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Philip Caveney

Due to large numbers of bookshops asking for signed copies of Sebastian Darke, Philip Caveney (author of adult fiction) has been hard at work signing over 4,000 copies of the just-released hardback of his first children's book....

Philip tells ACHUKA how, three days after he'd made the biggest deal of his life, he received a rejection letter from an agent telling him that the book had no chance of publication.

Read the mini-interview...

Do you have an agent for your adult work and if so what was their reaction to the children's novel?

I've used quite a few agents over the years (for my adult books) and for a variety of reasons, I've eventually fallen out with them. I don't think that it's me that's particularly awkward, or anything. I tend to find that they're great when everything's going well, but when times get tough, they can be rather difficult to contact! I run a writers workshop in Manchester and I always used to advise new writers to get an agent if they could. These days I'm a bit more wary about handing out that advice. The thing is, it's harder now to find an agent than it is to find a publisher and sometimes agents are so intent on pushing for the big deals, they scare publishers away. I mean, not every writer has a blockbuster in mind when they write something.

How did you decide which agency to approach?

I drew up a list of the usual suspects - ones that have a reputation for handling children's authors, ones that have been recommended to me (though there's not all that many of them!) and ones that I just liked the sound of � you know, the Geraint Mudflap Agency or Spindle, Crankshaft and Buttering Ltd, that kind of thing!

I gather a fairly big agency rejected the book. Can you tell ACHUKA a bit about that?

They did and I'm not going to name any names, but 3 days after I'd made the biggest deal of my life, I got a letter from an agent saying that she had looked at the first three chapters of Sebastian Darke and decided that it had no chance of ever achieving publication. I wouldn't have minded, but she'd had it for six months or more! Naturally, I took great delight in writing back to her, to say how disappointed I was and what a good job I'd just sold it to Random House. I added a postscript saying to watch out for the title at the Bologna Book fair, where of course, it proceeded to sell to 10 countries in 4 days! Smug? You bethcha!

How did the book end up with Bodley Head?

Well, a lady at the Writer's Workshop called Terie Garrison heard something else I�d written (an edgy contemporary story set in Manchester) and told me about this editor she'd met one time called Charlie Sheppard, who was really hot on that kind of thing. So I sent Charlie the manuscript. She loved it, but thought it would be a very hard sell and asked me, did I have anything more commercial? Well, I had Sebastian Darke in my back pocket and she fell in love with it and we pretty much hammered out a three book deal over lunch one day. That was back in April 06. At first the book wasn�t going to be released till 08, but everyone at Random House believed in it enough to bring it forward a year and now the book is out there for everyone to read.

Are you pleased with the look of the book? Have you got any take yet on how it's being received?

The book had a last minute cover change and I have to say I'm thrilled with the way it�s turned out. It�s only been on sale for 48 hours so it may be too early to say how it�s doing, but I�ve already had a few emails through my website from people saying how much they've enjoyed it. (Quite a few of them are from adults, which is really interesting!) Of course, it�s been short-listed for the Waterstones Book Prize, on a list of 8 from over 40 titles, so that's been a great boost for me. I�m not even going to think about the possibility of winning. Random House, God bless them, are doing all the right things to bring it to people�s attention, so now it�s up to the public, I guess.

What does your daughter think of it?

Grace was the first person to ever read it, as it was written for her.
(She�d asked if she could read one of my adult titles but at 10, I thought it wasn't a great idea!) I took it to her chapter by chapter as I wrote it and got her reaction; luckily it was very positive. Imagine being rejected by your own flesh and blood! Grace is an avid reader, a massive JK fan (aren�t they all!) and is even working on her own novel, so I feel she�s a pretty good judge of what works and what doesn�t.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on January 7, 2007 6:51 PM.

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