Following the death of Christopher Little in Jan 2021, the Christopher Little Literary Agency is now permanently closed.
The Christopher Little Literary Agency LLP, established 1979, is a highly personal hands-on organisation with proven global capabilities.
Born in York, West Yorkshire Little studied at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield until he left post O levels. He joined his uncle’s textile firm in 1958 but following his death and subsequent sale of the business in 1959, moved to T. F. Firth carpet manufacturers as an export sales trainee. In 1961 he was awarded a John Speak Foundation foreign language scholarship (through the Bradford Chamber of Commerce) and spent a year in Paris working with Firth’s French affiliate.
He returned to Yorkshire but having found a bigger world, moved back to France where he sold office supplies (carbon paper) on a commission-only basis throughout France before working his way out to Hong Kong via Thailand, Malaya, Singapore and Borneo, again selling carbon paper before arriving in Hong Kong in1965 to seek employment there.
Christopher joined Sir Jacob Behrens textile merchants selling high quality British worsted suiting materials to wholesalers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. In 1967 he moved to selling Mutual Funds and in 1970 transferred to that firm’s Swiss Bank as their Far East representative primarily because of his knowledge of Asia and his fluent French. This involved considerable travel particularly through Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos.
He returned to the UK in 1974 and settled in London. Finding it difficult to get a good job he opened his own recruitment company, Christopher Little Consultants which he continued to run until 1992. However in 1979 Christopher was persuaded by his old school friend and fellow Hong Kong-er Philip Nicholson to sell his first novel. He found a Publisher first in the US for Nicholson’s book Man on Fire published under the pseudonym A.J. Quinnell. Christopher then established the Christopher Little Literary Agency.
He found that he liked working with creatives and as a result the agency grew alongside the recruitment business, representing some 20 authors by 1992 at which time he sold the recruitment agency.
In 1995 Christopher Little received 3 chapters of a manuscript from J. K. Rowling (then known as Joanne Rowling) who was looking for representation. Looking at a list of literary agents she saw the name “Christopher Little” and, believing it to sound like a character in a children’s story, sent him the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He responded four days later requesting the balance of the book, thinking there was something special about it.
Every major UK publisher turned the book down but a small publishing company had just opened a children’s department (Bloomsbury Publishing). They too saw the potential and bought UK Commonwealth publication rights in 1996 for one book for £2,500 – a small figure which others in the industry have reflected they believed to be his “masterstroke”. The US rights for one book in the United States subsequently went to auction after word of mouth and positive reviews raised significant interest in the property which went for a six figure sum. Foreign language publication rights were sold in over 80 languages and topped the bestsellers lists around the world. Film rights were sold to Warner Bros/Heyday Films.
Christopher Little is credited with turning Rowling into a “literary superstar”. The pair have been described as being “the most commercially successful relationship in literary history”.
In 1996 another young unpublished author Darren O’Shaughnessy, aka Darren Shan, submitted his exciting and original ideas to Christopher. Darren now has some 50 books published and has sold over 30 million books worldwide.
Christopher negotiated and secured a number of successful film deals for his clients, notably Man on Fire (A J Quinnell), The Lazarus Child (Robert Mawson), The Pianist (Wladyslaw Szpilman), The Vampire’s Assistant (Darren Shan) and the Harry Potter films (J K Rowling).
Clients of The Christopher Little Literary Agency have included Janet Gleeson, Cathy Hopkins, Carol Hughes, Gen Sir Mike Jackson, Philip Kazan, Erin Kinsley, Pippa Mattinson, Robert Mawson, Bruce McCabe, Kate McCann, A. J. Quinnell, Robert Radcliffe, Darren Shan, Wladyslaw Szpilman, Pip Vaughan Hughes and Anne Zouroudi.