Writing tips from literary agent Jonny Geller, publisher Alex Clarke and authors Felicia Yap and Lisa Jewell

There are many of us who dream of writing and publishing a bestseller, to have the words Sunday Times Bestseller or New York Times Bestseller on the front jacket of your book. On Tuesday, 19th September 2017 I went to a Rooftop Book Club event hosted by Headline Publishing. The event took place on their rooftop terrace which offers stunning views of London. This isn’t the first rooftop book club event I have attended and I would highly recommend them. You can find details of upcoming events by clicking here: Rooftop Book Club


The speakers were literary agent and CEO of Curtis Brown Jonny Geller, publisher Alex Clarke, bestselling author, Lisa Jewell and debut novelist Felicia Yap. You can find below their top tips on writing and publishing a bestseller.

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To start things off, Jonny and Alex were both asked what excites them when they receive a submission from a new writer. Jonny says that it is always the writer’s own unique voice, it is something that belongs to them. He also advised to spend a lot of time thinking about your cover letter as the cover letter shows the agent that this writer can write. When he first receives the submission, he doesn’t look at the synopsis but he will do when he wants to find out more, if by page ten he is desperate to know what happens next. The synopsis has to be confident and controlled and it should be the authors take on their own book. He also explained that he is looking for the serious writers and not the hobbyist. At Curtis Brown they receive a whopping 50,000 manuscripts a year but he stressed that all agents are hungry for new writers. You have to grab the agent from the start with the cover letter, if the cover letter isn’t to a professional standard or if it doesn’t showcase yourself as a writer, it isn’t likely that your submission will be taken further.

Both Jonny and Alex agreed that you have to be able to tell what your book is about in two sentences if you are hoping to entice booksellers, publishers and agents.

Lisa was asked about her writing process. Lisa has to write away from home and the internet which can be a distraction to her writing. She finds that she writes quicker and better when she gives herself a time frame to write. Her last three books were written in three months and she was writing 1,000 words a day. She never plots her novels and sometimes she doesn’t know the ending of her books until she comes to write it. She said this is a great way of creating pace in your writing as you are discovering what happens next the same time as the reader is.

When Felicia Yap was writing Yesterday, she did fourteen edits of her book before submitting it to fifteen beta readers. She found being part of a writing group immensely helpful; to help with her research she even sent her manuscript to the Metropolitan police who provided her with really useful feedback. Her advice on the submission process: it is equally important to apply creativity to the writing and submission.

Top tips from Jonny

  • Read widely, not just in your chosen genre.
  • Don’t let anyone see your book until you’ve nailed everything down.
  • Make your reader feel something. If they don’t connect with the characters, to the reader it’s just another book.
  • People want to see issues played out in fiction. Trends never get in the way of passion or connection.
  • Get your personality & the flavour of the book across succinctly.

Top tips from Alex

  • No matter what trend you’re aiming at, you’ve still got to write a beautiful book.
  • New writers must be able to tell what their book is about in two sentences.
  • You must be able to step back and think about all the different elements of your book.

Top tips from Lisa

  • When you’re thinking up an idea, try and think about the universal experience. This was the secret to the success of The Girl on the Train. We can all relate to the character, Rachel, commuting to London every day and peering into people’s homes and lives. What if we saw something that we shouldn’t have?
  • Find a specific time in the day to write.

Top tips from Felicia

  • Determination & tenacity to succeed is key and to never give up.
  • As writers, we should keep asking questions about the world around us and to stay curious.
  • Read your work out loud, this will help you find sentences which are clunky and help you to improve your prose, especially dialogue.


She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. 
She had her whole life ahead of her. 
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?



There are two types of people in the world: those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before.

You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did.

Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.

Can you trust the police? 
Can you trust your husband? 
Can you trust yourself?