Impressing a Literary Agent: Agents are people, too!

pink balloons

For most writers and illustrators working hard to get published, our work is pretty all consuming. Despite this, we know that we’re more than the sum of the parts of our picture books, novels or illustrations. We have other hobbies outside this work, interests we share with non-writing/non-artistic friends and things that get us leaping out of bed in the morning.

Ditto agents. Although they’re pretty darn busy professionally, they don’t spend all their time editing, reading manuscripts or perusing portfolios in the quest for the NEXT BIG THING. Nope. They have hobbies too. Families. Pets. They even go on holiday, sometimes.

You’ll most likely meet agents in a relaxed, social context. Relax and have fun. You’ve got your elevator pitch perfected, but don’t forget to talk about things that interest you beyond your book/portfolio and the world they’re wrapped up in. Show the different dimensions of your personality. Ask questions. Be interested in the agents as you would be in someone you meet at the gym or a barbeque who could be a potential friend. That way, you’re all guaranteed to have a fantastic time, and an agent might even want to hang out with you again!

I co-ordinate the annual SCBWI Agents’ Party, which offers an unrivalled opportunity for un-agented, aspiring writers and illustrators to mingle with agents who represent children’s illustrators and children’s, middle grade and YA writers. Guests have the chance to promote their work and potentially secure meetings, or their very own agent, after the party. In the lead-up to this year’s event, I sent guests hints and tips to help them prepare for the party and stand out from the crowd. An edited version of these appear on the SCBWI blog Words and Pictures, but I’ve reproduced them in full here on my blog.