Dymphna Flynn, Front Row and Bookclub – Dymphna.Flynn@bbc.co.uk
Nicola Holloway, Open Book – Nicola.Holloway@bbc.co.uk
Lucinda Montefiore, Woman’s Hour – Lucinda.Montefiore@bbc.co.uk
Karen Holden – BBC World Service Book Club – Karen.Holden@bbc.co.uk
Looks after Front Row and also the R4 Bookclub.
Bookclub is presented by Jim Naughtie and goes out on the first calendar Sunday of each month in the place of Open Book.
An established author comes on to talk about a former successful book of theirs. There are 25 people in the room during the show and they’ve all read it. An author appearing on Book Club doesn’t affect appearing on other R4 shows. They don’t return to authors they’ve done in the past – an ‘appear once’ show!
The show has been running for 20 years so they’re always after new authors. They can work as far in advance as needed – up to 6 months if possible. Usually 6-8 weeks is enough as they need to find the audience to read the book beforehand and send in questions. The 20th anniversary is next May and they are after a big starry author so do send over suggestions.
Front Row – Dymphna looks after the show together with Rebecca Armstrong. Between the two of them they try to respond to all emails.
The show goes out every night at 7.15pm. They are now veering towards live as much as possible. They like to do research chats with authors beforehand as the majority are going out live on air. They only need about 15 mins for this though. They will do this with all authors – from well-known to debut.
They also now like to do discussions with authors – other authors, critics, etc. This is especially useful if an author has appeared before as it gives a new angle and opportunity. For example, Lindsay Davis has had lots of R4 exposure in the past so for her last book she had a discussion on air with her editor.
FR always covers the main prizes such as the Costa, Booker, Baileys.
They do cover some non-fiction such as the Baillie Gifford Prize.
They broadcast live from the ceremonies where possible.
Lead time – roughly 4 weeks in advance. Send proofs and catalogues. When an author is booked they prefer proofs to PDFs. They do use Netgalley though as the books are formatted properly for Kindle.
Debuts – they are swamped with pitches. They can only do 3 book items a week so it really has to be a big and special debut to get through.
Meet ups are useful – a coffee or lunch every 6 – 12 months works well to go through catalogues. Be targeted though, don’t mention every title.
Saturday Review is going and in place, Front Row will be putting together a ‘best of’ at 4pm on a Saturday. This programme is still in planning. There may be new material included but it’s more likely that it’ll be made up of content from the week.
They consider down the line if it’s a big international name. Time difference-wise New York works well but west coast USA can be tricky. They can consider a pre-record after the show for west coast authors. For UK authors, they expect them in the studio. Bookclub has to be in studio.
They have done the odd piece without an author (review of a new book) but literally 3 or 4 times in 5 years. They did a piece when the last Pynchon was published and the same with the new Murakami.
Programmes Open Book together with Kirsten Locke – they work different days on a job share.
Open Book is presented by Mariella Fostrup weekly on a Sunday.
There is a big books interview each week – established fiction writers or a really big debut. This is planned roughly 6-8 weeks in advance and pitching by email is best. They like to receive finished copies and PDFs.
Literary postcards – features authors not living in the UK, interviewed from the country they’re writing from. They must be confident in English speaking.
Editor’s tips – features an editor recommending a book from another publishing house. This feature happens once a month.
Columns from novelists (600 words) – on topics such as alpine writing, clothes in fiction, libraries. It is not about their book. They can help an author develop ideas if needed. R4 pay a fee for the column. It isn’t time specific so doesn’t have to appear around publication. It does always credit an authors’ new book.
They don’t tend to do research chats with authors but can do if an author would prefer to.
Within your pitch, please don’t tell them an author is a good speaker if they aren’t. They need people who are comfortable.
Authors need to be in-studio, really. There are the odd exceptions (Tom Keneally is doing his interview down the line from Oz for example) but they like an author to be there in person. The big interview needs to be face to face – Mariella is at her best in this situation.
Lucinda looks after fiction for Woman’s Hour. Jane Thurlow looks after non-fiction. They work closely together.
The show is on air every morning from 10 – 10.45am and is presented by Jenni Murray or Jane Garvey.
They rarely cover debut novels – although they are having Megan Hunter on in a few weeks talking about her novel which looks at the topic of motherhood against a dystopian background. Novels on WH must have an appropriate topic behind them, authors can’t just come on and explain the story of their novel. There must be a back story, personal story, etc to go with it.
They don’t really cover male novelists except every now and again. They had Colm Toibin on talking about his book on the Virgin Mary for example.
They have men on more for non-fiction.
They hate being pitched a book that just isn’t suitable, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Do your research on the programme before pitching.
They like meeting with PRs if they can come to near the office for a quick coffee.
It sounds simple but please don’t phone them to chase a pitch whilst the show is on air! For pitching generally they prefer email and feel free to chase. They like proofs but can’t be bothered with PDFs. They rarely cover paperbacks if the author was featured for the hardback – the story would have to have moved on considerably for them to consider.
They consider down the line for a discussion piece but are less likely to consider it for a fiction interview. It depends on the experience of the author. It can be difficult to make a time difference work with recording.
They will do pieces around a book without the author – they love a discussion piece. This isn’t a review though.
Request – please no more psychological thrillers!
The World Service Book Club is similar to Jim Naughtie’s Bookclub. There is no restriction or clash with the R4 Bookclub though as they are on a separate network (although can’t appear at the same time). Harriet Gilbert is the presenter and it is an hour long.
It appears the first Saturday of every month. World Service is broadcast from 12-6am on R4. They have a huge international audience – 58 million listeners.
They have a podcast which is an hour long – the longest books programme running.
They have been on air for 15 years in August.
Their guests, like the R4 bc, are established authors.
The show is recorded with 30-40 guests in the studio and have questions from email, Twitter, etc – all from around the world.
As they can’t repeat authors it is getting more and more difficult to find authors to appear.
The show travels once or twice a year. For international authors they must speak good English. They can’t use a translator – they tried this once and it didn’t work. The authors they feature on their travels can be slightly less well-known but must be big in their own country.
They welcome pitches as far in advance as possible. Dymphna and Karen work closely together as they can’t have the same person on both book clubs at the same time. They have a mediating editor who will choose.
They talk about a key book in a writers’ career but they do mention the writers’ new book.
Karen likes to meet to go through authors – great if PRs can come to Broadcasting House. Prefers to be pitched by email. For phone use her mobile, not landline.
Authors need to be in-studio. They have only done one Skype interview which was John Grisham – a massive exception.