Notes from live event with agent, Camilla Wray

Camilla Wray, originator of PITCH AN AGENT, is the Crime & Thriller agent at the Darley Anderson Literary TV & Film Agency. She studied English Literature and Psychology at Cardiff University, specialising in novel writing and abnormal psychology. In 2003 she co-founded a successful business and worked on this until 2005, when she decided to follow her love of stories. After gaining a distinction from the University of the Arts, she worked for a national newspaper until she joined the Darley Anderson Agency in 2007. The Darley Anderson Agency is an international market leader for commercial crime and thrillers, and represents No.1 bestselling authors such as Lee Child, John Connolly, Martina Cole, Tana French and Tim Weaver.

 

And author, Imran Mahmood (You Don’t Know Me, to be published by Penguin Random House in May)

 

How did they start working together?

Imran sent his book out to five agents and all asked to meet him – he decided to work with Camilla because of her enthusiasm, and passion for his book and writing.

 

*Top Tip – remember to follow the submission guidelines on each agency’s site – don’t give agents a reason to say ‘no’ before reading your work.

 

What is Imran’s book about?

It’s a crime book – with elements of a love story/friendship – Camilla compared it to the podcasts, Serial and Making a Murderer in her pitch letter to publishers.

 

What work did Camilla do with Imran to get the book ready?

Camilla is very ‘hands on’ with authors – she gets involved with the ms. and can polish the structure, voice and linguistic wording. She is able to see the bigger picture and to suggest changes to make it work.

 

How did the submission process go with publishers?

Camilla sent it out to 11 publishers and 10 said no. They felt it was too different and didn’t fit in with the crime genre writing on their lists. However, the eleventh publisher took his time and finally decided to offer. It will be published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House in May.

 

*Top Tips – when sending your book out to agents, remember to use other cultural references – books/movies/music etc. Broaden out your references.

 

Think about how you communicate your book to others – how do you talk about your book. How will your editor talk to your readers about your book?

 

Warn agents if there are spoilers in your synopsis. Camilla likes to read the submissions as a reader – she wants the writing to unfold and to enjoy a pace in the narrative.

 

Play around with the format of your pitch.

 

Include a blurb in your letter/covering email.

 

Make people stop and read your book.  Make the opener really strong.

Write for your Reader

 

Stand out from the competition by making it the best you can. If you’ve done three edits tell the agent. Be proud of that.

 

Give a pitch that the agent can take to the publisher. Mould for pitch and blurb

Do your pitch letter as the email rather than as an attachment.

 

 

 

Competition and top tips for writing Flash Fiction

The Casket of Fictional Delights 2017 Flash Fiction Competition

Flash Fiction offers writers the challenge of creating a masterpiece in miniature. It is enjoyable and addictive to both the reader and the creator.  How do you go about creating the perfect flash fiction?

Work the titlein flash fiction you have a limited number of words, so use your title wisely. Don’t forget the title is not included in your word count!

Break the rulesYou have greater flexibility than you would perhaps have in a traditional short story in terms of language, structure and style.

It’s not a poembut remember, flash fiction still needs to tell a story, it is a form of prose after all.

Our judge Kit De Waal says

I am looking for a whole story that gives me depth and breadth, a beginning, a middle and an end but, just like a novel, not necessarily in that order! I’m looking for a turn in the story, something that propels it forward, maybe something unsettling or surprising but I don’t like gimmicks and tricks, I’m not keen on a rabbit out of the hat. For me, flash fiction has a sense of slow burn, something that will resonate with you long after the last word is read.

We are looking for entries?with a maximum of 300 words (excluding title).

Judge:?Kit De Waal
Closing date:?31st?May 2017

Entry: £5 per flash fiction, £12.50 for 3 or?£20 for 5

Prizes  

  • The winning flash fiction will receive £150.
  • The top three flash fictions will be?published on The Casket of Fictional Delights.
  • The top 10 flash fictions will be?professionally recorded and broadcast in a special audio podcast?on iTunes, SoundCloud, TuneIn and Stitcher, and promoted by The Casket of Fictional Delights.

To enter www.thecasket.co.uk/enter

 

A full set of Rules and Writing Tips are available on the website.

Guest post by Shalini Bhatt: notes on LWC event with Ben Clark

Events and networking are key in the publishing industry.

That’s what I keep hearing, over and over again, anyway. So I jumped at the chance to attend a networking talk with Jacq Burns and Kirsty McLachlan, otherwise known as the London Writers’ Club. They hold an event every month to put writers – with or without memberships – in touch with a different agent who talks about their experiences, personal interests and what they’re currently looking for. I observed a fantastic opportunity for a variety of writers to discuss current trends in the industry and their ideas for books with an industry professional to get feedback and advice; as well as meet new people embarking upon what can be a notoriously lonely endeavour.

A little about this months’ agent: Ben Clark of Lucas Alexander Whitley literary agency (LAW). He claims to be adventurous with food and has a widespread area of interest when it comes to books; so what is he currently looking for? He discussed this, along with what prospective authors should do before sending their manuscripts into the publishing world by submission to agents.

You are all likely to know that a great manuscript should come with a great pitch letter to match – and that’s the key: the pitch letter has to match the manuscript. Make sure you know your story; after all, your prospective agent will be going on to pitch your writing to prospective publishers. If you don’t know your story well enough to sell it, how can they?

Accompanying your matching pitch, Ben also likes to know why. Why are you telling this story? How did you come to the decision to tell it? What has affected you in such a way that makes you want to write this story for other people to read? What is special about you and your story? Sometimes, boasting and bullet points can work; if it’s non-fiction you’re pitching, you have to be able to prove that you are a complete expert in your field, and this could mean listing a selection of the most important achievements and experiences which you may not be able to write in detail about in your letter. For non-fiction you should also supply a breakdown of chapters with your initial idea, and an example of your writing. It may be the case that you have a great idea which he’d love to take on, but your writing might need extra attention: don’t be offended, he will have your best interests at heart!

He has been known to take on a few clients based on a long letter outlining an idea and he looks for a personal approach. If you’ve researched his interests and his clients, addressed the letter specifically to him, and (if it’s true) told him that there are other agents who are interested, he will take your idea on board and try to at least give you some feedback if he can’t take you on. But you have to bear in mind that agents are very busy people and can’t always promise an in depth critique or a quick reply. As a hands on guy with a personal approach, he dislikes the automated reply to submissions, but has to use it because of the quantity of submissions received, so don’t be disheartened.

Ben only takes on one or two fiction clients a year, so what is he looking for? Stories which stand out to him aren’t necessarily ‘new’, but have a fresh approach. He enjoys fiction with an underpinning philosophical ideas and speculative fiction; so what could happen in the future as a result of an event happening now. This doesn’t have to be sci-fi, but can be a contemporary narrative which stemmed from the every day. Don’t feel like you have to follow the current trends; remember that trends come and go, so be original in your telling. He wants to see stories which haven’t been told before, or stories told in a new way.

Naturally, the topic of the London Book Fair arose. The trends he could identify were the continuation of the thriller, narrative non-fiction and books which open worlds. Speculative fiction is on the rise with authors such as Margaret Atwood and Emily St. John Mandel both having released books in this genre. Diversity is also a very current topic. With publishing fighting to diversify, tastes and trends for what will get published will change in line with views. However, publishing is notoriously resilient to change so this progress will be slow moving.

It is worth remembering that Ben is only one agent in a huge pool; he may take a very personal, hands on approach with his chosen clients, but other agents will have their own ways of working. What Ben is looking for will not reflect what other agents you may be pitching to will be looking for.

It is, however important to craft your pitch letters carefully, with each individual agent in mind. Research the company they work for, research their interests and clients. This way, you will know whether or not you will be a fit, and they will see that you are invested in your writing. As a young agent, Ben is keen to have his client list grow, and is therefore willing to travel and do what he needs to do to find new stories to publish. He seeks out gaps in the market for stories he’s passionate about, and, likewise, carefully selects his stories to fit gaps he has found in the current publishing landscape.

He confessed the the is not a huge Twitter fan, so for more information on what he does at LAW, for submission details, or for contact details of the agents at LAW, your best point of call is www.lawagency.co.uk. He can also be reached at ben@lawagency.co.uk.

For more information on the London Writers Club, its membership rates, and its events go to www.londonwritersclub.com

Agent Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann talks to LWC

 

We all miss Carole Blake a lot at Blake Friedmann, and obviously the office is not the same without her. But we know she would have wanted us to pull together to carry on her brilliant legacy. And that’s just what we’re doing.

I am actively looking to grow my list this year. I was so fortunate to work so closely with Carole, and learned a great deal from her mentorship. Under Carole’s watchful eye, my confidence grew and I felt that in 2016 I really started to prove myself. Last year I picked my projects carefully and did well, so this year I feel I have a bit more freedom to take risks and pursue a wider variety of projects that fit my passions.

I am particularly looking for:

Book club books

Less genre fiction and more general fiction

High concept stories

Still love a psychological thriller with a difference, and also love more procedural crime stories (especially with female or diverse leads)

Contemporary stories that feel millennial

Books with characters in their twenties – a Cold Feet for Millennials would be good.

Not interested in period pieces – I’m looking for contemporary settings, or even a bit of speculative fiction along the lines of Station Eleven, Margaret Atwood, The Mandibles, The Power.

I love a blend of genres – something like The Robber Bride which is mainly domestic in setting but with a slightly fantastical twist

Middle grade projects – something adventure-y, or detective-y in particular, or humour

In YA, I’d love a more literary project but looking for anything contemporary. I’m not interested in YA fantasy – the market for that is very hard in the UK, everyone is publishing US-originated fantasy

At Blake Friedmann we’re particularly interested in diverse voices and I’m looking for writers from a range of backgrounds often not well-represented in publishing.

How to choose an agent – LWC Live with Federica Leonardis

 

We have all the top London agents speak at London Writers’ Club and each time we love ’em for sharing something different. Federica Leonardis kicked off the new year at LWC Live with debut novelist Sonya Lalli. I would want her to be my agent if I were shopping for one. It is such a personal thing, you want to be sure that either their obsessions match yours (as hers do) or they complement yours. So in which case you might choose an agent who is good at things you are not.

Federica who is obsessed with character, and intelligent editing. Watch our video for the full benefit of her wisdom if you’re a member. If you aren’t a member, join now with our special offer and you’ll receive the full videos.

Federica explained that it is vital to get the ‘right agent’ – whether at a big or small agency and she goes further: ‘The size of the agency matters much less than who you choose as an agent.’ How do you choose one of our audience asked? Federica quipped, ‘Well how did you fall in love? Yes it’s that important.’

What most impressed you about Sonya’s writing?
‘That she had a ‘rare instinct’ for narrative. She knew what to leave in and what to take out. And to focus on the pivotal moments, in comparison to the lesser details.’

Were there any surprises for you Sonya as a first-time author going through the publishing process?
‘I learnt patience and humility. I received lots of rejections before I connected with Federica and during the process I learnt the lesson that as a writer you must not get too attached to your work. It is crucial to find someone who you can trust; someone who you trust enough to let them edit your baby.’

Federica nodded vigorously at this. ‘Edits are an important part of the process – learn to structure a novel and also to trust one another.

It is often said that there are 3 edits – firstly for yourself, secondly for the reader and lastly for the agent or editor.’

Her top tips:

  • Feel empowered – find out as much as you need about the publishing industry and don’t wait to be chosen, don’t be passive.
  • Read great books about writing. Try, Into the Woods by John Yorke and The Art of Character by David Corbett.

One of the audience asked Federica, what is the difference between agent and editor’s edits?

‘Agents must make it good enough so that an editor can see the value and commercial potential in the manuscript. Also as editing is not usually an agent’s core expertise an editor can make it even better. Agents should make a book structurally sound and the narrative clear. It becomes a relay – the editor will then take it the next step.

With Sonia’s book there were just a few things that didn’t make sense. Federica raised these inconsistencies and they also discussed motivations for characters and together they worked on the last third as the plot needed to be tightened at the end. Her characters were already nailed.

So by the time it got to Sonia’s editor not a huge amount of edits were needed, just a few scenes were added.

An editor will shape the novel for the market they are selling into. In the case of Sonya’s book, it was sold to a commercial imprint – so geared more into the direction of a rom com.

And then it moves on to the copy-editor who will do a line edit and check grammar etc.’

I asked Federica the question, should we try to do all things well as an author or let some go?

‘Yes it is worth being realistic about what you can do and decide what is worth learning. Working on novel structure and editing is really important.
Learn to develop the muscle used to edit a novel. Be able to kill your darlings or slash 10k words from your novel, the fact that you can learn that is so empowering.
Do you research, use book shops, submitting a pitch is really hard, sit and look at blurbs, you need to describe the essence of your book.’
(but explain what happens when pitching and don’t leave cliff hangers unlike a blurb.)

Her view was that ‘being able to fix anything that disrupts the flow or stalls the reading should be learnt. Bad grammar can pull a reader out of the narrative.’ So the advice to take away there is to fix whatever you possibly can and get help if you know grammar is your weakness.
Federica is obsessed with character motivation which she thinks very important. One of the audience asked her to clarify what she meant by character motivation.

‘Why are your characters doing what they are doing? Characters in fiction are the most imp element in a novel in my view. Their characters must have a consistent psychology – if their behaviour is not consistent, it doesn’t make sense. If characters behave strangely, you must give them a motivation.’

‘I believe in practice, practice, again and again. You can develop over and over. Pull a book apart. Movies are great for narrative. Read with an open mind. Practice with your synopsis, get it right.’

As with every London Writers’ Club event, Federica was kind enough to offer authors the chance to skip the slushpile and get read by her if they’d met at the Club.   Find out more about joining London Writers’ Club.

Biographies:
Federica Leonardis
Her experience in publishing is broad-ranging: it includes four years in the Foreign Rights department at Ed Victor Ltd, a prominent literary agency representing among others Nigella Lawson, Frederick Forsyth, John Banville and Edna O’Brien, and three years in the contracts department at the Orion Publishing Group. More recently she spent two and half years at Rogers, Coleridge & White Literary Agency, where she worked alongside David Miller and Peter Robinson with authors such as Victoria Hislop, Kate Summerscale, Ian Rankin, David Starkey and Joanne Harris, while at the same time building her own list. In July 2016 she set up Martin Leonardis Literary Management.
Sonya Lalli
Sonya Lalli is a Canadian writer of Indian heritage. She studied law in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and at Columbia University in New York City. She completed an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at City University London last year, and currently works as a journalist at a legal magazine in London. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and loves travel, yoga, piano, reading and cocktail bartending. Her debut novel The Arrangement will be published by Orion in Summer 2017.

What Makes you ‘you’? Guest Blog

What makes you, you?

Flicking through a magazine this question caught my eye. It went on to suggest creating a snapshot to represent who you are to the rest of the world.  What would you look like? What would you be doing?  Try it? A recent revelation makes me believe the next step is to think about your back story; what went into the making of ‘you’.

I host retreats in Bali and I’m writing a book about taking home all the benefits of a holiday. Working with Jacq Burns on a recent retreat she suggested that my book needed to have more of me in it and it has transformed the experience and the book. I’ve pushed past my doubts and fears and understand that my story is relevant and a big part of why I wrote the book!

You may not be ready for a book yet, but perhaps you need to write for yourself or your business, for your website or a blog and need to put more of a unique flavour of you in it?

Talking to guests from around the world, I realise that its not just me who struggles to put the ‘me’ into my words.  What if you could capture the spirit of the real you and bring more of you into everything you do including your writing? I now know what to say and write next.

I met fellow Aussie Jacq Burns when she stayed with us in Ubud over 20 years ago. She was relocating to London to work for Random House and she’s now a literary agent and author of Write a Bestseller. She fascinated me by explaining that journalists are increasingly interested in the personal story behind the scenes rather than say, a business or book itself.
We’re increasingly urged to write about ourselves in social media, blogs or books, but what if like me, you’ve struggled to write well about yourself? How do you do it?  The solution seemed obvious, so I’ve asked Jacq to run a special retreat for those of us who haven’t told our story fully and who would benefit from the sort of help she gave me.2017 is going to be the year that I tell my story and be more visible. A crucial step is believing you have a story worth telling… the answer is yes you do.

If you want to take this further join me in our treetop classroom for an intense Nail Your Story retreat with Jacq Burns I will be in the front row!
Karen Willis, Sharing Bali.PS. You don’t need to be a ‘writer’ and there is no better place to unleash the real you in your words.

What’s happening at LWC in 2017?

Perfect your concept and pitch workshop – January 26 10.30-4.30pm

First, we road test the concept of your book. This is the number one thing that excites an agent and will have them queuing up to represent you if your writing is good and you can deliver on the concept.

Then we move on to How to pitch your book to literary agents, including an in-depth look at the practical essentials of your pitch package.

This is a full-day workshop in Central London with Kirsty Mclachlan and Jacq Burns.

Novel Concept Refining & Proposal Writing Workshop

London Writers’ Club Live – January 17 – Evening event, 6.30-8.30pm

Meet literary agent, Federica Leonardis of Martin Leonardis Literary Management.

She’ll tell us what is she publishing, what she and her agency looking for and her predictions for what is hot, and what’s not.

January 2017– launch of Write a Bestseller mastermind classes with Jacq Burns.

Develop your book over 6 months with a small, carefully curated group of writers. You’ll be coached and cared for with other writers who are a good fit for you and your genre or subject matter and who are writing at your level.

With clear targets and accountability, practical writing and workshop days, set homework and one-to-one support this is the way to get your book written and out in 2017.

Write a Bestseller retreats return to Sharing Bali in 2017:

How to nail your story – March 2017 http://sharingbali.com/nail-your-story/

How to write a bestselling novel – September 2017

http://sharingbali.com/write-a-bestseller/

Contact laura@londonwritersclub.com for more information.

Flip your writing hurdles?

What are the hurdles that stop you writing? Is it shortage of time, noise, kids or like me, winter inertia? 
At my Sharing Bali writers’ retreat we got great work done – words down, plotting, planning, undoing blocks – but since the retreat each writer has returned home and faced hurdles that stop them writing. The hurdles are different for everyone of course but there are solutions. 
I’ve emailed the writers to say, ‘remember how we found time and the headspace to write on retreat, here are my

tips given for keeping it going at home’: 

1/ Stick to a set time or times of day  7am and 7pm for instance. 
2/ Set an amount of time – 45 minutes is ideal – but be realistic, when s**t happens: traffic jam, dentist appointment, visitors, you can still keep up your routine, but you reduce the time – even if you write for just 5 minutes you’re keeping the faith.
Keep a notebook in your car, always have one in your bag, sneak off to the loo when you have guests but keep to your daily routine. 
 
3/ Develop a waiting scribble habit. So have a notebook which is just for thoughts and scribbles on your book. Whenever you take public transport or are waiting for anything you take out your book and make a mark on that page. Anything will do. 
 
4/ Think like Carole Vorderman and do the math – even as little as a typed page per day for 100 days, adds up to approx 25,000 words. That’s almost a third of a book written.
5/ My final and most important tip of all is to remember you are human and not a machine.  What do humans like?  Comfort and treats.
So combine and associate writing with a treat or comfort not with procrastination and avoidance. I’ve joined a local riverside club which has comfy chairs and open fires. When I am thinking I take a brisk walk around the grounds and when scribbling I take the fireside seat. What could your  writing/ comfort association be?
 
 The hurdle-busting result:  You may have achieved just five or fifteen minutes writing for the day but you’ve done some writing so you feel good about it. You’re reinforcing your writing habit. You’ll have a book in 300 days if you keep this up. Job done. Well done.
Jacqx
PS: If you need help or inspiration with your writing I offer coaching sessions via Skype. Email laura@londonwritersclub.com for details.

Diane Lee writes from Write a Bestseller Retreat in Bali

 

 

 

LWC Co-Director has just returned from the annual writers’ retreat in Bali. One writer, Diane Lee,  sent this post:

I’m sitting in my bungalows at Sharing Bali, listening to rain pelt down in fat drops, thunder rumbling in waves across the sky.  The spicy aroma of incense wafts  in through my window. Outside, rice paddies frame the property in e emerald rows. Sharing Bali is the perfect location for writer on retreat.

This my second year on retreat, and as a writer, I consider it to be an important part of my writerly life. No distractions like Facebook, Game of Thrones, recalcitrant children and attention-seeking pets and partners. No having to worry about mundane (but necessary) cooking Just writing, writing and more writing.

The 2017 retreat dates are:

March 24-27, Write your Story Intensive, how to nail your backstory to create a profile that connects and creates visibility. *includes Skype coaching pre-retreat.

September, 7-11, Write a Bestseller – an intensive novel-writing retreat.

Register now to book your place: laura@londonwritersclub.com

More information here. 

Do you need one to one help from an agent?

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Advice from industry experts early on in the process will save you months of your time, angst and even money. Get in touch now.

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