I’ve just come back from the SCBWI Agents’ Party where I took away some good advice from some top agents and editors. I’ve decided to write this down before it flies from my slightly wine-hazed memory.
1. Aim for a really original first couple of sentences. It sounds obvious, but too many writers these days start their book with an alarm clock ringing, or someone eating breakfast, or waking up from a dream. Apparently the imagine of a moon is also recurring (says Vicki Le Feuvre from Darley Anderson)
2. Don’t ‘info-dump’ in the first chapter. Make sure that you hold enough back to intrigue your readers (and your agent!)
3. Make sure that you always use the first name of the agent that you’re pitching to, and avoid the common pitfalls (mailmerging names en-masse, inserting the wrong agency name or pitching the wrong genre to the wrong person). Emma Herdman from Curtis Brown said she’s had email submissions which said that there was an SAE attached. Don’t be that person!
4. Keep your synopsis to a page max. Interestingly, agents were unanimous in saying that they won’t be put off by a mediocre synopsis if the manuscript is strong. It should clearly outline your plot, but really doesn’t need to contain a lot of detail
5. On the whole, agents don’t mind if you submit to other agents – many advise that you do this so you maximise your chances of finding the best one (and their chances of finding you!)
6. Agents and publishers don’t mind if you’ve self-published before. It’s an good way of them seeing how your work looks in its finished form and how successful you’ve been to date.
Thanks to Benjamin Scott and everyone at SCBWI for organising!