Working against the odds, Felicity Bryan turned a small start-up business in a London flat into a juggernaut of the literary world.
Over the decades that followed she represented major authors including Mary Berry, Rosamunde Pilcher, Karen Armstrong and Peter Frankopan.
Many titles by the authors he has championed have sold millions of copies across the world, and this year she was made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in recognition of her achievements.
But Ms Bryan’s career as a literary agent was actually her third choice.
We were very sad to hear of Felicity Bryan’s passing: an incredible literary agent and seasoned exhibitor at The London Book Fair. The world of books will never quite be the same. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues. pic.twitter.com/5bMSv8XnqA
— The London Book Fair (@LondonBookFair) June 22, 2020
Born in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire in 1945, she went to boarding school then the University of London, leaving with a bachelor’s degree in art history.
After a short period working at an art journal, she settled in the States and found a job as a correspondent for the Financial Times.
Ms Bryan later left to take a post at The Economist, before being recruited to work for literary agency Curtis Brown in 1972.
During her time there, she founded the Laurence Stern Fellowship – which was renamed Stern-Bryan earlier this month – which offers one young British journalist an internship with The Washington Post every summer.
She also rose to the post of director at the firm but left to carve out her own trail.
Setting up business for herself, Ms Bryan wanted to wider her list of writers to include local authors, but also to look internationally and not limit herself to just London.
Within years, books she helped to broker were topping best-seller lists across the world.
The business continued to grow and currently has three full-time agents, one associate agent, six other employees and a fully-paid intern.
Felicity Bryan Associations now represents more than 200 authors.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of my literary agent Felicity Bryan. Her warmth, kindness, and enthusiasm will live on in the lives of those she touched. Her belief in me is the reason I published two books. I will miss her enormously. Rest in love and peace Felicity! pic.twitter.com/ueI14Dqo9a
— Carlos Acosta CBE (@CAcostaOfficial) June 22, 2020
Ms Bryan announced her retirement earlier this month, following a diagnosis of stomach cancer last summer.
She died of cancer aged 74 on Sunday.
A statement from her family – husband Alex Duncan, and their sons Max and Ben – said: “In the last few months Felicity has shown more clearly than ever why so many have loved and admired her.
“Her courage and resilience that have been called on so many times in her life have been manifest in the calm and realism with which she faced her final illness, and in the happiness she said she felt in recent weeks.
“She showed her joy in life and sense of fun by the delight she has taken in so much since the diagnosis in summer 2019.
“She has taken great care to ensure that her authors will be well looked after by her colleagues at Felicity Bryan Associates, and when already very ill she started a series of weekly emails about authors’ newly-published books whose launches were adversely affected by Covid-19.
“She took particular pleasure in the hundreds of messages of farewell, written from the heart by friends and colleagues.”
A statement from Bryan’s firm said: “Our deeply-loved Felicity died peacefully on Sunday, at home, as she would have wanted, surrounding by her close family.
“Two days before, she was awarded her MBE medal in a small ceremony in her beautiful garden, a fitting commemoration of her incredible life.”