Aliens versus Agents !

A date for your diary 2014

On Thursday I went to my first SCBWI event, and I certainly chose a great one to start with.

The Agents’ Party is a unique opportunity to come face to face with not just one, but twelve literary agents. We listened to them talk about their agencies and what they were looking for individually, as well as getting some useful tips on what not to do when you’re writing/submitting. (See Flotsam and Jetsam’s excellent blog about the event for a list of some of the important tips we learned)

But more than that we also got the opportunity to pitch our work to them.

This was the part I have to admit I was pretty terrified of doing – but I don’t think I was alone there. One of the nicest things about the evening was meeting a whole room full of other writers, all working towards the same goal and mostly looking as nervous as I felt at the prospect of launching into a pitch. It’s easy to get cut off from the world when you’re locked in the writer bubble at your computer, so getting a chance to meet other writers in the flesh (rather than just waving virtually at them from an avatar) was brilliant.

It was also fantastic to hear the agents talk and see them smiling. Ok, so I knew that agents are people too and of course they smile, but if I’m honest, in my mind, agents had become almost alien. And by that, I mean a nightmarish union between my over-fertile imagination and my inner critic, which results in this:

Rather than this !

And even if not actually alien then at least “Other” – maybe like this…

I pictured them, glaring down as I squeaked out my pitch, rolling their eyes in pained ennui as I desperately tried to remember my one-line, stop-them-in-their-tracks hook-tastic log-line.

With my active imagination doing somersaults, I don’t think I’d really considered the alternative.

That they would be friendly, and genuinely interested to hear from us!

And that’s what came across on Thursday. They wanted to meet us and hear about our work. As they said themselves, they are looking for us as much as we are looking for them.

And as Notes from the Slushpile points out, it’s a changing world in publishing right now. “Now that the author has the power to cut gatekeepers out of the chain, there are changing perceptions about who is serving who.”

There are more avenues open to writers than ever before to get our work ‘out there’. It’s an exciting and empowering time to be a writer. Personally, I do still want to work with an agent because I want to spend my time writing, not simply planning a business strategy or managing sales, but I like the fact that I have that option available. (And who knows, it may be that I end up doing both, down the line).

But in the meantime I urge you to do two things.

Firstly, get your name down early for next year’s Agents’ Party (Oh, and join SCBWI if you aren’t already a member), and secondly, don’t let your imagination get frisky with your inner critic and start scaring the pants off you when it comes to approaching agents.

Turns out they are a pretty friendly bunch – assuming you read their guidelines!!


Category: blog | 2 comments

  • Debra Bertulis says:

    Hi Andy,

    Really helpful article. I may must go next year on the strength of this!
    Feel a little less daunted now.
    Thank you.

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