With pitches and first pages of novels in hand, Elaine and Francesca travelled up to London last weekend for this year’s Discovery Day at Foyles bookshop, to speak with agents from Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh.
Elaine: Saturday the 27th February 2016 had arrived. The nerves had suddenly come to the fore. Hundreds of unpublished writers travelled to the Curtis Brown Discovery Day at Foyles Bookshop in London. Everyone of us excited to have the first page of our novels critiqued by one of their agents.
I sat, with paperwork in hand, and spoke to the lovely Sophie Lambert who is an agent with Conville and Walsh Literary Agency. I give my thanks to her because my nerves disappeared and I was able to talk about my Victorian Saga with ease. Sophie showed a great deal of interest in my novel and pointed me in the direction of another agent, Rebecca Ritchie of Curtis Brown, whom she thought would be interested in my genre.
Francesca: I must admit, I wasn’t as nervous this year, maybe because I knew the agents weren’t there to snap people up but to give sound advice. I was lucky to land Clare Conville of Conville and Walsh. Although not representing my genre, she had some good suggestions about what to add to the opening. She also said it was ‘sharp and funny’, which was encouraging. She gave me the name of two agents from Curtis Brown, so I’m storing those up for when I’ve finished the novel.
After the one-to-one, we were sent in groups for the surgery session. Here we had an opportunity to ask any questions about writing, submitting and publishing.
Elaine: At the end of the pitching and surgery sessions, Francesca and I, along with our writing friends, Rosemary Goodacre and Claire Verillo, stayed for the panel talk. This was chaired by Anna Davis. Also on the panel were Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, Karolina Sutton, Emma’s Curtis Brown agent, and Venetia Butterfield, from Emma’s publishing company, Viking. Anna informed us that the agents had spoken to over seven hundred writers, which is a staggering figure.
The panel discussion was mainly about how everyone has to pitch to sell the novel, from the author, agent and the buyer of the publishing company, who then has to try and sell it to the Sales Team and the Marketing Department. They also talked about what attracts them to a novel. The answer can probably be broken down into three words; Emotion, Characters, and Plot, but not necessarily in that order.
Francesca: I think the location within the store and the queueing system worked a lot better this year (Foyles has been refurbished since we were there last). We didn’t have to wait around for so long and there was a cafe to hang out in until your time slot arrived.
I understand the experience of those pitching Young Adult novels wasn’t quite as smooth. My daughter, Giovanna Burgess, was there to pitch a YA fantasy and her queue did move a lot slower. To speed it up, some of the writers ended up seeing non YA agents and even an agency reader. Despite this, Giovanna was more than happy with the advice she received.
It’s pretty safe to say we all had a good day and it is definitely something we would recommend. The opportunity to meet with agents and get feedback on your first page is priceless.
Were you there? What was your experience?