Q&A: Tobi Coventry of Dialogue Scouting

Q&A: Tobi Coventry of Dialogue Scouting

Sharmaine Lovegrove and Tobi Coventry founded scouting agency Dialogue Scouting. Lovegrove will be joining Little, Brown as publisher to build an inclusive list at Dialogue Books in July. So what next for Coventry?

What does Dialogue Scouting do?
Dialogue Scouting is a book-to-film and TV scouting consultancy working with producers to find the best new and existing material from the publishing world. It’s a bit like matchmaking with stories, or hunter/gathering but with books instead of berries and meat! It’s about making sure our clients find those special stories to bring to life.

How did you get into it?
I started at a time when television and streaming was starting to boom. Books have always been my passion, and were becoming more important for producers in terms of getting projects off the ground. I was also frustrated at the competition in the media industry and the difficulty in finding an in-house development job. I realised I would have to find a way of bringing something extra to the table. Books were the obvious choice. Sharmaine got into scouting by accident, working in TV development in Berlin. She built a list of clients, used her knowledge and contacts from the London publishing industry and was innovative in her approach. Sharmaine worked in TV development while working in bookshops, so the crossover came naturally.

How did you get together?
Sharmaine and I met in January 2016. The beginning of our partnership was simple. We were the only scouts who focused on film and television, and decided to meet. Five hours later, after a couple of gin and tonics and some roast chicken, we had decided to try working together. It just clicked. Sharmaine has always had a great passion and interest in connecting books to readers and saw her work as a scout as an extension of this. Understanding what people want and flicking through her encyclopedic knowledge of backlist titles that only a bookseller can have, while I focused on the frontlist made for a great combination.

Why has there been an increase in activity in this sector?
It’s amazing to see how much film and TV scouting has grown over the past few years. As more production companies pop up and expand to move into television, demand for material increases and producers don’t want to miss out. That said, as much as our role is about keeping our clients ahead of the curve, it’s also very much about making sure they find stories they love and want to tell, using our skills and knowledge.

How does the agency differ from its rivals?
We have always done things our own way. The thing our clients comment on is that it’s different working with Dialogue Scouting because of our knowledge and interest in the three industries. We live and breathe books, film, television and culture and are seen as literary development consultants, who bring ideas to the table along with the books. Now Sharmaine is going to work as a publisher at Little, Brown, I will carry on the business, which is in great shape.