Thursday, 1 October 2009

Quickfire Questions with... Penny Holroyde


Penny is an agent at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency Ltd.


The author I wish we’d ‘discovered’ most is…..
Oh, have a guess!

Left on a cliffhanger or told all?
Sadly, it’s an agent’s lot to have the ending ruined so if this question relates to the synopsis, please tell all! When I’m reading for pleasure (a vain aspiration) I prefer to have things resolved. The last two books I’ve read seemed to race to a close and left me wanting somewhat.

The perfect book deal is…
Decided upon quickly, for the right kind of money, with the right kind of contract, but most perfectly when the author and editor are perfectly married and everyone from sales, marketing and publicity to the post room are excited about the book and the author.

You really must read…
Something is Going to Fall Like Rain by Ros Wynne Jones. This is partly a gratuitous plug for a friend’s book but also a great example of how first novels, with work, can become expertly polished.

I get most excited by…
Ahem, at work? It’s weird, I’ve been working in the publishing for 14 years now and I still get the biggest buzz when someone places a finished copy in my hand.

My biggest tip for a writer is…
One thing that irritates me the most with unsolicited submissions are the people who’ve read just enough to know that their idea might have a commercial application but not nearly enough to know how utterly derivative their submission is. I know authors are always told to read but I might venture that revision is more valuable.

An author should never…
Compare their work to Rowling or Pullman.

My pet hate in a submission package is…
Oh don’t get me started! There are so many transgressions in this regard – ribbons, treasury tags, folders, Sellotape, staples, string yadda yadda yadda but difficult-to-open packages is a particular bugbear of mine because I’m already bristling with resentment for the author before I’ve read a single word. Also a too-small envelope for return.

Favourite desktop snack
Oh God help me, I have become completely addicted to Walkers Sensations roast chicken and thyme flavoured crisps.

Best thing about my job is…
Seeing something go from a twinkle in the author’s eye to a bound book on a shelf in a shop. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears from many people along that route and as an agent, you get to see it all.

Email or phone?
Email all day long. I like the phone but people in publishing (agents included) seem to rarely be at their desks when one wants them.

The hardest part of my job is…
Apart from the workload it’s rude responses from total strangers. It should be water off a duck’s back I know but agents are people too. At least I don’t keep them any more.

The most common mistake I see is…
I focus on writing for children and the most common mistake I see is [writing] patronising tone and [illustration] no children.

If I didn’t work in the literary business I would be a…
Chef. In my darker moments I think perhaps a media lawyer but no, really, I’d be a chef.

7 comments:

Roderic Vincent said...

Great answers, Penny.

I'm intrigued by the "rude responses from total strangers". Do you mean writers? Surely not! Do people actually do that?

Gillian McDade said...

Really interesting answers, Penny. I'm glad you cleared up the end of the synopsis debate for me. In my early days of submitting, I always held back the ending in case it 'ruined the surprise' (LOL) Now I see clearly....

Samantha Tonge said...

Oh dear, i think that biggest tip answer applied to me a few books ago.

Great answers.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Thanks for taking the time Penny.I also can't understand why people would want to write a rude response back to an agent. Can't imagine it ever furthering the cause...

CarolineG said...

Thanks for these interesting answers, Penny. There's something weird about those Sensations crisps though - I swear they put crack cocaine in the sweet chilli ones. No normal crisp is so addictive...

Kate said...

Great article although now I am wondering about sending a huge packet of Walkers Sensations roast chicken and thyme if I ever do a submission - writing might still be crap but at least they won;t hate me!

Kate xx

Dave Page said...

Love the comments Penny and I am not saying that because I am going to email you in a minute.

Nice to see honest, refreshing comments and that is from an old IT Contractor who moved from Accountancy and the reason for those words is that in Accountancy I think lied about 90% of time. In IT it went down to 75%.

Lovely to read someone being honest.

Dave