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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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’
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.
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.
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)
We thought you’d never ask.
Conville & Walsh Limited
5th Floor, Haymarket House 28-29 Haymarket, London, Greater London SW1Y 4SP