Nominate in Dead Good Reader Awards and Win Books!

Last year YOU my wonderful readers got me to the finals event of the The Dead Good Reader Awards with Little Sister – and now six new categories are open for the 2019 nominations.

If you think Casey in BEAUTIFUL LIARS qualifies for ‘The Cat and Mouse Award for Most Elusive Villain’ then follow the link and give us your vote! THANK YOU.

ps When you nominate you’re in with a chance to win a book prize worth £100, courtesy of Dead Good Books!

May Madness! Kindle eBook Offers …

This month two of my books are in the Kindle Spring Sale: Flight and Summer of ’76 – both £1.39 for a limited period!

Moving between the majestic coastline of North Cornwall and the leafy suburbs of London, Flight is a story of secrets and lies – and of the indelible traces that are left behind when someone tries to disappear.

When Wren Irving’s numbers come up in the first ever national lottery draw, she doesn’t tell her husband, Rob. Instead she quietly packs her bags, kisses her six-month-old daughter Phoebe goodbye, and leaves. Two decades later, Rob has moved on and found happiness with their oldest friend, Laura. Phoebe, now a young woman, has never known any other life. But when Rob receives a mysterious letter, the past comes back to haunt them all. With their cosy world thrown into turmoil, Laura sets out to track Wren down and discover the truth about why she walked out all those years ago.

‘A compulsive read … Flight has great clarity and meaning’
 NewBooks magazine

‘Brilliantly told … exemplifies contemporary fiction that explores the dynamics and complexities of family life’
– We Love This Book

‘Beautifully written and brimming with emotional honesty, this is the most engaging and enjoyable novel I’ve read this year
– Sussex Life magazine

BUY IT HERE

It’s the start of one of the hottest summers on record with soaring temperatures and weeks without rain; the summer of Abba, T-Rex, David Bowie and Demis Roussos; of Martinis, cheesecake and chicken chasseur; of the Montreal Olympics and the Notting Hill riots – the summer Big Ben stopped dead … 

17-year-old Luke is all set to enjoy his last months at home on the Isle of Wight before leaving for college.  But when the close-knit community is gripped by scandal, everything he thought he knew about friendship and family is turned on its head.

‘Isabel Ashdown is adept at portraying the bickering normalcy of ordinary family life … [she] effortlessly transports you back to the seventies – a world of Abba, flares, punk and David Bowie’
The Press Association

‘Evocative of that hot, dry summer … book groups will have a lot to discuss’
NewBooks Magazine

‘Ashdown handles big themes and period details with heart’
The Simple Things magazine

BUY IT HERE

April’s Book Giveaway

For news, special content and giveaways, you’re warmly invited to join my free Readers’ Book Club! Every UK subscriber is automatically entered into the monthly prize draw, and this month one lucky reader will receive a signed copy of The Girl Next Door, the gripping new thriller from bestselling author Phoebe Morgan … simply sign up to enter by midnight 30th April.

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Privacy & Cookies: this site uses cookies from WordPress.com and selected partners.  To find out more, as well as how to remove or block these, see here: Our Cookie Policy

Creative Thursday Line Up Announced

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2019 – Creative Thursday

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be returning to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate this year, teaming up with award-winning crime writer Kate Rhodes to run the JUST BLOODY WRITE workshop, as part of Mari Hannah’s Creative Thursday line up. The Harrogate weekend is always a high point in my bookish calendar, so I’m stoked to be on the team!

As well as our character workshops, attendees will hear from four successful authors who previously took the plunge to attend Creative Thursday and subsequently found themselves on the path to publication. Hear from this year’s Programming Chair Mari Hannah (from alumna to chair!), Lesley Thomson, J.S. Monroe and Chris Ewan on their journeys to publication and beyond, as they reveal all to Natasha Cooper.

Thurs 18 July | 9am-5.30pm
The Old Swan, Harrogate
Read more …

We look forward to seeing a few of you there!

Win A Bookish Night In Set!

For news, special content and giveaways, you’re warmly invited to join my exclusive Readers’ Book Club! Every UK subscriber is automatically entered into the monthly prize draw, and this month one reader will receive this ‘Bookish Night In’ set: a copy of Beautiful Liars, a Go Away I’m Reading badge & a bar of my favourite Space Hopper chocolate from Montezumas … simply sign up to enter by midnight 31st March.

Privacy Policy:

My Newsletter & Your Data: thank you for subscribing!  Occasionally I will send you news about my books, events and any special promotions I feel may be of interest to you.  I promise I will never sell or pass on your details to any other third party, and of course you may unsubscribe at any time.

Privacy & Cookies: this site uses cookies from WordPress.com and selected partners.  To find out more, as well as how to remove or block these, see here: Our Cookie Policy

Writing Qs: How Do I Get An Agent?

Over the past decade, I’ve been a frequent speaker at book events and festivals, bringing me into contact with a great many readers, as well as writers in the early stages of their own careers.  Naturally, lots of ‘how to’ questions arise, and in this short series of interviews I hope to answer some of those questions, to encourage more writers to take their work seriously and follow their ambitions. 
To kickstart the series, I am delighted to welcome book champion Kate Shaw to share her words of wisdom on the subject of finding (and keeping!) a literary agent.

Interview with Kate Shaw, The Shaw Agency, London

Kate Shaw has been a literary agent since 2001, and she founded The Shaw Agency in 2019. I first met Kate ten years ago, when I was on the brink of releasing my debut novel, and through a series of fortunate events we were reacquainted several years later, and I have had the pleasure of Kate’s support and representation since 2011. Kate represents writers of literary and commercial fiction, children’s books from age 7+, and non-fiction across a variety of genres including politics and current affairs.  Her passion is nurturing new literary talent.

Kate, thank you for so generously agreeing to share your insights with us today.  Firstly, perhaps you could tell our readers exactly what a literary agent can do for a writing client?
I think of myself as a combination of the following: a talent spotter, a literary midwife, a connector of people and their stories; a tough negotiator, a champion and nurturer of writers, a simultaneous translator between writer and publisher/producer, a strategist and most of all, a tireless and passionate advocate of my authors and their books.

What type of writers do you represent?  Any we have heard of?
Fiction has always been central to my list and among the novelists I proudly represent are: Isabel Ashdown (Little Sister, published in 8 territories); Susan Elliot-Wright (Sunday Times bestselling The Things We Never Said, translated into several languages); and Melanie Finn (whose debut was longlisted for the Orange Prize and IMPAC Award).  Children’s and YA books have also always been an important part of my list and include: Holly Smale, (Geek Girl series, sold 3.4+ million copies worldwide, translated into 29 languages, won the Waterstone’s Best Book for Teens Prize); James Nicol (The Apprentice Witch series, translated into several languages, optioned for TV by Lime Pictures); Alan Macdonald (Dirty Bertie series, with illustrator David Roberts, translated into 21 languages); Vashti Hardy (Brightstorm, Independent Booksellers’ Book of the Season and shortlisted for the Books are My Bag Readers Award, translated into several languages); and Lucy Adlington (The Red Ribbon, translated into several languages, nominated for the Carnegie Medal). Since 2018 I’ve had a First Look Deal with the Golden Egg Academy an organisation which gives editorial advice to aspiring children’s and teen authors.

In non-fiction, my clients include: Ian Cobain (Cruel Britannia: A Secret History Of Torture, Paddy Power Debut Political Book of the Year), Alex Crawford (multi-award winning Sky News journalist, Gaddafi’s Hat, optioned for TV by World Pictures) and Andy Seed (Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff, Blue Peter Book Award Winner).

We’ve all heard that literary agents are inundated daily with new submissions, and unpublished writers live in fear of the dreaded slushpile!  What chance does a new writer have of getting signed with an agent – and what can they do to improve those chances?
It’s true that I take on only a handful of new writers a year, and yet receive dozens of new submissions a week.  I don’t get time to read these during my working week or even most evenings – my client’s business must take precedence.  
So, I advise: research, research, research.  Make sure you know a bit about the agents you are submitting to from their websites, twitter feeds and articles like this and make sure you submit the material they are asking for in the way they ask for it.  Bending the rules (e.g. sending emails when they ask for paper/post submissions, adding two extra chapters when they ask for three, chasing replies when they ask you not to) are more likely to irritate than to win you attention. 

Next, make sure your cover letter is well written, interesting and concise – and relevant to the submission. This is your ‘hello’ so make it work!  Have you any professional writing credits such as publication in magazines or plays read on radio?  Have you won any prizes for your writing?  Is there a pertinent and interesting reason you chose that subject e.g. were you a psychiatric nurse whose subject is mental illness?  Put those things in the short cover letter.  I have had lots of unexpected finds in my career. The slushpile is my friend (sometimes!)

When you receive new submissions, how important is the accompanying synopsis?  Any tips you can offer?
I never look at the synopsis first, I read the chapters.  Afterwards, though, it can be useful, and I prefer them to be no longer than a page, showing where the story goes but not giving too much away.  For plot driven genre fiction this is particularly important.  Interestingly, I find them more useful than I used to, perhaps through experience: so many times I’ve liked something in the opening chapters but the synopsis didn’t sound interesting and when I ask to read the rest I discover that the novel realises exactly the weaknesses of the synopsis.  That said, when I have completely fallen in love with an opening I may not even look at the synopsis before asking to see the rest.  The opening three chapters of Holly Smale’s debut, which became the international bestseller, Geek Girl, hooked me immediately and I asked to see the rest in a heartbeat.  I didn’t even notice there wasn’t much in the synopsis. The reason? Holly hadn’t written the whole novel yet.

Of course, getting an agent isn’t the end of the line.  Once they’ve secured a literary agent, what more can a writer do to strengthen their chances of getting published?
Make sure you choose your agent carefully.  Some employ a splatter technique, taking on lots of new projects a year and dropping those that aren’t bought straight away.  So do your research and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about what you can expect from them, what their success rate is etc before signing up. 

The next thing to consider is your social presence and your social media presence.  You’re officially a writer now, soon to be a published author.  You are entering a new network and expanding your contacts within this community is vital.  This might be through membership of organisations such as SCBWI (for children’s writers), attendance of writers’ festivals and book events, and also via good use of social media. 

Social media is now pretty much vital for an author to engage in. If you are a relative newbie at this, don’t be afraid to ask your agent, your publishers (when you have them), fellow writers … everyone … for advice, encouragement, tips.  Several agencies like ours will have sheets of handy tips about SEO and on-line platforms, and will make this topic part of their ongoing conversations with their authors.  And it really is a conversation: I can learn as much from clients as I am teaching them.  Perhaps most importantly of all, work incredibly hard at your writing and editing. Be patient and responsive to feedback; and flexible, while also of course being true to yourself and your creativity.

What makes for a good agent/author relationship?
First, a passion for and commitment to the author’s writing.  Next mutual respect, honesty and shared attitudes towards professionalism, promptness and hard work.   Finally, on both sides: thoughtfulness, a good sense of humour and graciousness.

Some of our readers will be interested in a career in publishing.  Can you tell us about your route into becoming a literary agent?
I left university during the recession of the 1990s and applied for hundreds of jobs before I was hired by a PR agency in the City. I knew it wasn’t me but I also learned important skills there about how publicity works and about being part of a team.  I continued to apply for publishing and media jobs and finally I got a break as an assistant to a literary agent, part time. It was risky – the pay was terrible – but I asked everyone I could in the industry how to get more work and soon was hired as marketing and publicity manager for a small publishers.  After two years this led to a job at Penguin, where I worked for a couple of years as publicity manager and then director.  Now I knew exactly what I wanted to do – to work with brilliant authors on their manuscripts.  I made the switch into agenting, initially as an assistant at Aitken Alexander Associates.  You could say I was right back to where I started five years before, but now I was focussed and more experienced.  Soon I was taking on my own clients. 

So far, what have been the most memorable moments of your career?
Being called on maternity leave to be told one of my clients was a Richard & Judy selection; celebrating with authors like Holly Smale and her publishers when she won The Waterstone’s Best Book for Teens Prize, and when she sold her millionth copy;  telling Joanna Courtney and Justine Windsor that finally, after years of effort and belief, they had their first book offers; every time there’s wonderful, exciting news to share with authors, to reward their hard, hard work.

Perhaps most of all I love that feeling, when the hairs on the back of my arm stand up as I am reading an unpublished, unsolicited novel I have fallen in love with.  Often I am the first professional to read it: that is so exciting!

While it is terrific when clients enjoy critical and commercial success, what’s even more special to me is the moment when I recognise that they are the real deal.  This often happens when I read a second draft of their book, perhaps after I’ve been in two minds about the first draft.  Authors make me most proud, and move me most deeply, when they make courageous, difficult changes to their work and in doing so, understand what is required to uncover the brilliance within. 

What are you reading at the moment?
Always, always reading with a sense of awe and wonder, new material from my existing clients.  
And although I don’t get to do this as often as I like, I do still read published books for pleasure!  Recently I enjoyed Emma Kennedy’s painfully funny memoir, The Tent, The Bucket and Me, published some years ago now, and comedy gold; Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout.

Any final words of encouragement to aspiring writers who are reading this blog today?
Keep reading other books, keep writing your own.  Be realistic about what you can achieve and how you can get there.  Work hard.  Research hard.  Work even harder.  Never stop doing these things and you will improve as a writer, whatever else happens. Good luck!


FOLLOW KATE AND THE SHAW AGENCY:
Website: www.theshawagency.co.uk
Twitter: @KateJShaw
Instagram: @agentkateshaw

If you’ve enjoyed this article, look out for others in the series by following me on social media, or signing up to my newsletter for quarterly updates, exclusive content and book giveaways.

CURRENT ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

HURRY UP AND WAIT 99p on Amazon Kindle

This month’s special offer is HURRY UP AND WAIT – 99p on Amazon Kindle for a limited period.

“Bursting with teen preoccupations of the 1980s – this lively journey through the embarrassments of growing up is tightly entwined with a darker tale. Sarah Ribbons is now 20 years older and wiser than her teenage self and has returned home for a school reunion. But what is it that is upsetting her so profoundly?” – SAINSBURY’S MAGAZINE

“Ashdown’s depiction of a vulnerable teenager and the magnetic pull of a toxic friendship will have you wincing with recognition” – GLAMOUR MAGAZINE

“Haunting fiction” – STYLIST MAGAZINE

“Funny, insightful and often tragic. A fascinating book whose apparent simplicity masks complexity as it reveals once again the strength of Ashdown’s talent as a perceptive and engaging writer. This is a fitting second novel from the author of the acclaimed Glasshopper and will appeal to personal readers and book clubs alike” – NEW BOOKS MAGAZINE

“Ashdown’s début novel Glasshopper was named as one of the best books of 2009, and this well-crafted follow-up doesn’t disappoint” – HEAT MAGAZINE

BUY IT HERE

February’s Feel-Good Giveaway

For news, special content and giveaways, you’re warmly invited to join my exclusive Readers’ Book Club! Every UK subscriber is automatically entered into the monthly prize draw, and this month one reader will receive this bumper stack of wellbeing titles from Orion Publishing … simply sign up to enter by midnight 28th February.

Privacy Policy:

My Newsletter & Your Data: thank you for subscribing!  Occasionally I will send you news about my books, events and any special promotions I feel may be of interest to you.  I promise I will never sell or pass on your details to any other third party, and of course you may unsubscribe at any time.

Privacy & Cookies: this site uses cookies from WordPress.com and selected partners.  To find out more, as well as how to remove or block these, see here: Our Cookie Policy

FLIGHT in the Kindle 99p January Promo

This month’s special offer is FLIGHT99p on Amazon Kindle throughout January – or if you prefer paperback, just £3.98 for a limited period.

Moving between the majestic coastline of North Cornwall and the leafy suburbs of London, Flight is a story of secrets and lies – and of the indelible traces that are left behind when someone tries to disappear. When Wren Irving’s numbers come up in the first ever national lottery draw, she doesn’t tell her husband, Rob. Instead she quietly packs her bags, kisses her six-month-old daughter Phoebe goodbye, and leaves. Two decades later, Rob has moved on and found happiness with their oldest friend, Laura. Phoebe, now a young woman, has never known any other life. But when Rob receives a mysterious letter, the past comes back to haunt them all. With their cosy world thrown into turmoil, Laura sets out to track Wren down and discover the truth about why she walked out all those years ago.

I loved researching and writing this book, falling completely in love with Cornwall in the process – I hope you’ll enjoy reading it just as much 🙂

BUY IT HERE