1. Who are you?

    Founded by Clare Conville and Patrick Walsh in 2000, we are a leading international literary agency based in the UK, who represent an eclectic range of best-selling and award-winning authors, including novelists, scientists, historians, travel writers, biographers and children’s authors.

    We have a well-established track record nurturing talented newcomers and re-launching established authors; working closely with all our clients to provide solid advice and support from pitch to publication; and offering expert representation – often dealing direct – in all media, markets and languages across the world.

    As a small group of agents, we have decades of experience in both literary and commercial publishing. We are proud of our reputation for the happy enduring relationships we have built up with our clients, and of our dynamic team of staff.

  2. Do your authors ever do events?

    Absolutely. A lot of our authors are also popular speakers, and we have a sister company which represents some of our clients specifically for lectures, festivals, conferences and corporate speaking events.

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  3. I live outside the UK. Will you read my book?

    We mainly represent writers who live in the UK, because local representation makes more sense for both client and agent in most cases. But we are happy to consider material from overseas, particularly as we sell rights direct in most territories around the world and have international tastes and interests to match our selling scope.

  4. What genres do you represent?

    Have a look at the book listings on our website to get an idea of the kind of books we represent. Between us, we represent almost everything: Clare does mainly fiction and Patrick mainly non-fiction, Sue likes reading group fiction, Carrie likes fashion, pop culture and photography, Alex is looking out for current affairs and graphic novels. That said, we don’t represent poetry as the market for those is very tough. We don’t represent scripts for film, television or plays, though we do agent the dramatic rights of our book projects.

  5. Can I come to meet you before sending you my manuscript?

    No, we normally don’t meet potential clients without having first read their work. If we like what we have read, we will inevitably want to meet and discuss it, but initially the writing should speak for itself.

  6. How do I know you won’t steal my idea?

    As with any book submission, you have to rely on our integrity. We are in business to represent writers, not to poach creative material at the risk of compromising our hard-earned reputation. What’s more, it’s unlikely that you are the only person to come up with a particular idea: coincidence is a creative fact of life, and it would be surprising if authors didn’t from time to time stumble on similar or identical theses, themes, plots, characters or formats.

    If you’re not sure that an agent is legitimate, try searching the Association of Authors’ Agents website to see if they are listed. We are, look

  7. Why didn’t you give me more feedback on my manuscript?

    We can only offer any editorial advice to our clients. We welcome new work, but our main obligation is to our existing authors so please don’t be offended if you receive a standard rejection letter. We give all manuscripts careful consideration as soon as we can, but owing to the huge volume that we receive (anything up to 200 manuscripts a week), we can’t give detailed reasons why projects are unsuitable for the agency.

  8. My novel isn’t finished. Shall I send it in anyway?

    Because it is unusual for a publisher to commission works of fiction on the basis of only a few chapters, it is also unusual for us to take on an author without having read the finished novel. If we are enthusiastic about the sample you send us, we will want to see the whole novel as soon as possible, so it is best to have finished it before you approach us. Otherwise, we will be stuck halfway through the book, wanting to know what happens next, like something out of If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller.

    Non-fiction work is different, in that it is often sold on the basis of a proposal. Please see the submissions page for our non-fiction guidelines.

  9. Why do you prefer a proposal to a complete manuscript for non-fiction?

    Editors don’t have the time to read entire manuscripts, most of which they will end up passing on. And with projects that they do take on, editors want a chance to influence an author’s thinking about how the final book should be structured. Initially, then, they want to see a proposal, chapter summaries and a writing sample to give them a sense of your book’s shape, thematic content and audience.

  10. So do I really need to write a sample chapter for non-fiction?

    Almost definitely. Editors will want to know how your book is going to turn out in the telling (in fact this is often the decisive factor). So a sample chapter showcasing your writing is essential. It provides an example of your prose style as well as indicating the breadth and depth of the contents.

  11. Don't you use up lots of unnecessary paper?

    We do use a lot of paper, but we buy it from the same people who recycle our paper, so it’s a closed cycle. Since you asked, we also read a lot on e-readers, we’re a Zero To Landfill office, and we have lots of pot plants in the office.

  12. What is your commission?

    Our commission rates are 15 per cent for home and home audio sales (British Commonwealth) and 20 per cent for US, Canada, translation, overseas audio, film and television. No commission is charged to an author unless a deal is agreed and signed by an author, so you always have the sanction of saying ‘no’. And because we don’t earn until you do, it is in our mutual interests to fight for the best possible terms.

  13. What do you do to earn your commission?

    Our commissions cover editorial advice and all the admin that goes with book submissions and promotion. We won’t charge you for any administrative, postage, telephone, fax, courier or other overhead costs. If we do something one off, like a big party, we might discuss the costs with you in advance.

    We work very hard to earn our commission, representing your interests in:

    • Editing. We give you advice and help where wanted, working in consultation with you to do as much editorial work as we feel is necessary on shaping ideas, proposals and manuscripts. We are always happy to read and comment on chapters as a book is written. Authors differ in how much feedback they want during the writing process, and we are happy to handle things accordingly. We will also make sure that your voice is heard during editorial discussions with your publisher.
    • Sales. We talk to you about where we intend to place your project with a publisher, working closely with you on the submission and negotiation and keeping you informed all along the way. Our aim is to create the best possible market for a project, usually first within the UK, and then in the USA and in translation. Although money is very important, we also always try to find the best editor and company for you. This business is, after all, about careers more than it is about a one-off deal.
    • Marketing and publicity. We monitor the publisher’s handling of your work, including its packaging, advertising and publicity. When necessary we will intercede with the publisher on your behalf.
    • Film and television. We track all aspects of the commercial exploitation of your project, be it book publication, film, television or merchandise. We also handle film, television and radio rights that devolve from the books we represent, and revert rights where the licensee is no longer exploiting them.
    • Foreign sales. We differ from most agencies in dealing directly with all the main European houses, which makes us better at building authors’ profiles in Europe and the Pacific Rim.
    • Legal. We draw up and negotiate all contracts internally, based on precedents (’boilerplates’) negotiated over the past ten years with each publishing house. We also monitor copyright.
    • Accounts and taxation. Our finance manager, Dorcas Rogers, handles all author payments, invoices for VAT, foreign taxation exemption applications and so on, and generally acts as the client’s financial watchdog throughout the life of a book. She checks royalty statements and chases overdue accounting, so that we can pay your share of monies due promptly.

    We have industry contacts and inside knowledge that most writers don’t have access to. It is our job to keep up with editors’ tastes, know which new imprints are starting and which ones are downsizing, stay abreast of changing corporate policies, and keep track of who’s been hired and fired – both in the UK and abroad. We can negotiate deals and publishing contracts to our clients’ advantage, not only by pushing for a higher advance and more favourable royalties but also by limiting what rights a publisher acquires to those essential for the negotiations at hand. This leaves us free to contract the reserved rights to other companies and in other markets around the world, be they US rights, translation rights, film and television rights or merchandising rights.

    And we are always at the end of the telephone if a writer hits a block, has a problem, or simply needs encouragement. We once even posted a Toblerone to an author. True fact.

  14. Your search bar's not as good as Google.

    What do you expect? We’re a literary agency. Please type in the exact search you want - for instance, type in ‘Ali Shaw’ for the author. If you’re having trouble, you can try our database search, or just bow to the inevitable and Google search the site.

    If you can’t find the book you are looking for it may be that although we represent the author we don’t represent the rights for that particular title. Alternatively, the book or author information may be in the process of being uploaded or updated on the website. We have over 1,000 pages now for our books, authors and news pieces, so it’s hard to keep up.

  15. How do I contact an author?

    Understandably we can’t give out personal mail or email addresses for our authors. All author mail is forwarded directly to our authors, although we can’t guarantee a reply.

    Please write to:

    ‘Author name’
    c/o Conville & Walsh Ltd
    Haymarket House, 28-9 Haymarket
    London
    SW1Y 4SP

  16. Will you send me a free copy of a book?

    Well, no. We only keep a couple of each book for our reference shelves, so your best bet is to contact the publicity department of the publishing house. They’ll probably send you one if you write for a newspaper or have a really good blog.

  17. Do you handle film and television rights?

    We look after the dramatic rights in our authors’ books, working with trusted film agents when that’s the best way to serve the author’s interests.

  18. Any jobs going?

    We’re a relatively small office with a low staff turnover, so we don’t tend to accept speculative CVs. The best places to look for publishing jobs are in the Bookseller, and on Guardian jobs.

  19. Where can I find the trade secrets of editors and agents?

    Our reader, David Llewelyn, has some good advice for authors submitting work. You can also try the following for insight into the book industry and advice on getting your work published:

    Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Non-Fiction – and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner & Alfred Fortunato (Norton, 2003)

    From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published by Carole Blake (Macmillan, 1999)

    The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (A&C Black, published annually)

    So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid (Sort of Books, 2004))

    The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner (Riverhead, 2000)

  20. What is Conville & Walsh Limited’s company registration number?

    We thought you’d never ask.

    Conville & Walsh Limited
    Registered Number: 2247500 (UK)

    5th Floor, Haymarket House 28-29 Haymarket, London, Greater London SW1Y 4SP