With this year’s Trailblazer Awards open and ready for applications, we thought we’d catch up with some of our 2020 winners. Next up is Harriet Egleton.
I have worked as a scout at Daniela Schlingmann Literary Scouting Ltd. for the last five and half years, being promoted to Senior Scout in 2019. With clients across Europe, Latin America and Asia, as well as a London-based TV production company, it is my responsibility to scout the very best non-fiction from the UK market and beyond for our clients, as well as reading widely across all fiction genres.
What did winning an LBF Trailblazer Award mean to you?
I was incredibly surprised and humbled with so many other brilliant candidates shortlisted! It was a wonderful feeling to receive recognition, and I am hugely flattered and grateful too. The trophy sits in pride of place on top of my bookshelf.
In your opinion, what impact has the recent changing world had on bookshops/the publishing industry, and what are your predictions for their/its future?
The publishing industry is fascinating in its ability to strive for progress and innovation but also stay quite rigid in its ways in other regards – I think a big example of that is flexible working, which the publishing industry has been relatively late to but obviously has become necessary as a result of the pandemic. My feeling is that remote work is overall net positive and likely here to stay – the fact that it widens the possible recruitment pool to people outside of London and the south is one of the many benefits.
People are rallying around indies as supporting your local bookshop has become even more vital, and there have been positive steps like Bookshop.org launching during lockdown 2.0 but, on the other hand, Amazon has seen significant growth this year, so it remains to be seen if the momentum for supporting local businesses continues, particularly as we likely face further lockdowns. Ultimately, the publishing industry (on the whole) has done remarkably well through this period – people are cooped up at home and want to learn, escape and live other lives through literature.
As a Trailblazer, what impact has the recent changing world had on you, and how are you coping under the current climate?
The current climate is not terribly conducive to instantaneous, dynamic connection – either between colleagues or clients, which makes my job a bit more challenging (and less fun!). Having people to bounce ideas off, those chance encounters and meetings of minds – all of that stuff is missing and can’t really be replicated over Zoom (though I am very grateful for it!). The separation of private life and personal has also been difficult, as has maintaining motivation and momentum.
However, I’ve personally been very fortunate during this period, with a supportive team, working for a thriving company, as well as a comfortable living situation with my partner, so I can’t complain too much.
What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it from?
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall – probably not the most escapist thing I’ve read recently, but very good, nonetheless. It was a gift, but my boyfriend bought it from our local bookshop, the excellent Review in Peckham.
What’s your reading platform of choice? Paper, eBooks or audio?
eBooks are convenient, but I ultimately prefer paper – I like the full sensory experience of reading – seeing the book, feeling the pages as I turn them, the distinct book smell! Probably old-fashioned at this point, but I also have a Beauty and the Beast-esque library fantasy, which I’m not going to fulfil by stockpiling my kindle.
What’s next on your reading list?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Although it’s a classic, I still haven’t read it, and I wanted to read it before watching the Netflix film (which is apparently not great, but I’ll watch it anyway). Then Fake Law by the Secret Barrister and A Promised Land by Barack Obama, which I’ll probably dip in and out of – why read one book at a time when you could read three?
Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?
Agatha Christie, just so I could interrogate her as to how she comes up with those deliciously unexpected twists – she’s just the plot queen, the doyenne of the locked-room mystery.
Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?
Got to be my local, Review, in Peckham. Just the friendliest staff and always well-stocked with the usual suspects and some more unique offerings. Shout out to Pages of Hackney as well.
What is the silliest thing you have on your desk?
My WFH desk is pretty bare, but in the office, it was probably a polaroid selfie a Canadian agent took of me, him and my former colleague. We all look delirious because it was the last day of Frankfurt.
Tell us about a passion you have outside the business.
One I haven’t been able to indulge recently, but I love the theatre. If expense wasn’t an issue, I’d go literally every week (though obviously theatres like the Old Vic, the Almeida, the Globe, etc. have some reasonably priced tickets). The arts have been devastated this year, and as soon as we’re able, I’m going to all the plays. I also love pub quizzes – I try and do one a week, and I’m one of those awful people who pushes a Zoom quiz on their unwilling friends. It’s partly a thirst for knowledge, partly a need to show off that drives me, I think.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
Is it tragic to say my mum? I will anyway – she has been there from the beginning and was my first book supplier. In many ways, she helped mould my reading tastes but also taught me a lot of lessons about hard work, perseverance and patience, which have served me well in my career so far.
If you’ve been to a London Book Fair, what do you love about the fair? And, what piece of advice would you give first-timers?
LBF will always have a special place in my heart as my first one was in 2015 after only a few weeks at DSLS, so it was a bit of a trial by fire. For us, the fairs are very important for meeting with our international clients, so connecting with them and others in the industry is one of my favourite parts of the fair. The casual conversations as you pass people walking through the aisles of the agents’ centre, or as you stand in the queue for the coffee stand are always a highlight. And the parties – of course, the parties!
For first timers – be patient with people, everyone is usually quite stressed and tired by the time they get to the fair, so if they sound a bit off, they probably just stayed up too late the night before. Don’t pack your schedule too tightly if you can help it. Drink lots of coffee. Go to the Cumberland Arms on Thursday evening.
Has a book ever changed your life?
My answer to the next question certainly did. But on the whole, books change my outlook and opinions but not my life necessarily.
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Probably the most basic answer to this question but the Harry Potter series. It will likely never be eclipsed by anything in terms of impact on my life, as strange as that seems. It captured my imagination, helped me escape when I needed it and truly made me a reader – and a writer. My first writing was Harry Potter fan-fiction – I even won a prize on MuggleNet (no shame). My view of the series has been tainted slightly by some of the recent opinions the author has espoused, which I disagree with, but it can’t cancel out the profound effect this series had on my life.