A bit late in blogging about this, but here we are. On 29 Sept I went to the SCBWI agent's party. I was determined to speak to an agent, even if I didn't win the raffle, which I knew I wouldn't, not for the second time. (I didn't).
Benjamin introduced the agents one by one, then got them to tell us about who they were, what they do and want.
Zoe King from The Blair Partnership said they'd only been open for 3 months. Her wish list was: space (evolution), new frontier, historical romance for younger readers, futuristic settings and trolls. She wants new writers. To submit: the first 10 pages of the ms and intro of the book (the blurb). They do editorial help for 6-12 months with writers. They like brand development, esp websites for commercial writers.
Julian Friedman of Blake Friedman said he wants YA only and 9+ with strong TV settings in mind. He gave an example a writer he'd accepted who had ideas for spin offs and other things tying in with the book. Prefers email submissions. He's unlikely to take on complete unpublished writers, unless developed eg has great world of characters mapped out.
Alice Wiliams from David Higham works with Caroline Walsh. Wants mss for 9-12, teen and YA. Open to new writers and illustrators. Keen to have humour for boys, literary authors. Prefers email submissions. When you email, put that you have met her at the party and she will read it herself.
Vicki from Bright Agency wants chidren focussed mss. Is v keen on brands. Wants writers and illustrators who are proactive with new environment of social media. Works with authors taking them through the development process. Wants to make it happen and match them with publishers. Vicki has been growing the agency. To submit: address to Laura. Ms has to have good strong character.
Gillie Russell from Aitken Alexander says voice is all important, so is great storytelling. She has to be able work out them out. Likes humour for boys. Feels there is too much fantasy. Email her is fine, with short synopsis, short bio and first three chapters.
Claire Wilson from RCW works with Pat White. Likes fantasy, scifi and humour. Voice is important, and has to make ms stand out and be unique. Don't patronise the reader and overestimate their intelligence. See website for email address. Submit to reader.
Then came questions. Julian wanted to know how important Nielson data was for YA. Gillie replied that publishers do look at the data but only trade publishers analyse it.
Asked, what do they do in a day. They all said that they do the communication side of work. Checking emails, contacting authors, publishers etc. Gillie said nurturing authors. Tracking trends, eg checking what's going on on FB and Twitter.
Next question was what do readers look at first? Zoe said she reads them herself and reads the not-sure pile first. Goes by instinct. So does Gillie, who then gets a back up reading. Julian said that most mss are sent too soon and aren't polished enough. Approves of crit groups. Looks at first, letter and first 3 pages then asks others. Alice says her reader likes the ms then talks to agent best suited for the ms. Vicki asked is there a place, a need for it? She says that she can make it happen. Have to be mindful that you can deliver.
Zoe then said, you have to ask why are you writing it? What do you want to achieve? What can you offer? Start with a great relationship with agent.
Julian said that they have suggested story line for author if the writer writes good but not got good story. Claire said that chemistry with agent is important. Is conscious of right book to publish.
It then went on to talk about social media and was said that online presence is crucial. Author must have website, blog etc. Publishers ask how promotable authors are. Have to have edge over others. Zoe says you can't underestimate online connection with readers. Worth to have a strategy. Explore online presence. You have to be 20% professional writer. Comment on other blogs. Mentioned Tumblr. Gillie said good idea to spend time where children do.
It doesn't get harder with age to get published. Then they said how many clients they have. Claire = 9-30, Gillie=6, Vicki=6, Alice=10, Julian=6/7 and Zoe=3.
After that was food. I had ham and tomato sandwich with sticky chicken bits and somasas. The chicken had orange sauce on it which got all over the napkin and I ended up with orange nails. Then I joined the queue to talk to Zoe. Seemed interested in my mss Allie.
Result = Zoe and Gillie have so far rejected Allie. Two more agents to write to. Have a plan B if that fails.