Smart Quill Editorial About the Editor


Posted on March 15th, 2016



April is going to be a busy month! The Bologna and London Book Fairs have been placed right next to one another in the first two weeks. Normally rights people, publishers, agents, editors and everyone else have a at least a week to turn work around between the two. This year will be a marathon of physical stamina and vocal skills (almost everyone loses their voice).

Plus, I am one of four judges in Operation Thriller, a writing competition for Authors.Me (an extremely clever acquisitions platform) in conjunction with Reedsy (a freelance digital marketplace). It is an open call for writers of thriller fiction in both the US and the UK, with a minimum of 30 pages, and no registration fee! Increasingly competitions will run with an admin fee and I think this is a bit of a ruse. So I am absolutely delighted to be part of this talent scouting initiative, which requires nothing of entrants other than just that – talent. And the prize clocks up to about $3000, including some cash.

Unsung Hero Award 2016

Posted on February 29th, 2016

It is difficult to sing one’s own praises, but happily White Fox made some noise on my behalf this month. They voted Smart Quill an Unsung Publishing Hero for 2016.

The list of 25, in fields as diverse as design, production, editorial, agenting, and management, celebrates specialists working in-house or freelancing for the book publishing industry.

I am just going to lift the quote verbatim: “Philippa has tried to make SmartQuill as relevant and supportive as possible for authors who are interested in Hollywood, or Hollywood writers who are interested in becoming an author. At the end of the day, she helps all creative writers — both authors and screenwriters in the UK and US — to see that there are many options for their material to consider, and not just one narrow path”.

Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself, as this is precisely what I wanted to achieve in moving from London to LA. Providing some sort of fluidity both ways; so film/tv does not feel geographically distant from books; so author options feel expansive. Stories beget stories in any case, and I am lucky to be able to find them on both sides of the world.

Next Year’s Words Await Another Voice

Posted on January 10th, 2016

2015 was a big year – I moved from London to Los Angeles to explore book to film possibilities for new writers, set up the Book Boutique as an exclusive online platform, and established the Authors Club in conjunction with Soho House West Hollywood.

2016 is set to be similarly exploratory… I’ll be continuing with LA workshops until the Spring; pitching to agents and producers at the Bologna Book Fair; and doing a London Book Fair event on the 11th April. I’ve been asked to talk about the event on National Radio Ireland – so if you are based there, stay tuned to the Green Room programme!

As well as the Smart Quill Edits, I will be allocating more time to one-on-one consultations. If you want a sense check on your writing, or to discuss general narrative direction, please email to book a session.

I hope you invoke the muse in 2016.

LA Story of the Book Boutique

Posted on October 31st, 2015


A few years ago I decided to open an online boutique for books. Probably ebooks. I wasn’t really sure, and people instructed me with words like DRM, epub/mobi conversion, wordpress plugins, and tablet compatibility. It seemed a bit tech-heavy for me to pursue.

But when I moved to LA in March, the idea of the boutique was resurrected – with a new media perspective. I wanted to explore the process of book to film, as adaptations of “original source material” are having a bit of a Hollywood moment. And more importantly, I wanted there to be somewhere for authors to “go”, once the process of writing and revising was completed.

So I am delighted to announce the Smart Quill Boutique is now open for business! It is an exclusive online platform of the best unrepresented and undiscovered authors from the UK, the USA and Australia/New Zealand. It is accessible via password to literary agents, film/tv producers, managers, screenwriters, scouts, creative executives, directors, i.e. anyone who has a vested interest in stories. It will feature around six authors, writing fiction and non-fiction of various genres, and will be updated every season. (And Winter is coming.)

If you would like more information on the Boutique, it was covered by the Bookseller at Frankfurt Book Fair.

Writers’ Block: Finding Your Narrative Style

Posted on January 7th, 2015

It’s 2015, and that calls for a New Year’s Resolution. This year I have decided to do more talks. More face to face time, more meeting great writers, more personal advice and guidance. I do an awful lot of emailing and reporting, remote work, by proxy. But sometimes that is not enough.

So, starting as I mean to go on… Today I did an event at Shoreditch House in London. It’s the first in a series of four. I talked about narrative this week (big concept alert), next week is plot, which will be followed by characterisation and tone. It builds on the content of the online tutorials I did in 2013, covering each of the major narrative elements. But the hour long talks are more expansive in reach, and more specific in application.

It was a full house, and the audience asked some incredibly insightful questions. (This was my favourite: can you use a fourth person POV, as is the case in screenplays?) We talked about style, pace, perspective and devices that add something special to a narrative.

The two things I said a lot were 1. you have to be a wide reader to be an effective writer and 2. make conscious narrative choices.  I would have said the same thing in writing, probably. But nice to say it in person from time to time.

Interview with a Prize Winner

Posted on November 21st, 2014

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It is a very rare and very wonderful thing when a book you have edited is acknowledged as a success. There are two ways for this to happen: runaway sales, a nod from the readers, or prizes, a nod from the industry. I am delighted to say that Piers Torday last week received a mega nod, by winning the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for The Dark Wild.

So it seemed an opportune moment ask Piers some questions…

What is the first thing you do before you start writing?

The first thing I do before writing is read a poem from the Writer’s Almanac to clear my head/inspire me, choose my playlist and try and get my social media fix out of the way before attempting to concentrate.

Where did you get your inspiration for stories?

From other people’s books, stories in the news and mainly, completely random things other people say that I’m sure no-one else would even notice or pick up on, but which somehow set a trigger off in my imagination.

What advice would you give to debut novelists?
It’s one of the most exciting things that can ever happen, and publishing  a book won’t ever quite feel the same again, so soak up the experience and try to enjoy it rather than worrying about reviews or sales. Throw the biggest party you can to launch it and make sure everyone knows. Don’t be disappointed if there isn’t a front page review in the first week or if it isn’t top of the bestseller lists straightaway – a book is around for a long time, and truly is the gift which keeps on giving. The best promotion is author events and meeting readers face to face, and creating a distinct personality for yourself online which appeals to your readership/industry base. But don’t over rely on social media – self promoting tweets will only get you so far. (Not very). Most  importantly of all, keep faith in the book, and don’t sit around waiting for miracles to happen but just get on with the next one as soon as you can. That way every good piece of news is a welcome break rather than a drink in the desert.
I love this last point. It is very true. Thank you so much Piers!

Thoughts on a Fair

Posted on October 25th, 2014

Frankfurt Book Fair is amazing, exhausting, vast in scale, familiar in routine; year after year publishers, agents, scouts, packagers, distributors and anyone who has anything to do with paper bound with covers, or even just words in a sequence, descends upon this German city. The  beer is cold, the sausages are ever so slightly less cold, but the atmosphere buzzes with the excitement of books undiscovered and old friends reacquainted.

As an editorial consultant, working mainly with authors at the start of the process, there is never much cause for me to visit book fairs where deals on the end products are done. It is great for meeting people, but as a trade fair debut writers are not easily found. So this year I was extremely lucky to be invited to the Frankfurt Book Fair by the Bookseller. I packed my little bag, and a copy of Gone Girl, and off I flew.

I had lots of digital revelations there (see my piece for Future Book for full musings on the subject). I met new agents looking for new things, which is always encouraging. I saw Paulo Coelho and David Nicholls in conversation. And I  was invited to launch of the Taipei Book Fair. So it looks like Taiwan, 2015, here I come…

Success Story Three

Posted on August 27th, 2014

Two published books came through simultaneously this month; both Smart Quill authors who have taken very different approaches to publishing. It is a wonderful thing that there are so many options open to writers in terms of connecting with readers. Both James and Tim were utterly committed to the editorial process, and it was a privilege to work with them both.

James Kamblin came to me in 2013 with a sci-fi novel; it was very long, yet intricate and compelling. I am more of a fan of fantasy than science-fiction, but this was a wholly developed world and so easy to fall into. James very wisely turned to Amazon to publish – with such a sterling reputation for launching the careers of Hugh Howey and Kass Morgan, it makes complete sense. FLEE THE BONDS is available at:

Tim Bradley was in fact my first client – in March 2012 we met and had several editorial consultations regarding a draft middle grade fiction, which eventually became ARNIE JENKS AND THE HOUSE OF STRANGERS. Tim knew when to give the novel space, so over a process of three years he has worked and reworked it. The end result is so polished – Tim secured a publishing deal with  Troubadour. Both ebook is and paperback are available. Have a look at the dedicated website to the book:

And again, at the risk of repeating myself, congratulations to both Vince and Tim; it takes courage and determination to see the publication process through to the end, and you have done it!

Success Story Two

Posted on July 27th, 2014

Hugh O’Brien very kindly did an author interview with me some time ago. But as we are nearing publication date, I thought it might be an opportune moment to look at a little more of the editorial history.

I met Hugh when I was in Australia in 2013. He had a wonderful narrative style, but his work of non-fiction was more of collection of autobiographical thoughts when I first started editing. He responded unbelievably well to marked-up notes, which I sent through on-screen. By draft three, I knew we were onto a winner.

So I sent the ms to Tara Wynne at Curtis Brown – she loved it, and mere weeks later Hugh was offered a deal by the newly merged Penguin/Random House in Australia. A hugely prestigious house for a debut author.

The result was UNDAUNTED, to be published as a trade paperback in August 2014. Military autobiography is by no means my speciality, but when a book starts like this, it grabs you and won’t let go: “Diving was a boys-own adventure, a jump into the unknown full of devil-may-care attitudes. It welcomed you with one hand and cast you asunder with the other. It was a hideous bitch goddess and it drank the blood of the unprepared.”

Congratulations, Hugh!

Rising Stars 2014

Posted on June 14th, 2014

Well, this is exciting! Smart Quill has been nominated as a publishing Rising Star for 2014! It was announced by In their own words, this is the annual run-down of the best and brightest young (and some not so young) guns in the industry. There was a particular focus this year on the evolution of job specs in the modern book trade. That is absolutely the mandate for Smart Quill, and it is particularly gratifying that so many others are thinking of news ways to connect up the industry. Amongst other Rising Stars there was the Managing Editor from Unbound (I love what they do), the founder from WoMentoring, and the next big threat to Amazon – Wordery.

I was asked to muse upon what I intended to achieve in the year ahead, and here is what I said: “Continuing to discover new and talented writers, and helping them to navigate the evolution of publishing platforms. Nothing beats the thrill of finding the perfect agent for submissions that show great promise.” True.

PS: Four Rising Stars won an award to go to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October – and Smart Quill is one of them! I’ve been asked to do a piece for FutureBook there, so do look out for it.