Category Archives: Events

A Guest Post from Clare Conville + Free Festival Tickets

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[intro]Since co-founding Conville & Walsh in 2000 Clare Conville has agented some of the most prestigious writers of our time. This year she has curated an exciting new entry in the UK’s literary calendar. The Curious Arts Festival will take place in the grounds of Pylewell Park in Hampshire from the 18th to the 20th of July, when the family seat of the Barons Teynham will play host to a succession of writers and musicians from Craig Brown and Rowan Pelling to Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit.

whitefox has two free tickets to the festival to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, simply email your name and address to Entries will be pulled out of a hat at the end of the week. Good luck! [/intro]

While some of our finest publishers battle it out in Seattle in the hopes of securing a future for our trade (and by extension our culture), I find myself engrossed in the small print: train times to Lymington, the dietary requirements of very special authors, where Joan As Policewoman is going to sleep on Saturday night and anxious, secret googling at 3.20am in the morning to look at next week’s weather forecast. Yes, you will have guessed it – I am co-curating the Curious Arts Festival at Pylewell Park which runs from 18th-20th July and if ferocious discounting by Amazon doesn’t get me first then surely the combined levels of anxiety, adrenaline and good old-fashioned madness that are essential to propel one through organising a festival surely will.


A fair question would be: why do it? Surely life as an agent at Conville and Walsh is busy enough? To be truthful: yes it is. At this stage in the run-up to next week’s launch I can’t really remember why I said I’d do it apart from the fact that Paddy Keogh, my partner in crime, is charmingly persuasive. However, if I can find the time to stop and think about it I do believe passionately that there is a direct correlation between the unstoppable rise of the literary festival culture in the UK and the increasingly boringly transactional way people buy books. In challenging times authors, agents and publishers must change the way they think about how they find readers.

Authors have to become “authorpreneurs” and actively seek out new ways to promote themselves, often without quite enough support from their publishers and agents. Publishers have to become impresarios, coaxing “influencers” and the press into taking interest in the books in the first place and constantly looking for new and interesting platforms to promote them. Curiously, a festival at its best can offer everybody a new experience and I believe that the devil is in the detail, even if it does mean getting up at 4.30am to start sending e-mails, because a sense of detail is something that a Seattle algorithm can’t supply. So our aim for our artists, writers, and musicians alike is that they will arrive at Pylewell Park and have an incredible stay: the beds will be comfortable, there will be flowers and chocolate in their room, and drinks and meals will run throughout the day courtesy of The Feast of Reason. Children and dogs are welcome too.

Clare Conville

We also aim to ensure that our paying visitors have a marvellous time: a dazzling programme of events, a beautiful camping site in the incredible grounds of the park with unbelievable views of the Solent, delicious food and drink and a wonderful and comfortable pop-up bookshop run by Waterstones, Lymington, where there will be hourly signings (but where you can also snuggle up in an armchair and read a book).

In addition, Curtis Brown will be running a film tent, there’ll be loads of activities and events for children including A Jabberwocky Hunt, a Pestival Walk and donkey rides. If you want to take a different journey through the festival, breathing lessons, life-drawing classes and bibliotherapy are all available. Our aim is to make Curious, unique and unforgettable, a place, rather like one’s own bookshelf or a gorgeous local bookshop, where the familiar, the much loved and the fresh combine. We want Curious to be a festival that artists, guests and visitors will return to again and again, part of a vibrant culture that the great and the good of international publishing are trying so hard to preserve on our behalf. So, do join us!

Clare Conville

Thoughts On Entering Publishing

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I recently attended a university student networking event. (It’s that time of year.)

At events like these, the idea is for professionals and alumni to mix and mingle with students to help them make contacts and find work. We’re there to give advice and suggest strategies based on our experience. Should you apply for an MA. Where are the most useful work placements? What do you do if you want to work in publishing and you don’t live in London? Good questions all. And alongside the old hands are more recent graduates, fresh into assistant or junior roles in local or large corporate environments. They’re also well equipped to talk about what employers are looking for now, to give tips on making applications stand out and on how to behave whilst doing work experience.

An observation. Whilst the book publishing world I have known for the last few years has never felt more challenging, exciting, dynamic, entrepreneurial and essential (I could go on), very little seems to have changed at events like these. The core of advice remains largely the same. No one mentioned LinkedIn, let alone Twitter. One of the questions I was asked to address was “is publishing dying?”. I realise that this was intended to make me launch into a staunch defence of the industry, to repeat that the rise of self-publishing and Amazon and consolidation doesn’t have to lead to diminishing opportunities for traditional publishing careers in editorial and marketing. But instead all it made me think was this: we all have to do a bit better.

If trade publishers are not going to morph into tech companies or retailers in the immediate future, if their proposition is the acquisition and exploitation of commercial rights, experimenting with new models along the way, then there needs to be a bit of a rear guard action at graduate events that connect new entrants with professionals. We need the next generation of publishing professionals to see that this is an world worth entering. To those students and graduates I say: go in with your eyes open, but embrace the process of dynamic change. You will be driving what the consumer facing, reader-centric manifestation of book publishing will be in 2030.

Maybe publishing is to blame. I lost count of the number of students who said they had applied for internships and not been accepted, or worse, not had any response at all. We hope whitefox can help some of them. But maybe academic institutions need to look within themselves, too. It will be in the interests of careers services departments at universities everywhere to help students leverage the skills they’ve acquired whilst studying. But if you’re, say, reading English and you know you want to go into, say, an editorial role in publishing any time soon, perhaps it would be good to think about what the context for that is going to be, not just now, but over the next ten years.

What we mean by publishing has never been more fascinating and fluid. We just have to get a bit better at illustrating that and its implications to the next generation of participants.

The whitefox editorial workshop

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[intro]Last night whitefox held the first of our workshops for students and grads looking to get into publishing, with attendees enjoying some frank, engaging and (most importantly) useful discussion on all things editorial from our speakers.[/intro]

From the considerations that come into play when deciding whether a book should get published on a list to the things that build a good author-editor relationship, we covered a lot of ground on the role of editors in modern publishing houses. There were  some surprises: we heard how unscientific the whole process can be; how little time editors actually spend editing; and how spreadsheets and even the Tesco’s website can be indispensable allies. Most importantly we received some great advice on how to get a foothold into the industry. Tips included reading voraciously, making yourself indispensable, doing your research, being tech savvy, emailing extensively, and, err, staying out late.

A massive thanks to all our speakers and helpers on the night, and most of all to those who attended, whose enthusiasm and interest ensured the night was a success. And for all those that couldn’t make it along, we are happy to say that we will be releasing a video of the event in the next week (barring technical difficulties), and also have an introduction to editing pack which is available for you to peruse here.

[intro]About the speakers[/intro]

Robin Harvie is senior commissioning editor and digital publisher at independent publisher Aurum Press. Previously, he was non-fiction commissioning editor and digital editor at 4th Estate. He is also the author of Why We Run.

Mark Richards started as an editorial assistant at 4th Estate in 2007, where he stayed until two months ago. He is now an editorial director at John Murray, commissioning literary fiction and non-fiction.

Hannah Westland is the publisher at Serpent’s Tail, now an imprint of independent publisher Profile Books. Renowned for publishing voices neglected by the mainstream, Serpent’s Tail has a reputation for publishing the best of all kinds of writing, from literary novels to crime fiction, from work in translation to books on music and politics. Before joining Serpent’s Tail in 2012, Hannah was an agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White, where she represented a diverse range of writers of fiction and non-fiction.

Tom Williams is an author and literary agent. His biography of Raymond Chandler, A Mysterious Something in the Light, was published by Aurum Press. He also runs the Williams Agency, representing authors of fiction and non-fiction, and is actively involved in a range of digital projects for his clients.

Ione Walder is an editor at independent publisher Quercus, where she commissions and project-manages illustrated non-fiction, including cookbooks, TV tie-ins and celebrity memoirs. She previously spent four years at HarperCollins and two years as a freelance cookery editor, and has worked with some of the top names in cookery publishing, from Gordon Ramsay, James Martin and Lorraine Pascale, to Rachel Allen, Allegra McEvedy and the Hummingbird Bakery. Other high-profile authors and projects include inspirational burns survivor Katie Piper, style guru Gok Wan, two illustrated biographies from band JLS, and the tie-in to the BBC’s groundbreaking Africa series presented by Sir David Attenborough.

Easing the Graduate rat-race

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[intro]This week, universities return to business as usual, we reach the beginning of an annual epidemic which strikes the very heart of the student community. Every bed in the Remedial Careers Ward is occupied as third years are confronted with a harsh reality: nine months to go.[/intro]

As the graduate job market appears to be impenetrable, and the possibility of securing a job seems to dwindle, even cover letters to the Welfare State exhort in exultations the fervent desire of the candidate to receive Job-Seekers Allowance: ‘I am truly the perfect candidate for this role. Ever since I enrolled in a humanities-based degree, I knew this was my destination. My goal.’

The hopes of English students who ‘just want to do something creative’ are crushed by the realisation that the predicted salary of an artistic existence is slim to nil. And so the publishing industry (along with so many others) is inundated with CVs and cover letters, each one proudly proclaiming bookishness beyond compare – there will be no shortage of students who ‘have always had an unbridled passion to proofread – ever since I learned the correct usage of a semi-colon; it’s in my bones’.

Trying to find a job in publishing is competitive, and positions are much sought after. Here at whitefox we are hoping to bring more transparency to an industry which, at times, can appear daunting to the prospective graduate, with our new series of events, the first of which focuses on the editorial side of the industry. Aimed at students looking into publishing, this should be an enlightening Q&A with top professionals from Quercus, John Murray, Serpent’s Tail and Aurum (event sign up? Why, you can find that here). It should provide insight not only into editing, but also to explore how ending up as a member of staff at a publishing house is no longer the only way to support authors, and to show prospective cover-letter-writers that there really are other ways of displaying your enthusiasm for contemporary literature than throwing yourself off a passenger ferry with your pet cat to ‘understand more empathetically’ The Life of Pi.

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