Impressing a Literary Agent: Get noticed

Flamingoes

Agents are often looking for more than just a great writer or skilled illustrator to represent. In fact, when you first meet them they probably won’t be able to read or view your work, and won’t know how talented you are yet (since you probably don’t carry printouts around with you!). What else might they be looking for?

Are you personable? Agents might consider whether you are able to successfully market your work to your audience by the excitement in your voice when you talk about it, the confident way you express your elevator pitch, or the ease with which you talk about the broader themes of your work. These are all skills that will come in handy when you’re standing in front of a class of 30 kids talking about your book.

Are you presentable? If you’re going to an event which agents might also be attending, dress to impress. For the particularly bold, you might even consider dressing in a way that reflects your work and personality. SCBWI-er Julienne Durber writes steampunk-esque, dark dystopian YA, and he always looks dapper and edgy – like he’s just stepped off the pages of one of his novels. Julienne doesn’t dress like this to match his genre; he writes this genre because it reflects his broader interests – and you can immediately see his passion the moment you meet him.

Are you traceable? Consider what an agent might find if they google you after they meet you. A simple blog is a fantastic way for illustrators to showcase their range, and for writers to highlight their ability to engage an audience. SCBWI-er Nick Cook, who has publishers keen to take on his series Cloud Riders, was writing a cool science-based blog exploring themes in and beyond his novel a couple of years before finding his agent. And don’t forget Twitter. Love it or hate it, it’s a unique tool for meeting other writers, illustrators, agents and publishers. Retweet and comment on things that inspire you and post interesting snippets to establish your voice.

Are you genuine? The final tip for making an impression is simple – just relax, and be the best version of yourself.

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.

Picture by Steven Bowman.