29 September 2016

Literary agent advice

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by Richard Pike From the Agents, Guest Blog, Writing Tips

When not running creative writing courses, we at Curtis Brown Creative are huge supporters of what else goes on in the Curtis Brown Books Department. #PitchCB is Curtis Brown’s monthly Twitter pitching party for authors looking for agents. This month we’re focussing on contemporary fiction and we’ve invited two leading editors from top UK publishers Trapeze and HarperCollins to join in. And as per last month, we’ve asked for some top tips to help you put together your pitches.

 Sam Eades, Trapeze (@SamEades)

‘I’m actively looking for contemporary fiction for Trapeze. It is a hard area of the market to define, but contemporary fiction I have loved this year includes a warm and vivid portrayal of family life in Shtum by Jem Lester, an intense exploration of a marriage in Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and a book that made me sob in We Are All Made Of Stars by Rowan Coleman. I’m looking for authentic characters and stories that evoke a physical response in the reader, whether it is making you laugh or cry or anything and everything in between.’

Martha Ashby, Commissioning Editor, HarperCollins (@miashby)

‘I’m looking for a wide range of commercial fiction here at HarperFiction. From unique and compelling book club reads, to funny and deeply romantic love stories, to gripping psychological suspense, my tastes span the genre. The first thing I look for is voice, the second is plot, and then I let myself get carried away by the rest. Things I have loved recently have been The Hating Game  by Sally Thorne (that elevator scene *fans self*), the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels (so good on female friendship) and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I was very late to read but was blown away by the writing.’

Catherine Cho, Curtis Brown (@Catkcho)

‘I would love to find a modern love story or a compelling character-driven drama (ordinary individuals facing challenging decisions).’

 Sheila Crowley, Curtis Brown (@SheilaCrowley)

I am looking for stories that have a voice I connect with, can sometimes put me out of my comfort zone, and can give me the feeling; as entertaining as any of the contemporary TV dramas or movies I have enjoyed in recent times.’

Emma Finn, C&W (@EmF1nn)

‘I am really on the hunt for a great big contemporary love story – something honest, incisive and with real heart – and would also love to find a novel about women in crisis. I’d be particularly keen to see a story about sisters that could break my heart like All My Puny Sorrows did. More broadly, I’m drawn towards strongly characterised, believable voices, novels that skilfully blend two timelines (though of course this isn’t a must) and a strong sense of place that informs and shapes the narrative. A brilliant concept that can hook me in and recalibrate a more traditional storyline would always be an eye-catcher too.’

Sophie Lambert, C&W (@AgentSophieL)

‘I love stories that reflect our time, are driven by complex characters and brim with heart.’

Alice Lutyens, Curtis Brown (@DeafAudioAgent)

‘All I care about is reading a book I just can’t put down because I need to know what happened! Key for me is pace, secrets and beautiful writing.’

 Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown (@lucycmorris)

I always love stories about families, and I’d also be keen to find a fresh, funny voice with razor-sharp social observation (think Not Working, Fleabag).’

Rebecca Ritchie, Curtis Brown (@Becky_Ritchie1)

‘I am looking for a contemporary story that hits me right in the gut and doesn’t let me go until long after I’ve turned the last page – be that a will-they-won’t-they love story (which hopefully will make me cry), a story about an ordinary person going through something extraordinary, or an extraordinary person bringing something magic to ordinary life. Key themes for me are relationships, fate or chance, secrets, lies, love, revenge.’

Cathryn Summerhayes, Curtis Brown (@Taffyagent)

‘What I really want to discover are sparky new voices, urban settings, a bit of grit, a bit of humour and a lot of pace.’

Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown (@gordonwise)

‘I want to find something fresh that moves and entertains me and has a plot and story that I really want to get to the bottom of.’

For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:

Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Wed 17 January).

Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Wed 24 January).

For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for: 

Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sun 28 Jan).

We are offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:

Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).

Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).

Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).

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