We were delighted to catch up with literary agent, Sophie Lambert, of Conville and Walsh for a quick Q and A session. Sophie will be speaking at our September LWC Live event on Tuesday 23rd September. Members grab a place now for free, otherwise, tickets are £15 in advance, £20 on door. Details here.
1) Please could you give us a brief biog.
After graduating from Kings College London where I studied English and German literature, I worked as a bookseller and then a fiction buyer for Blackwells and Foyles. I spent three years working at Janklow & Nesbit Associates in New York, which was my first introduction to what a literary agent does. I worked intensively with very established authors there, spoke to Gore Vidal several times a week and assisted three very busy book agents. In 2009, I joined the small literary agency Tibor Jones & Associates and started to build my own list of fiction and nonfiction authors. I moved, along with all my authors, to Conville & Walsh in 2013. C&W is now part of Curtis Brown, although it still retains a separate and distinct identity.
2) What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on a breathtakingly beautiful memoir that is part love letter to the Scottish Highlands and part a delving into a family’s dark secrets by a brilliant young journalist. I’m also working on a supernatural thriller by a Faber Academy alumni and a very literary novel set in New York, spanning several decades and involving several well-known cult figures by an extremely talented young UEA graduate. As an agent, variety is a thrill.
3) What are you looking for?
I am looking for stories that demand to be read, nonfiction that offers up a glimpse of something or somewhere that I would never otherwise experience and above all, writing that sparkles. I am emotionally invested in every book I represent, otherwise I simply wouldn’t be that writers’ best advocate and champion.
4) How do you find your writers?
Increasingly I take on authors who have been recommended to me by other authors I represent or that the agency represents. I also approach authors and journalists. At C&W we take our submissions very seriously and have a dedicated reader for the many unsolicited submissions we receive daily. I have recently sold a debut novel that came in this way and many of the company’s success stories have been discovered like this.
5) Please give us your top tips for unpublished writers
* Make sure that you have put together a killer synopsis. It needs to be concise and enticing. If you can’t sum up the essence of your novel and intrigue a prospective reader then it’s unlikely that someone else will be able to.
* When you submit your work to prospective agents make sure it’s as polished as possible. Of course you will get to a point where it’s difficult to see past the point you are at but it’s important to send your manuscript out when it’s ready (I always recommend authors reading their work out aloud – it’s a very helpful exercise when it comes to ensuring the prose is fluent and the ‘whole’ is coherent).
* Make sure you submit to the right agents and agencies and follow guidelines properly (it’s surprising the proportion of authors who don’t). We are bombarded with submissions and you’ll be letting yourself down if you don’t take it seriously.
We look forward to seeing you at the event.