Interested in children’s books for all ages – She particularly like’s laugh-out-loud books aimed at middle grade children but also loves books with emotional depth and strong plots for older children. For her adult portfolio, She’s very interested in memoirs. Historical settings and again, a really compelling voice that works in whatever world the author has created are key likes. The Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency is one of the UK’s leading literary agencies representing a bestselling roster of authors and illustrators. Our particular areas of interest include fiction, non-fiction—especially human interest stories and memoirs—and all types of children’s books.
- When did you come into agenting? What did you do before? And why agenting?
I came into agenting seven years ago. Prior to that I was working in the USA as Director of Rights and Licensing for Candlewick Press. As I had worked for Candlewick’s sister company in the UK, Walker Books, I was quite often asked to comment very early on whether a project would have worldwide appeal and I think it’s helpful to have that hat on as an agent. More than that though, in my previous job, authors would call for help when they couldn’t understand their royalty statements or if a film producer had been in touch. As more and more authors got representation, that side of my job got less frequent and I realised that being at the coal face was a place I could be very happy, and I am.
- What sort of books do you love?
Have you ever opened a new manuscript, read a single page, and thought ‘I’m going to end up making an offer on this’? What was it about that page which excited you? Yes, I have. I started reading the manuscript at my desk and knew I had to get away from the phone and email and read it all. It was the writing and voice. Stunning. I went to a café and devoured it. When I finished, I mopped up my tears, stroked the manuscript and swore I would make the author mine.
- What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?
‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Hi there’ usually gets me heading for the delete button. We are (we think!) open and welcoming on our website and provide a picture and an email address. Unless one of us needs a makeover badly, I think it’s quite clear there are no ‘Sirs’ working here. It bothers me when authors don’t bother.
- Of the authors who are not on your list, who would you most love to represent?
(You can pick a few names.) I’ll plead the fifth on that question!
- Where do most of your authors come from? The slushpile? Personal recommendation? Or what?
As you get more established as an agent, authors come via recommendations from other authors and from acknowledgements pages. Publisher recommendations have also brought me some good talent. I’ve got a slushpile (hate that word!) author publishing her first books this May which is very exciting but has happened to me only once!
- Do you need good personal chemistry with your authors?
I think you need a certain transparency with your authors. It’s a very close relationship so there certainly needs to be a lot of trust and the author needs to feel safe in telling me exactly what they think about something but I don’t think that needs to extend to going on holiday with each other!
- Do you get involved in shaping an author’s career?
I like to give advice about new directions and of course I feed back to authors when publishers are asking for projects in certain areas of the market, but at the end of the day, it’s the author’s call.
- If you had one bit of advice to give to new writers, what would it be?
Read more books and join a very critical writer’s group.
- Are e-books going to bring about fundamental changes to the publishing industry? What would you say if one of your authors wanted to e-publish their next book, cutting out conventional publishers altogether?
I think most published authors would prefer to be published by their publisher and if an author suggested direct-to- e pub, I might suspect there was a problem with the relationship; but it could also be that there was something about the project that better suited it to e pub.
- Have you enjoyed reading more since becoming an agent? Or are there times it feels like a chore?
Before becoming an agent, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to read Richard and Judy selections for example, but they were so powerful in the first place I thought I can’t really work as an agent and say ‘no, I haven’t read We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and also because I read almost exclusively books for young people for work, I’ve started to read a lot of crime in my spare time, ie something that I would never, ever take on in the course of my job.
- The grim stats: how many submissions do you get per week (or year)? And how many new authors do you take on?
We get over 10,000 submissions a year which can feel quite onerous but we work hard to respond to every one. I’ve had a bit of a bumper 12 months and taken on about five new authors but the year before that, it might only have been one.
- Do you like your authors to tweet & blog & Facebook … or do you really not care?
It’s important to publishers that authors are active in the digital space but I have also had publishers rap my knuckles for what authors are saying there!! I’m careful to tell authors exactly when something is safe to Tweet or blog – if we’ve just done a film deal for example, we wouldn’t want the producer’s press release scooped by the author’s tweet.
- Do you secretly have a book in you? And if so, tell us more …
Blimey, no way!
Penny is one of the agents appearing at this year’s Festival of Writing. Each year we invite literary agents who are hungry for new talent and who represent some of the biggest and best agencies in the business. Don’t miss your chance to book a one-to-one session with an agent of your choice.
Sam is an agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White. Sam’s first job in publishing was at Curtis Brown, where he started in 2001. He left in 2006 to help create the Robinson Literary Agency, and joined Rogers, Coleridge and White in 2009 when the two companies merged. He is building an extremely diverse list, representing writers of both literary and commercial fiction, science fiction, children’s (11+), serious and not-so-serious non-fiction. In fact, he is happy to look at anything but self-help and business books.
- When did you come into agenting? What did you do before? And why agenting?
My first job in agenting was ten years ago, when I started at Curtis Brown. After 5 years, I moved to Rogers, Coleridge and White. Before that I was a bookseller, cleaner, market trader, door to door salesman, bar man etc etc etc… And why agenting? Because on it’s day, it’s the best job in the world.
- Have you ever opened a new manuscript, read a single page, and thought ‘I’m going to end up making an offer on this’? What was it about that page which excited you?
Yes. Recently actually. It was original, brilliantly written and completely startling.
- What’s your pet peeve on covering letters?
Pet peeve on covering letters? All the usual. To be honest, there’s a lot of focus placed on covering letters by writers (and agents) BUT REALLY, IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Couple of lines on who you are, a few lines about the book. Don’t fret about it too much, don’t try too much (the more you try the more you’re likely to mess up..). And pick the right agent. It’s all in the writing of the book at the end of the day.
- Do you need good personal chemistry with your authors?
You don’t need good chemistry, but it certainly helps. Many of my authors have become close friends.
- If you weren’t an agent, what else would you be?
I am utterly unqualified to do anything apart from being a literary agent. Oh – actually – maybe an astronaut.
Sam is one of the agents appearing at this year’s Festival of Writing. Each year we invite literary agents who are hungry for new talent and who represent some of the biggest and best agencies in the business. Don’t miss your chance to book a one-to-one session with an agent
The young woman picked up her bag and left, most offended.
“What are you doing?” he asked the parrot, who merely cocked his head to one side, looked curious and said not a word.
Right said the man. “Well don’t let it happen again!”
Next week the man again manages to tempt a young woman back to his apartment. As soon as the girl has taken off her coat the bird bursts out screeching
“Lovely titties, lovely litties”
In a trice the woman gathers up her things and leaves.
Not long after this the man again manages to pull and brings a really beautiful girl back. Of course as soon as her coat came off revealing her charms the bird again squawked
“Lovely titties, lovely titties”.
The girl left straight away.
That doesn't affect my writing...except when I'm sitting on the sofa and writing on the laptop. My legs are too short to reach the floor, so I either sit with my legs jutting out straight like a child, or slump so my feet stand a chance of touching the ground.
As a result, a days productive wordsmithing can leave me with a terribly aching back.
Not for much longer!
I have purchased a HUGE cushion...it has already been dubbed 'the writing cushion', and I'm hoping that by pushing me forward and allowing me to sit straighter, it will make for heightened and painfree productivity!
So, fellow cloudies...what are your writng aids and why do you need them?
A BIRD”S EYES VIEW (Of ‘World Book Night’ at the South Bank, London, Monday April 23, 2012 - overheard on the lower slopes of Mount Parnassus - world scoop)
Yesterday I went to this gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was a date of sorts. I know sisters. Do you believe it? Yeah - I was invoked!
Yeah - tell me about it. Rough stuff. I know - live with it. This guy - the one who asked me out - he was a sad fuck, but us girls, we don’t get prepositioned much, so I said, ‘yeah.’ Well, you know, it it was Will’s birthday. We sat in the upper stalls. What a cheapskate.
It all began with this bloke on the on the stage saying, ”Don’t turn your phones off. I’ve lost me mobile, and I need to talk to my aunt. I given her all all your numbers.”
Sisters, why didn’t he call me, the loser. Where was Brucie? But this bloke - he can’t see me, can he? He can’t hear me? He can’t touch me? I know. A penny for your thoughts, dearie.
Kathy was there and she read Dorothy. Good on ya. There was me old mate Banks. It ended when this guy doing one of Will’s poems. I’m doing it in Manicurian.” he said. I could ‘av screamed, “Don’t do it.” What sort of statement do you think you are making? Poor Will. We were there when it happened - at the beginning. Will invoked the sisterhood. “O give me a muse of fire,” You remember? Yeah - good days. The best. But this guy, on the stage, he don’t know don’t know me from Adam. He bombed.
I was still with this guy - my date - and we left. ‘Don’t look back,” I whispered. I think heard me. It had been raining; nobody was on the embankment - I was there and nobody saw us. The Thames ran sweet and clear. He looked down at the waters. Don’t look there, nor up in the sky. I’m over here. Look at the bridge. On the other side of the river. There’s Soho, there’s Covent Garden. A penny for me rosies. Come fly with me. Wow, was this tough! Sisters, give me stregnth.
Just before I was born my parents lost a child. He was killed whilst playing 'chicken' on the train track with some friends. I grew up, with my surviving brother and sister, only knowing snippets of the story, my parents virtually never speaking of either him or the circumsatnces of his death. It was a fragile childhood. My dad was a gentle man, bound by grief that stifled any obvious emotion from him. My mum careened around the house, sometimes crying behind a closed door, sometimes holding my hand too tight along a busy road, sometimes silent.
My 'mission impossible' was to make this family happy again and I spent my whole childhood trying - still try. When I was five and the threat of my sixth birthday loomed, Mum decided it would be a 'lovely' idea to recite 'Now We Are Six' in assembly. I was an extremely shy child, blushing to the tips of my split ends but of course, to please her, I agreed. All I remember of the recital is my infants school parquet flooring and at the end my mother's face - not happy (of course not) and the helplessness and sense of failure I felt has stayed with me. My brother was just six when he died.
For those of you unfamiliar with the poem it goes like this:
When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly Me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever
So I think I'll be six now forever and ever.
But some books don't do that. For example, sagas, or long stories. Lots of authors begin by introducing the characters - Mary Higgins and Anne Tyler.
I put Kit's Reward out as an ebook. My story does not begin with excitement but with gloomy weather to match gloomy mood and outlook.
I did think maybe it would be better if I started in a different place - it is recognised that the first two chapters can usually be slung, particularly in a new writer's work. But I didn't.
I was setting atmosphere.
The first thing that my trial readers said was that they liked the first sentence where Kit says she woke up and knew that she was going to have a bad day. The kids could obviously identify with that.
However, an editor, (sorry WW - she offered univited) has said that she cringed when she read the start of my book - she hates books that begin with the weather and people waking up. It was a no no and no one else would read it. They would balk at the first page.
She went on to criticise the use of words like heartwarming and another similar word that was used as a tag. Also that she did not need telling that there was colour in the story she would judge for herself.
I explained that I took those words from reviews that the book had been given.
She went on to say that I had no idea how to form a story and that Kit did not come across as a real character.
Now, in the past I would have been stung by these remarks, but now, thanks to the wonderful people on Cloud I am smiling.
I am smiling because other people who I respect deeply have given very different and positive opinions.
Also I am smiling because over 550 people have downloaded the story in less than a month and I am going to beam at that.
I find it amazing that my little story is being read by people around the world.
I went on to look up the books that this ex editor of a famous house has written and I will just say that I am so happy that I write with feeling.
One of the most wonderful things said was that when they reached the part in my story where the grandmother hugs Kit, they broke down and cried.
Another said they had tears of happiness in their eyes at the end. What more could a writer want?
I am encouraged.
Have I managed to express my feelings adequately without tipping a bucket of worms over her head.
Or, of course, not been blind to a helpful opinion!
And like all cloudies, at some point, I would like to have my work published. I decided to get back in touch with him. He is very pleased to hear that I am writing my first novel.
Although, he is up to his neck in his own writing and cannot offer me any editorial adivce, he has offered to give me some advice on how to get published and all things related to writing a novel.
I stare at the blank page saying 'new email' with his email address at the top, and think, what can I ask him? What advice can I gleen from him that I cannot find on pages about getting published. I want to ask questions that aren't so obvious, or where I can find the answer from a book.
In my activity stream, EmmaD has suggested that I ask about the writing process. How does my former English teacher start and finish a book. What things would he like to have known when he was in an unpublished author's shoes. How did he attract his agent - even though I don't know whether he has an agent.
So my question is, what would you ask? What burning questions do you have? Respond, and I'll ask him.
Today, I had a rejection that was helpful. They liked the premise of the work which they found engaging, but felt they couldn't connect with the writing, especially the dialogue. The whole email was seven lines, as are most. But they'd taken that bit of care to say, in brief, why.
During the six weeks it took them to respond - which is not a gripe - I have rewoeked C1 to make it, I hope, more dynamic.
If you'd like to read all 1,761 words, it's here in My First Book http://writing-community.writersworkshop.co.uk/forum/topic/7320#7320
But if you do, can you coment especially on the dialogue, please? Bear in mind it is set sixty years ago, so all those punchy contempoary phrases we're used to hearing today, will not be in it.
I like Rufus, Dexter and Oscar, the husband has flatly refused to name the dog any of those names. We quite like Barney but now I'm worried he'll grow out that name when he's all grown up.
The kids like, Bernard (I don't) Super Mario and Bowser. The latter isn't too bad actually and Bernard would be ok if shortened to Bernie
Last night we thought the name 'Wilbur' but the kids don't like it.
So the only names we all (kind of) agree on are Bowser and Bernie. I don't mind those names but I don't love them either.
I am hoping, therefore that this blog might encourage some more suggestions from Clouders.
I do have quite an extensive list of silly names as provided by Facebookers but I shall wait and see what you guys come up with before sharing any of those names! It will be interesting to see how many, if any, are duplicated.