EVENT REPORT: Agents’ Party 2017

Camilla Chester reports back on the SCBWI Agents’ Party where Scoobies had the opportunity to pitch to a room full of agents after a valuable panel discussion.

Another year and another fantastic SCWBI Agents’ Party. Being my third Agents’ Party in a row I could be described as some kind of veteran. I certainly don’t suffer with nerves at the event any more.

It was held in the prestigious Royal Overseas League in Green Park, London which, despite the slightly unfortunate refurb since last year (my friend leaned in to whisper to me that it looked a bit like a fitted kitchen) was a great location.

For those of you unfamiliar with the SCWBI event, the purpose, as pointed out by Sara Grant, our talented host for the evening, is to find the right match between author/illustrator and agent. The evening helps Scoobies to find the right agent who will ‘get them’, their work and feel as passionate as they do about it.

Panel 1 (L-R): Vicki Willden-Lebrecht (Bright Literary Agency), Yasmin Standen (Standen Literary Agency), Mark Mills (Plum Pudding Illustration) and Caroline Sheldon (Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency)

The evening began with Sara asking the first panel of agents a series of questions, the things all of us want to know, such as pointers on pitching.

“Try to keep it to one or two sentences,” advised Caroline Sheldon.

Yasmin Standen agreed, adding, “you should be able to hold your story in the palm of your hand.”

“Be yourself,” suggested Vicki Wilden-Lehrecht of Bright Literary Agency, “but make sure you’re professional.”

Sara asked the panel about the process of pitch or submission to offering representation. How do agents decide who to take on? The agents agreed that they offered contracts to very few people. Caroline Sheldon may see hundreds of submissions but only signs one or two new authors a year. Mark Mills of Plum Pudding, an illustration only, family ethos agency, described an X-factor style meeting where potential new talent was talked about. “If an agent shows passion for an artist then the rest of the team will back them, but usually it is a unanimous decision,” he said.
Yasmin Standen shared a story of taking an author on, three years after her original submission - a strong message in the importance of honing the craft and personal perseverance.

Panel 2 (L-R): Host Sara Grant, Gillie Russell (Aitken Alexander Associates), Arabella Stein (Bright Group International) and Helen Boyle (Pickled Ink).

Sara was just as skilled with the second panel of agents, fishing out a mine of useful information by asking questions such as, “what catches your eye in a submission?”
“Heart,” answered Gillie Russell of Aitken Alexander Associates simply.
When asked about titles, Gillie Russell agreed with Helen Boyce of Pickled Pink who said, “Don’t overthink it as it is likely to change.”

“How much editorial do you do with a new author or illustrator?” asked Sara.
All of the agents agreed that it can vary considerably, but it is rare that there is little or no work to do before it is submission ready.

When Sara asked what trends were current in the publishing market, Arabella Stein of Bright Group International answered that it was difficult to predict, but funny chapter books were on the increase.
“Don’t write for a trend,” advised Helen Boyce. “Have an idea where your book fits in the market but don’t try to copy anything because it will soon become out of date.”
“John Green took ages to become popular despite his talent,” said Gillie Russell, “the market had to catch up to his style.”

Sara wound up the panel discussion with a beautiful comment, reminding the agents that they were just as lucky to meet talented SCWBI members, as we were to meet them.

After the panel discussions, Jan Carr reminded us all about The Hook, SCWBIs' answer to Dragons' Den at the annual conference, the raffle was drawn (I didn’t win - sniff) and then the scrum began.

The second part of the party is where you get to pitch your book, or show your illustration portfolio to the agent or agents of your choice. The queues can be long and some people find the process a bit daunting, but there was a flow of wine and lots of friendly chat and banter between Scoobies.
I spoke to three agents, who all asked to see Thirteenth Wish, my middle grade novel that I’ve just about finished editing. I was heartened that none of the agents I spoke to seemed discouraged by the fact that I was already self-published. I also got to catch up with lots of friends and had a really fun night.

The evening was a great success, not just for me, but hopefully for agents and my fellow Scoobies alike. Right, I’m off to get my submission together - wish me luck!

*Featured image: The audience at the Agents' Party at the Royal Overseas League. All images credited to: Terri Trimble.

Camilla Chester is a self-published, twice shortlisted, animal loving, Children’s Author who is an active SCWBI member and volunteer. You can find more about Camilla and her books on her website: www.camillachester.com


A. M. Dassu is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team. She manages the Events team and SCBWI BI events coverage.
Contact her at events@britishscbwi.org


  1. great review camilla, its always useful to look back as its so easy to forget every you saw or heard on the night x

  2. Great write up. I was poorly so couldn't go.


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