Writers’ & Artists’ – How to Hook an Agent event Sept 2014

Bloomsbury Publishing, Bedford Square, London

Bloomsbury Publishing, Bedford Square, London

Regular followers of my blog might remember my post back in July about the ‘How to Hook an Agent’ event run by Writers’ and Artists’ that I had signed up for.

In July I gave my reasons for wanting to attend the event and promised to blog about my experience, and try to give anyone considering attending an event like this an idea about what to expect and if it would be beneficial.

The event started with teas and coffees at 9:30am where everyone who was attending the event had a chance to mingle. The event was sold out, and I think there was around thirty of us altogether.

We were then split into two groups and shown to our rooms where the talks with the agents would begin.

I was in Group 1 and we were shown into a separate room, where Literary agents Jo Unwin (Jo Unwin Literary Agency, in association with Rogers Coleridge and White) and Juliet Pickering (Blake Friedmann Literary Agency) were already seated.

Jo Unwin presented a how-to session on knowing when your novel is ready, finding the right agent, what to include in a submission package, and how to write a good synopsis.

As expected, there were a few questions about the synopsis and its difference to a pitch or ‘blurb’!

Juliet Pickering then offered advice on writing the perfect submission letter and how best to pitch your book, and challenged us with an exercise in writing our own pitch to be read out to the group.

The pitch is important because the agent may use this along with the synopsis to pitch your work to literary scouts, publishers and at book fairs, so you need to make it count and put a lot of thought into it.

We had about five minutes to write a few lines (around three sentences) about our book and then it was time to read them out.

No pressure then . . .

I hate reading aloud, and I was very nervous, but after I read mine I was told that my pitch was ‘spot on’.

I’m very proud of that pitch and I had prepared most of it before attending the event, and tweaked the pitch based on the advice given by the agents before we had to read them out.

After the pitches were done, the agents swapped rooms.

We were then joined by Lucy Luck (Lucy Luck Associates) and Juliet Mushens (The Agency Group – UK Literary Division).

Both agents discussed what appeals to them in a submission, and showed us real examples and case studies from both successful and unsuccessful submissions. This was followed by a discussion on what happens next when a book is taken on by a publishing house, the role of agents and a Q & A session.

For me personally the best part if this session was seeing real examples of successful and unsuccessful cover letters.

The contrast between the two was astonishing, and we were told that the unsuccessful letter mirrored about 90% of the submissions the agents received.

I was quietly relieved that my cover letter bears no resemblance to the unsuccessful one. My cover letter isn’t perfect and I can see now where I need to tweak it, but I now know I should have more faith in myself.

 

Copyright - Writers' & Artists' website

Copyright – Writers’ & Artists’ website

Soon it was time for lunch, where we got to mingle again while we waited for our allocated one-to-one pitch with the agent of our choice. This was a great opportunity to chat to fellow authors, share our experiences and prepare for our one-to-ones.

In my blog post from July, I mentioned that I wanted a chance to chat with Juliet Mushens, because she read the full MS for ‘The Principle of Evil’ last November.

I was aware that Juliet might not be interested in my third novel, because it was part of my DCI Winters series. Book one and two have now been self-published, so I made sure I had another pitch lined up for a standalone novel I intend to start writing soon.

I also assumed she wouldn’t remember me or my novel but I was pleasantly surprised to find that she did, which was very reassuring.

Juliet said she can receive 600 submissions a month, and she only calls in a very small number of full manuscripts, and very rarely crime.

Needless to say, this did give me a confidence boost. Sometimes when you get rejections it can be hard to keep believing in your abilities as an author. Hearing an agent, who took the time to consider your work, telling you that you are a good writer, is a pretty good feeling.

I pitched Juliet both books and she was very positive about the standalone novel, so I feel much more confident about starting it.

I do have some news, that I can’t reveal on here yet, about the DCI Winters series, but I did ask Juliet for advice on this and I have taken on board what was discussed.

I left the one-to-one session feeling much more motivated and with a renewed confidence in my writing.

All the agents were lovely and took the time to answer questions and gave fantastic advice.

So, I guess the big question is . . .

Was the event worth it?

For me, yes it most certainly was.

Yes, there was a lot covered that I was already familiar with, but there were several tips I picked up, especially on how to improve a submission letter, and of course the one-to-one session was a fantastic opportunity to get instant feedback.

If you’re a complete novice when it comes to agents and the submissions process, then this event is definitely worth it.

If you’ve had more experience, then maybe you might need to think more carefully if this is an event for you, but just think about the potential benefits.

It gets you a seat face-to-face with an agent. You get instant personal feedback on the pitch for your novel, and tips for the cover letter. All of this helps to make sure you stand out. Ultimately the decision made by an agent to call in a full MS comes down to the writing, but giving your submission the best chance to stand out beforehand can only be a good thing.

I have a few tips for anyone who hasn’t attended an event like this before and has signed up for the next ‘Hook an Agent’ in November, or is thinking of doing so in the future –

Do your research

Sounds obvious, but I think it’s essential. Research all the agents who will be offering their expertise at the event. You never know who you might end up sitting next to.

Prepare a pitch

You might get put on the spot earlier than you think!

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved at Writers’ & Artists’ for organising a great event and to the agents for their valuable time.

Good luck to those attending the next event!

 

5 thoughts on “Writers’ & Artists’ – How to Hook an Agent event Sept 2014

  1. I think it likely you will succeed in the end because you are going about things the right way.
    I certainly hope that is how it works out.

    I know agencies would fold if they didn’t place writers, but I sometimes wonder what percentage of writers they place relative to the total number on their books

    • Thank you, I really hope so!

      That’s a good question about placements. That’s a question for next time! They agents did say some books take longer to sell to a publisher than others, and sometimes the client goes on to write something different and then that books sells instead. Certainly getting an agent is almost like the first hurdle. Even if an editor then likes a book, it still has to go through the sales team. It certainly is a tough and competitive business.

      A lot of traditionally published authors also self-publish other work, and I think that can have its benefits.

  2. Pingback: Big decisions. Follow your ‘gut instinct’ | T. M. E. WALSH

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