A quarter of Caroline Sheldon's clients at The Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency have been with her ever since she set the agency up, it was revealed last night (1st September) at a party at The Art Workers' Guild in Queen Square, London, to celebrate the agency's 30th birthday.
Sheldon and co-agent Felicity Trew saw a mix of publishers, including Sarah Odedina of Pushkin, Hillary Murray Hill and Clare Somerville of Hachette Children's Books, Emma Hopkin of Bloomsbury, Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow, Amanda Ridout of Head of Zeus and Nick Sayers of Hodder, rubbing shoulders with authors and illustrators including Julia Donaldson, Terence Blacker, John Agard, Rose Impey, Yuval Zommer, Pamela Hartshorne and Donna Hay.
Author Julia Donaldson with husband Malcolm Donaldson
Blacker is one of those authors who have been with the agency since its beginning. He remembered first meeting Sheldon when she was "a non-typing secretary" at Arrow Books. She later set up an imprint called Sparrow "and it was obvious she had a passion for books and would stand up for authors," he said. Blacker described Sheldon as "not a conventional agent, but an amazing agent", saying "Caroline combines coming up with brilliant ideas, and enthusiasm, with incredible attention to detail", and if any royalty statement comes through with errors, "Caroline is on it like a sparrowhawk."
Emma Hopkin, m.d. of Bloomsbury Consumer Publishing, with Caroline Sheldon
Sheldon said that in the 30-year life of her agency she had seen changes ranging from the frivolous - the halving of the length of lunches, and the loss of paperclipped first chapters of manuscripts - to the serious, "the pernicious decline in funding for libraries". And she had a warning for publishers that authors' creativity needs "proper bedding-in time", saying: "I fear the need for instant success now stalks the land."
Agents and publishers were, she said, just "the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" of the book world, "usually off-stage and mostly without the best lines", while it was the authors and illustrators who were the "princes".