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Feature Patrick Walsh


is one change he has noticed in the past 20 years. “All agents have to have this editorial role now, it has become crucial. Following the great wave of takeovers in the 1990s and since, publishers trimmed the great editors, the great ‘book doctors’—not necessarily the acquiring editors, but the people working on the text.”


Making an imprint Another change, he notes, is the welcome prolifera- tion of new imprints—Tinder Press, riverrun, Mantle et al—born from “a realisation among the conglomerates that independent imprints create an extra energy that you don’t find when you have a large number of editors working in the same room. So what they have done is create a simulacrum of what existed before”. He says that part of the point of starting again was a chance to try new things, one of which is graphic novels, with publishers on both sides of the Atlantic increas- ingly adding graphic novel titles to their lists. A project he is talking about at the fair is an expansion of a story mentioned in Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature about the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. “Humboldt said he got his ideas from a five-year voyage to South America. Andrea wanted to expand on that and she found a young graphic arts student, and together they put together The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt as a graphic non-fiction title. It has gone to John Murray in the UK and Knopf in the US.”


Walsh has a suitably international background for someone involved in global publishing. He was born in Venezuela, where his father was an economist for Shell, and his mother, who is Dutch, was teaching the children of Dutch oil workers.


Following the great wave of takeovers in the Nineties and since, publishers


trimmed the great editors, the great ‘book doctors’—not necessarily the acquiring editors, but the people working on the text


His childhood was split between there and board- ing school in the UK, and he remembers the shock of “going from a Caribbean climate to winter on the south coast of the UK”. He read law at Cambridge but went straight into publishing, joining the indomitable agent Sheila Watson on Charing Cross Road, “where I developed publisher’s biceps, lugging manuscripts to the Post Office”.


A Little life


He spent eight years at Christopher Litle, right through the Harry Poter phenomenon, and leſt in 2000 to co-found Conville & Walsh with Clare Conville. Today, PEW’s offices are in a fabulous, creaking 18th-century townhouse in the heart of Soho, directly above the cele- brated Andrew Edmunds restaurant. Visiting authors walk past giant bags containing the kitchen staff’s overalls and tablecloths awaiting collection for the launderete. He has notched up “at least 25 Frankfurts”, and still loves it. “Every fair you think, ‘God, that was interest- ing’... You see people you know and love and respect, and you come back with so many new ideas.”


Here to stay: the branding of PEW


When establishing the agency, Walsh roped in esteemed London-based design outfit Here to conjure a visual identity for PEW. The agency claims the agent’s initials were “a visual and verbal gift: the welcoming invitation at the heart of the idiom ‘take a pew’”, and that “with that—and Alfie the office dog [pictured]—we had all we needed to cre- ate this charming, personable and bookish brand”. The logo, the agency says, “draws


parallels between Patrick’s profession and his welcoming persona”, with “the ‘open book’ imagery helping to keep the brand rooted in books with the double sense of being offered a seat”.


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