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Comment from the book world in October 2023

October 2023

'Quality will win out'

23 October 2023

‘The characters are also really key early on - you have to believe in them, they have to come to life on the page. You can fix plot holes - you're looking for that fundamental quality writing... I can't always control how people are published, but I can control the way that storytelling is delivered to readers. I think quality will win out...

There needs to be substance, I need to feel sympathy for my main character, and I have to be falling in love with their love interest through that character's eyes... I need to trust that all the historical information is right - but the research needs to feel effortless...

Be really clear on what your book is about so that whoever's reading it can quickly get a sense of whether it would be interesting to them. You can research agents online, you can read their websites, but it can still be difficult to know who exactly likes what, so there's still some guesswork involved. But if you're really, really clear about what your book is, it will let the agent know if they're going to be interested in your book, and whether they want to invest the time to read it. If you're not clear, that's going to be a dangerous area - agents are busy, they read an awful lot of material, and if they don't see something they like in there because it isn't clear what the book is, it won't be looked at with much attention. Be very clear in your cover letter about what the book's about, and why it's interesting...'

Kate Nash, founder of the Kate Nash Literary Agency, which represents commercial fiction, and winner of the Romantic Novelists' Association Agent of the Year Award in 2019 in Bookbrunch.


'A beautiful way to talk to children'

9 October 2023

‘When you read as a child you are hungry for ideas and for books and for stories like no other time in your life and I think we have such a duty not to offer the hungry anything that is thin, or vapid or fishy or complacent or poorly thought out or lazy or careless. I am very happy to belong to a community that rises to that call...

Speaking about her latest children's novel Impossible Creatures, where all the creatures from myth and legend live on an archipelago. ‘It is about these creatures, it is about a cornucopia of wonder and about the idea of what it would be like, if it was really real... Fantasy can be such a beautiful way to talk to children about the biggest question of what it means to be alive...'

The speech, which ended the conference, concluded on a rallying call to all those in the book industry who, Rundell believes, are ‘members of this great chorus, singing this song which has been sung since at least [Homer's] Odyssey... and each generation sings it down to the next. People who make books and produce books and sell books, review books and promote books, they take that song and they make it into a roar'.

Katherine Rundell, author of six children's novels, including Rooftoppers, which won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in 2014, The Explorer, which won the Costa Children's Book Award and recently published Impossible Creatures, and two anthologies, at the Bookseller's Children's conference, in the Bookseller.