carrie Plitt, joins from C+W.

2017 — Catherine is named Agent of the Year at the Nibbies, after a run of amazing successes, most notably with Peter Frankopan‘s worldwide bestseller and follow-up, The (New) Silk Roads.

2018 — The three-month paid internship programme begins, overseen by Carrie. To date, it has provided two full members of staff and seen interns go on to jobs in publishing and agenting alike.

2018 — Carrie is named a Bookseller Rising Star.

2018 — FBA takes over the client list of Peake Associates, ahead of Tony’s retirement, including Jonathan Coe, Damon Galgut and Jon Savage, among many others.

2019 — Carrie is promoted to the Board of Directors.

CATHERINE: “Carrie’s dynamism, intelligence, ideas, and sense of humour have been a fantastic addition to the agency and we are all very happy she will be a key part of our future. She has energetically expanded her list of authors, which includes bestselling journalist and activist Reni Eddo-Lodge; Will Eaves, winner of the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize; Tom Nancollas, whose Seashaken Houses was a Waterstones Book of the Month; Alex Reeve, author of Richard and Judy pick The House on Half Moon Street; and authors of Taking Up Space, Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi, now being turned into a TV series by the people behind Killing Eve.”

2019The Hare with Amber Eyes, The Silk Roads, and Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race named Books of the Decade by the Times and the Observer.

2020 — After having three – In Extremis, Furious Thing, and Middle England – of the fifteen shortlisted titles, FBA wins a fifth Costa with Coe’s wonderful and timely novel, which had already taken the Prix du Livre Européen.

FELICITY: What next? Well, publishing and agenting has changed radically in my 47 years in the trade. But the thrill of representing brilliant authors, helping them achieve reputational and financial success, and the joy of matchmaking an author with an editor and watching the relationship flower is no different—and it still sends a tingle down my spine. Hamish Hamilton publishing director Simon Prosser once told my colleague Caroline that we were known as the happiest UK agency. And certainly walking into our beautiful offices in North Parade, Oxford, always gives me a spring in my step.