Sunday, 28 February 2016

Discovery Day at Foyles

Yesterday I went to ‘Discovery Day’ at Foyles bookshop, in London. I won the place after tweeting a pitch to #PitchCB (Curtis Brown Creative). Even without the competition, the exercise of reducing my synopsis to one line was a very useful task to check my novel had a strong enough premise.

This was my pitch:

“When her sister's body is found after 6 missing years, Alice wants answers. The crime is in their upbringing #PitchCB

I tweeted and then I waited. The idea is, that if your tweet is ‘liked’ by one of the staff at Curtis Brown, you are invited along to their Discovery Day, which according to the website was already sold out. I understand they do a regular ‘twitter pitch’ as well, which allows you to queue-jump the slush pile, straight to the agent who likes your pitch.

So what is Discovery Day?

'An event for aspiring novelists, featuring pitching sessions with literary agents and the chance to learn more about the publishing industry ....

Throughout the day, new writers will be given the opportunity to pitch their novel-in-progress – speed-dating style – to a literary agent, and get professional feedback on their idea and their first page. Agents will read writers’ first pages and draw on their expertise to provide six minutes of on-the-spot verbal feedback. After they’ve delivered their pitches, writers will then be invited to take part in special agent ‘surgeries’ upstairs in the Foyles Gallery. Here, groups of writers will join a Curtis Brown or Conville & Walsh agent at a table, where they can ask questions about everything from the novel-writing process to the publishing industry.'- See more at:

And it was exactly that. I arrived in plenty of time. The queues were massive but it was well organised and I had been emailed a time slot, which reduced my wait to just fifteen minutes. The queuing was pleasant, as I was surrounded by other hopeful writers with plenty to talk about and it’s never a chore to spend time in a bookshop.

So armed with the first page of my novel and a synopsis, I entered the conference room on the top floor. There were about twelve or so desks, and a few window seats with agents already in communication with writers. And there were timers everywhere, ensuring the pitches didn’t run over the 6 minutes allocated. As soon as an agent was free, the next writer in the queue was matched to them. It was entirely random. Whilst waiting I decided to read my work straight from the page, as I’m a better writer than an orator and stumbling with nerves would take me over the time limit.

So was it worth the trip? Even though the whole process took less than an hour, including the Q and & A session, the agent I met, Rufus Pardy, was very encouraging and his reaction to my first page was great. It was really nice to witness the effect my writing had first hand and on first read. Normally sending out work happens in a vacuum, behind closed doors, often followed by a long wait, and sometimes a standard rejection letter.

It was definitely a good experience and reminded me how concise you need to be when you approach agents and the reality of how little time they have to spend on each manuscript. Every word counts. It also confirmed that I’m on the right (or should that be write) track.

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