The David Godwin Associates Masterclass
with David Godwin and Philippa Sitters
As part of our series of masterclasses, Indie Novella is thrilled to have been in conversation with David Godwin and Philippa Sitters at leading literary agency, David Godwin Associates to further provide our authors and students with inside industry knowledge direct from one of the most experienced literary agency in the business. Representing a dozen Booker Prize shortlisters and winners as both a literary agent and previously a publisher, David's list has included incredible names such as Arundhati Roy, Penelope Lively and Jeet Thayil to name a few. In 2022 David Godwin Associates represented two authors on the Booker Prize longlist, Shehan Karunatilaka and Selby Wynn Schwartz, with Shehan's novel, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, being shortlisted and subsequently winning the prestigious prize.
David started David Godwin Associates in 1995 with Heather Godwin. Literary agent, Philippa Sitters began working at the agency in 2014. Together, they represent an exciting and varied list of international writers, including novelists, poets, biographers and journalists, and as a small agency pride themselves in building close, effective relationships with their clients.
How would you describe the role of a literary agent?
We do what our clients want us to do. They are the most crucial parts of the business and we are involved in their books, publishing, television, handling their rights all over the world, events, and just giving them the best advice we can. This varies from person to person as people have different needs at different times. It is a complicated industry so we need to know each part of it, and if an author hits a road block we are there to help them out, so the publication process is as smooth as possible.
Do you need to get along with the author on a personal level?
Very much so, as a healthy and professional relationship is very important. But you take writers on because they have something interesting and important to say, and it is nice if you do get on well but that is a bonus. There has to be a truthfulness of the relationship. It is particular rather than general.
What is the typical day like as a literary agent?
There is no such thing! Our days are very different, between each of us. Meetings, a lot of meetings with, clients, writers and publishers. For example, with Frankfurt coming up there would be meetings about the foreign rights of our clients, who they are going to approach, what material they need, and our job is to make sure they have everything they need. In addition, I have potential clients come and see me to discuss if we can work together and we have a discussion of how the process is going – every day has probably a meeting like that.
We also have to deal with contracts and money and make sure the cogs are turning, while also thinking about new business and finding new, lovely people to represent. And between us (David and Philippa), we are a team and talk a lot throughout the day.