It’s not easy wowing literary agents. With one email, just a letter, a synopsis, and your first chapters to go on.
A great literary agent submission pack makes a difference, but agencies in London are often inundated and it’s not uncommon for writers to not hear back.
UK literary agents are looking for new writers, though – and you’re that bit harder to ignore face-to-face.
(It’s not to say you can harass agents. You couldn’t phone an agent to ask a meeting unless you were a client – nor is it an idea to thrust a manuscript under a nose at first chance. Nor send gimmicky gifts to UK literary agents’ offices. This has happened.)
What you need is a chance to connect authentically, in a professional setting. With an agent there who is open and expecting to talk to you.
Here’s how to make the most of the Festival of Writing in York and meet literary agents for yourself – plus an incredible story from one author who had several UK literary agents jumping to represent her after her time at the Festival of Writing.
Who’s The Festival Of Writing Really For?
If you’ve got a manuscript written and want to publish – and you’re ready to talk to editors, agents and book doctors about it – the Festival of Writing is for you. And whilst you’ll find great workshops on improving writing and craft (as on publishing topics), agent 1-to-1s are part of your ticket.
So the focus is on publication, whether it’s traditional or self-publishing you’d like.
You’ll be a writer looking to pitch an unpublished manuscript. You’ll be able to send competition entries on time for judges to review, opening chapters in time for your chosen agent to look at before the day. It means you’ll get full value out of your Festival ticket.
If you’re also pondering self-publishing (our Festival workshops cover self-publishing), professional feedback is still vital before you self-publish a book. A literary agent, book doctor or editor 1-to-1 at the Festival can give that feedback.
And if you’re not from the UK – that’s okay. We’ve had many writers fly in for this event. Just bear in mind it’s literary agents from the UK you’ll meet at the Festival.
If you’ve just started writing, or you haven’t got a manuscript ready, or you couldn’t get it ready in time for the next Festival, this is an annual event, and one to plan for – you’ll want to have your writing ready as it can be.
It could be the sort of event to write towards in a year. And you can follow us on Twitter or join our mailing list for ‘earlybird’ updates each year, too.
How Prepared Should I Be For The Festival Of Writing?
On one hand – there’s no need to be worried about presenting your agent pitch. The only thing that ever persuades an agent is the quality of your manuscript. Think of the pitch simply as a gentle way of introducing the rest of the discussion.
1-to-1 sessions are also the most formal part of proceedings, but we hope you will chat to agents over tea or in the evening, as well as other writers. Some of the best contacts can be made this way.
All the same, you’re investing in your writing career.
Aside from 1-to-1s, you’ll enter writing competitions (deadlines before September), and shortlisted entries are read out for literary agents in the room. Past Festival visitors have been offered representation because of these things.
Your agent submission packs also need to be with your chosen agents before the Festival itself, so they need time to read your work over before 1-to-1s. So it’ll help you to prepare at least a few months in advance.
Be as prepared as you can, because the Festival of Writing gets you noticed – as happened for author Tor Udall.
Tor came to the Festival of Writing in 2013 and A Thousand Paper Birds went on to be published with Bloomsbury.