what agents are looking for

What Agents are Looking For + How to Write a Killer Pitch

Last week I gave a workshop on writing popular fiction and I asked a highly respected literary agent for some information. What are you looking for at the moment? I asked her. 'There's no definitive answer,' she said. 'But I am looking for something that stands out from the crowd, and the writing must be exceptional.' She explained that although her agency works with writers on their proposals/books, it is an expensive process if you can't be sure of a good outcome. So good writing is more important than ever. 'The writing has to be fresh, individual and clever,' she added. 'They must own their book and write with conviction.' 

She does not follow trends as they change so quickly. She also said 'What every writer must remember is that the agent has to sell it on to a editor, and the editor has to sell it on to sales and marketing. So if there isn't a 1 or 2 sentence pitch, it probably isn't going to work.'

Interesting, I thought. Very interesting.

I went away and thought long and hard about this. It's a difficult thing to do. I tried describing some of my own books in 1 or 2 lines:

Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze (out in Sept) is about a talented young Irish dancer who moves to Budapest at fifteen to study ballet at the famous Budapest Ballet Academy. When her dreams turn sour, can Amy and Clover help save her ballet career?

Ask Amy Green (the series) is about a thirteen year old agony aunt, Amy Green, and her crazy seventeen year old aunt, Clover. Together they right all kinds of teenage wrongs, but when to comes to solving their own problems things aren't quite as simple.

When the Boys are Away (one of my books for adults) is about a young mum, Meg and what she gets up to when her partner, a professional sailor is away. The pitch is also in the title pretty much - it's one of my best titles, it says exactly what the book is about, which is really important. But that's a blog for another day.

Can you describe your book in 1 or 2 sentences? It's not easy but it's worth spending time on a killer 1 or 2 line pitch if you want to catch an agent or publisher's eye.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

(With sincere thanks to the agent who so kindly gave me her time!)