One of the current crop of industry buzz phrases we’re actually keen on here at Exhibit A is “demystifying the publishing process” – which, when put through the Exhibit A office dejargonatifiernator machine, translates into plain English as explaining how publishing really works.

“Dejargonatifiernator machine”, being operated by Exhibit A’s

Linguistics & Semiotics Technician, Dave.


The reason we’re so keen on demystification is because it helps writers target the right kind of agent, publisher, or self-publishing platform, for their work, and it also encourages them to have realistic expectations about how their careers might develop, and can also help them develop strategies and tactics to further their chances of success.

And this is good news for readers too, of course, because it increases the possibility of new writers either finding smart ways to market themselves, or finding publishers who’ll champion their work – all of which ups the chances of readers discovering, and hopefully falling in love with, a whole bunch of books that might otherwise never have properly seen the light of day.

Demystifying the publishing process is good for everyone, in other words.

Which is why here at Exhibit A, we’ve decided to start hosting a series of Couch Quizzes. Brief, informative and irreverent by nature, the idea is ask  some of the more innovative, revolutionary and downright influential characters working in publishing today to sit with us awhile and chat, and hopefully thereby knock down some walls and shed a little light on what’s really going on inside the ever-changing world of publishing.

First up, we’re pleased to welcome Über-agent Jonny Geller, joint CEO of London Literary & Talent Agency Curtis Brown, and Managing Director of its Books division. Jonny represents fiction and non-fiction and his clients include the likes of  John le Carré, Nelson Mandela, David Mitchell, Monica Ali and Howard Jacobson.

And so, without further a do, here’s Jonny…






Q:  What one tip would you give an aspiring writer?

A:  Aspire to say something new and not something that is simply better than what is out there.

Q:  If you hadn’t become a literary agent, what do you think you would have ended up being?

A:  A film producer.

Q:  What would you say sets Curtis Brown apart from the competition?

A:  We look after every aspect of a writer’s life – books, film, presenting, branding.

Q:  What’s your favourite part of the publishing process?

A:  Discovery. Either a new novelist or a new book by an author I admire.

Q:  You have said on a number of occasions that the author/publisher financial relationship needs to be reinvented. What’s your ideal vision for this?

A:  A combination of things – some old model advance/royalties; some joint ventures and collaborations; some self publishing that becomes monetized later; some transparent sharing of resources with major brands.

Q:  Major-league publishing sometimes seems to be a mix of unexpected big new thing ,followed by a year-plus of copycatting till the craze is dead. A good or bad thing?

A:  An inevitability and it won’t change. The phenomena always come from the unexpected and what follows makes commercial sense.

Q:  Of the many book chains and stores that have sadly vanished from the high street, which do you miss the most?

A:  Ottakars. It had the feel of an independent with the range of a chain and was locally minded.

Q:  What’s the best film adaptation of a novel that you’ve seen?

A:  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (Biased, I know, as I represent the author, but I was blown away by this version.) To be balanced, I’ll say Dr Zhivago too, which seems to be better than the novel.

Q:  Which fictional character would you most like to go out with for a beer?

A:  Falstaff.

Q:  Where’s the best place to read a book?

A:  The bath.

Q:  Have you ever had an in depth conversation with someone about a book which you have, in fact, not read?

A:  Sure.

Q:  Did you get caught?

A:  No.

Q:  Literary or commercial?

A:  I see no difference.

Q:  Bitter or lager?

A:  Whiskey.

Q:  Do you think J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy might have been a bit more fun if it had included cameo appearances from Dobby and Hagrid?

A:  No.

Q: Do you think the same could be said of Fifty Shades of Grey?

A:  No.

Q:  If you had a sock puppet, what would it be called?

A:  Fake


Thanks, Jonny!

So there you have it. Feeling demystified? We certainly are.

Until next time, then, folks. But do let us know if there’s anyone you’d like us to feature in this series, and we’ll try to pin them down.


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