How to Meet an Agent and Impress Them

The SCBWI Agent’s Party is one of the events of the year… but whether you’ve got a coveted ticket or not, if an agent walks into a bar near you, it’s best to be prepared. After all, the SCBWI Annual Conference isn’t that far off! Michelle Newell, the Agent Party Co-ordinator gives us her list of tips, so that you can get set to meet your dream agent, whatever the occasion.

Agent Tip 1: Have faith (in you)
Those of us who’ve met agents before, or who have been lucky enough to secure our very own agent, have all been guilty of putting ourselves down in front of them. Maybe you think you don’t truly deserve to be in that ‘elite’ group of people who are published. Maybe friends and family have been shaking their heads at you for wasting your time for the last 10 years.

Wherever those niggling negative voices came from, when you come face-to-face with an agent, you’re going to hold yourself tall, look him or her in the eye and talk with confidence about your work. On this occasion, you’re going to believe that it can happen to you, because you and your work deserve it.

On this occasion, you’re going to believe that it can happen to you, because you and your work deserve it.

Agent Tip 2: The elevator pitch
The elevator pitch is so called because the premise is that you step into an elevator and find you’re sharing it with the agent of your dreams. They don’t know you, and you only have a few precious minutes in the lift before the doors open to convey the essence of your picture book or novel. You need to engage them and compel them to want to know more.

A great elevator pitch should:

- introduce the main character/s
- touch on the central conflict
- set up the action to follow
- be unique and fresh

So plan your pitch, draft, write, read aloud, revise and write again. Why not practice on your family and friends, the dog, your children… anyone who will listen?

You can read a couple of examples here.

Agent Tip 3: Agents are people too
For most writers and illustrators 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 and interests we share with non-writing/non-artistic friends.

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.

So 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 a potential friend you might meet at the gym or a barbeque. That way, you’re all guaranteed to have a fantastic evening.

Show the different dimensions of your personality. Ask questions.

Agent Tip 4: Leave an impression
Agents are often looking for more than just a great writer or skilled illustrator to represent. In fact, when you first meet them they won’t know how talented you are yet. So what else might they be looking for?

- Are you personable? Can you successfully market your work to your audience? Agents will by struck by the excitement in your voice, the confident way you express your elevator pitch, or the ease with which you talk about the broader themes of your work.

 - Are you presentable? Dress to impress. For the particularly bold, you might even consider dressing in a way that reflects your work and personality.

- 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. 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.

Agent Tip 5 – Business Cards
SCBWI events are a great opportunity to meet new friends as well as agents. Many people come away from them with a writing buddy, a critique group or a social support network; and that requires exchanging details at some point.

If you want to be prepared when an agent, writer or illustrator is interested in you, think about having some business cards at the ready.

A business card is a neat little snapshot of your personal details and creative work. With carefully chosen images and text, you can also use a business card to reflect your brand identity.

Business cards don’t have to be expensive: anyone with a computer, printer and scissors can make their own! There are also some fantastic sites that allow you to create your own cards by uploading images or choosing from a stock library. One of the best is

Michelle was born and raised in a country town in Australia. She taught History at an all-girls school before moving to England a decade ago to take up the thoroughly modern job of designing new schools. Michelle still loves anything old, and has compulsively collected ‘junk’, as her bemused family call it, since she was a girl. Her flat in London is crammed with fluffy 1950s ball gowns, daintily painted tea sets, and well-worn children’s toys. The stories she imagines behind each of her vintage treasures ultimately inspired her to fulfil a long-held ambition to write novels with an historic twist for young adults. Michelle is currently working on her first novel and is represented by Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates.


  1. These are great tips Michelle anyone going to the London Agents Party this week would very much benefit from checking these through.

  2. Michelle has also been doing a great job pumping us full of info via the Agents' Party mailing list. We are now officially the best-prepared writers ever!


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