Don’t tell me what to write


New handbagIsn’t it lovely when your prejudices are confirmed?  Lisa Campbell’s editorial in Broadcast this week says:

“At Mip, we heard one overriding message from successful European creatives: it sounds paradoxical, but global success occurs when storytellers are encouraged to write for viewers in their own countries – and not the international marketplace.”

In other words, let’s concentrate on great stories, rather than stories that look like good candidates for co-production.  International sales follow if the story works well for a specific audience.

We’ve seen something of a renaissance of interesting foreign TV series in this country lately.  Clearly a UK audience can not just cope with, but enjoy, foreign programmes.  And ours are also enjoyed worldwide.  What these programmes have in common is that –although they’re aimed toward a home market – they’re not parochial.

It’s clear that good plots, good characters, and heartfelt writing and production, are still paramount.

What this week’s been like


There’s nothing like a blog to demonstrate to an agent what writers go through regularly: the terror of the blank screen, waiting for words.

It’s both a very busy time and a weirdly quiet one – MIPTV this week, and the London Book Fair next week.  Add the end of the financial year, royalty statements arriving by the bushel, and HMRC’s new payroll software, and you can imagine the screams of terror around the office.

A number of directories must have been updated, too, since I’ve had a sudden flood of approaches from writers.  I’ve been a bit under the radar up till now, but the numbers are going back to what they used to be before I started the new agency.  It’s nice to be approached about stuff but there are two habits which make me have to repress annoyance so I can read the submissions with an open heart.

1.  Am I looking for new clients?  Actually, it’s very rare for an agent to be in this position.  A couple of agents I know seem to clear out their list and take on a fresh bunch of clients, as a poker player might cash in some cards, but I think they’re in the minority.  The usual answer to this is No, but an agent always make space for someone amazing.

2.  Does this sound interesting and will I get back to them if I’d like to see it?  Please don’t give me two jobs to do, when you can just give me one.  It doesn’t cost anything to attach a file to an email.

I’m off to buy a new handbag this weekend.  While I was having a smoke outside a professional do, I dropped my cigar into it when startled by a writer and set it on fire. I hadn’t ever thought this was also a hazard of the job.

We are not data

I posted a link to an article about Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads, so it can snoop on people’s opinions about books, and market products to them they think they might buy.  This is thanks to data mining software, which can pick up certain key words.

The argument in the article is for the ability to talk about something without companies like Amazon listening in so they can sell you stuff.  Isn’t it possible to do anything these days without someone, somewhere, picking up information about us?  It does seem to bring us down to the level of being simply data.

It’s a symptom of the changes brought about by the internet.  You used to sell things to people by putting up a big poster, or sending out junk mail, for instance.  Pretty random.

So in theory we won’t see irrelevant advertising any more.  That almost sounds utopian, except it doesn’t mean we’ll see less advertising, and it feels intrusive.

But it’s the way marketing is going.  Publishers are getting readers’ emails so they can send information about books that might be of interest.  Readers sign up voluntarily – or, at least, interact with a website and surrender their email address, perhaps in exchange for exclusive content.  We have to register to see more pages of online newspapers and magazines.  Broadcasters and film distributors are doing likewise.

But registering voluntarily and being ‘overheard’ on sites that used to be authentic forums are two different things.  Marketing’s got personal.