We are delighted to announce 2021’s Bath Children’s Novel Award is to be judged by literary agent and children’s author SAM COPELAND. Sam will decide the winning manuscript from a shortlist chosen by Junior Judges aged 7 to 17 years.
Sam Copeland was shortlisted for Literary Agent of the Year at the 2021 British Book Awards and is a director at the Rogers, Coleridge and White Literary Agency. He represents award-winning and bestselling authors and is excited by debuts.
Sam Copeland is also the author of the bestselling Charlie Changes series (Penguin Random House 2019, 2020) and Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything (Penguin Random House 2021).
Thanks for judging this year’s prize. Is there anything you’d especially like to find?
I’m not looking for anything in particular. I’m just hoping to find an exciting new voice!
What are your tips for great opening pages?
You only have one chance to write an opening page. You better make it interesting! I want to see voice, I want to see world.
I don’t really pay much attention to synopses, so don’t worry too much about them. Just try and get the general flow of the plot in a page.
Any advice on nailing the best title for your manuscript?
I wish! I hate titles on my own books, so I’m no good at thinking of titles. I’m good at telling authors if their titles are wrong though. Just don’t expect me to come up with the solution!
Any advice for YA authors in the current market and are there any YA genres you’d particularly like to see?
Not really! Write what you want. Just make it good! Always open to anything!
How do you feel about Junior Judges choosing the shortlist?
I love the sound of this! Exciting for the kids, giving them a voice.
And judging blind?
I think that’s great – should really help with just focusing on the words on the page.
When, how and why did you become an agent?
It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint an exact time. After a few years working in a bookshop, I started working at Curtis Brown in 2000, and over the next 6 years, I slowly transformed form an assistant to an agent. And why? The truth is I told a bookshop colleague that I wanted to work in publishing and he said ‘Why don’t you become an agent? They are the ones with all the power.’ And I liked the sound of that..!
Describe your (children’s fiction) client list…
I would describe it as broad – from picture books authors like Rhiannon Fielding all the way to YA authors like Holly Jackson, and on the way middle grade writers such as David Solomons and Jenny Pearson, I like to think I cover all bases!
We were thrilled to hear of your deal for Jenny’s Bath Children’s Novel Award listed The Super Miraculous Adventures of Freddie Yates. Are those the best moments for you as an agent?
Let’s be honest – yes. Telling a debut author that they are going to be published is the greatest feeling. But then steering an author to success after many years is exciting too!
Jenny’s debut has been hailed as hilarious and heartfelt. How important is it for children’s manuscripts to be written from the heart?
For me, it is vital. You have to care deeply about the characters and the journey – because if you don’t, the reader won’t either.
You and Jenny have since collaborated on new children’s comedy The Underpants of Chaos (Tuchus and Topps) which has been snapped up by Puffin Books for publication in 2022. Can you describe the process and dynamics of co-authoring with a client?
It’s been so much fun! Fortunately we make each other laugh and really love each other’s writing. I think she is one of the best children’s writers in the country and feel very fortunate to be writing with her. We write a chapter each, then edit each other’s chapters. Then we do a big edit together at the end to smooth out the two voices.
As an author you’re represented by Julia Churchill. Is it true you queried her without disclosing you were also an agent?
That’s absolutely true. I did an anonymous submission because I was so worried about making a fool of myself! And does knowing agenting inside out make it any easier to be out on submission for your own books? No. Not at all. A little knowledge is dangerous as they say. Being on submission is a miserable and terrifying experience!
Can you say a little about how you collaborate with authors on edits before their book goes out to publishers?
It varies from author to author. Some authors need huge, multiple edits. Some only need a light dusting before its ready to go. You start with the big things, then slowly zero in on the detail until it’s finally ready to go.
You edit your own books about seven times before they are published. Any editing tips for writers polishing the first five thousand words for our first round of submissions?
Yes. Work hard. Edit on computer, then print it out and edit on paper. You should analyse the dialogue, and say it in your head. It needs to be natural, but not overly so.
You’ve said you write for the eight-year-old boy you were and the desire to make him laugh and believe everything would turn out alright. How difficult is it to strike the balance between tenderness and belly laughs?
I think writing comedy is incredibly difficult. You can’t just write – you have to think of jokes too (which are hopefully genuinely funny). And as I said before, if you care about the characters then hopefully the tenderness will follow.
- THE BATH CHILDREN’S NOVEL AWARD 2021 is a £3,000 international prize for emerging novelists
- Sam Copeland will judge the winning novel from a shortlist chosen by children and teens
- Entries are open until November 30th and you can find all the details here