So, it has been a couple of weeks since I was at the Cheltenham Literature Festival but I am finally getting around to my posts about the festival, starting with the Raven Proof Party.
For those of you who are not familiar with proof parties, broadly speaking, they are an opportunity to go along to a session with publishers and authors to hear them talk about their upcoming bestsellers. Most importantly for bibliophiles, they’re also an opportunity to get your hands on proofs, hence ‘proof party’.
It is one of those events that makes your heart beat a little bit faster at the prospect of lovely proofs!
There were four proof parties at this year’s festival:
- Raven Books Proof Party,
- Fabor Proof Party,
- Michael Joseph Proof Party, and
- Unbound Proof Party
Sadly, I could only attend one party and that was Raven Books (a Bloomsbury imprint) so I have nothing to compare it to – I have tried to be mindful of this in my post.
What does Cheltenham Literature Festival say?
The festival description for the proof parties says: “Ticket includes refreshments and a goody bag of limited edition proofs.”
Specifically relating to the Raven Books Proof Party, the description is given as:
Bloomsbury’s newest imprint specialising in literary crime, thriller and suspense, Raven Books is the home for those who like their books with a touch of the dark side. Editorial director Alison Hennessey presents the new Queen of Gothic Laura Purcell, author of the Zoe Ball Book Club selected The Silent Companions and the forthcoming The Corset; former human rights lawyer Alice Clark-Platts, whose novel The Flower Girls is Raven Books’ biggest launch for 2019; and investigative journalist and To The Lions author Holly Watt.
I’ll be referring back to this…!
I think Laura Purcell, Alice Clark-Platts, and Holly Watt are possible three of the most insightful authors I’ve ever had the benefit of hearing speak. They all have unique stories and backgrounds which have led them to this point in their lives and careers. I was particularly taken in by Holly who I am pretty sure I’d be happy to share a bottle of wine with and hear about her stories as an investigative journalist.
They were all honest about their experiences of getting published, including their challenges of finding a decent agent and dealing with rejection. I think Raven have probably hit the mark with all of these books, which are all very different but appear to have something to offer.
Did I leave wanting to read them all? Absolutely.
The Not So Good
I was lucky enough to be allocated a Press Pass for this event, so just to be transparent, I did not pay for my ticket. However, I did go with the expectations of a paying festival-goer, and my expectations were that the description would meet the reality of the session. Sadly, it didn’t quite get there.
When we all entered the space in which the session was taking place, there were tote bags lovingly placed on each seat. Of course, most people couldn’t wait to dig in – it’s part of the fun!
As soon as I picked up my bag, I knew something was up. It was light. Too light. Not a bag of proofs to be sure. I opened it up and this is what I found:
- A proof of Alice Clark-Platts The Flower Girls,
- A copy of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions,
- A sample of Holly Watt’s To The Lions, and
- A Raven Books magazine containing news and samples of forthcoming publications.
Receiving a proof of The Flower Girls was definitely the highlight. I am not sure I would’ve picked up going by the title alone, but the synopsis and hearing Alice speaking about it had me sold. I’m having to be really good at not reading it now when I have so many other 2018 proofs to read first.
Laura Purcell’s book The Silent Companions is not an old book but it’s not new. I was expecting a proof (although it had been published by this point) of The Corset. It did cross my mind that there were probably quite a few people present who already had The Silent Companions on their bookcase, although I will admit I am not one of those people.
Completely honestly, I think Holly’s book is going to be great but I don’t really dig samples. There’s not a lot you can do with them.
Was I disappointed? Yes. First of all, there is one proof in this bag. Not a “bag of limited edition proofs” after all. This is clearly not a reflection of the authors. They’re great. But I am not sure what Raven Books and Cheltenham Literature Festival said they’d provide lived up to my expectations.
Would I do it again?
Hmmm. Maybe. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t pay for my ticket although I did pay for my transport, food etc. I think if I had also paid for my ticket I would’ve been even more disappointed.
I am very curious to know what the experience was of the other proof parties.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to attend this proof party and the authors are all lovely but I am also here to be honest.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!