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What Agents Want

October 3, 2019


Jottings following the SCBWI Agents’ party 2019

I have listed below some of the points raised by the nine agents who were present.  As you will see, it was clear that different agents have different wish lists. It seems to me that the trick is to hit lucky, without knowing exactly who would like what!


 Different agents look at different parts of the submission. This can be:

  • The cover letter – to see if the agent warms to the author and could ‘get on with them’.
  • Synopsis – Some do NOT want to read the end!! Most DO.
  • The HOOK is vital for some.
  • A “Cracking Opening” of book = Vital
  • First 3 chapters. Because some go straight to the manuscript.
  • Don’t be self-deprecating in letter.
  • Do research on website about each agent – sometimes they need a change if have had a lot of one kind (g. One now has enough “funny”)
  • Cover letter should be short.
  • Even picture books and certainly MG can tackle big issues.
  • Voice is SO important.
  • Be concise and clear.
  • Why my voice is different from others – make it clear.
  • Give the setting.
  • Motivation of why wrote book. Why writing. Story behind the story.
  • Show you can be flexible when editing is asked for.
  • Timing is vital. . . g. if another publisher is publishing a book that is very similar. OR if there is a need for a change.

However, there are some things agents have in common. They all mentioned “be clear and concise”.  They recommended studying each agency’s submission guidelines really carefully.  Apparently sometimes a female agent receives a letter or an email prefaced by “Dear Sir!’

I liked the agents who said “Just send me your work. Sometimes I receive something I had never thought of and it turns out to be just exactly what inspires me to say YES.”

Good luck everyone!

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