SCBWI-BI CONFERENCE 2019 The Hook and 1-1s

I’m hooked! The Hook and 1-1s appointments will be back at this year’s SCBWI-BI conference 2019, so it’s time to start perfecting your pitch. Zoe Cookson and Holly Butcher tell us what to expect. 

What is The Hook?

The Hook is the SCBWI version of the BBC’s Dragon’s Den – a chance for up to five conference delegates to pitch themselves and their work to a panel of top agents (and a friendly audience).
Each participant has a maximum of five minutes to pitch and they’ll have another five minutes to receive feedback from the panel. The winner will be able to choose one of the agents from the panel for a 1-1.

Why enter?

Honing your pitch will help you get to grips with your story and everyone who takes part will receive useful guidance from the agents on the panel. Even if you don’t ‘win’ on the day – who knows who might be listening in the audience?

Sarah Broadley

Last year’s runner-up, Sarah Broadley signed with her agent, Alice Sutherland-Hawes, as a direct result of her participation in The Hook. When we asked Sarah about her experience, she was full of praise and keen to encourage others to apply. Here’s what she said:

I couldn't quite believe it when I found out I had been selected for The Hook last year. All those drafts and edits and late nights at the keyboard were worth it to get the chance to pitch my story to those that could change my life. It was a nerve-wracking-amazing-bewildering-pinch-me moment I will never forget. Go for it, you never know what might happen!

How to enter?

Interested? Check out the details of how to enter on the conference website. Just remember, the deadline for entries is 10am on Sunday 15th September.

Why book a 1-1?

For a lot of us writing is a solitary activity but what do we do when we’ve got a finished children’s book? The SCBWI conference offers a weekend of talks, competitions, and activities, as well as 1-1 appointments. It's a chance for a writer to share your work with a literary agent or editor, usually in a fifteen-minute face-to-face meeting. The agent or editor will offer constructive criticism, discuss publishing prospects, and give advice on any writing troubles. 

A 1-1 gives the opportunity to get both a fresh pair of eyes on your work and some industry advice on how to do this. No matter if the outcome is okay, not great, or amazing, there will be something you learn from the experience and that can only improve your writing.

Who is it for?

Whether you’ve got a polished manuscript or you’re still working on a draft, a 1-1 is a great way of introducing yourself and your work to the world of children’s publishing. It can be both nerve-wracking and exciting but it’s also a chance to develop and improve as a writer. Entering into the publishing world can be daunting and knowing who to submit to or who to seek advice from can be tricky.

How to prepare?

Bring spare copies of your submission with you and plan a pitch. Try to come up with a clear, bold, but captivating pitch that’s easy to recite on the spot. Sometimes noting down the key elements of your manuscript is a great way to avoid waffling or straying off topic. Have examples of published novels you think your story could sit next to on a bookshelf, or perhaps your story is a cross between two books, like Percy Jackson meets Murder Most Unladylike. This can instantly offer a clear idea of what your story is about and where it might sit in the children’s book market. It’s also helpful to prepare any questions you have about publishing or writing in advance, as it’s easy to forget them in the moment Make the most of your 1-1 time!

How to get the most out of your 1-1?

Listening is key. The agents and editors have years of experience and knowledge of the publishing industry, so it’s best to have an open mind and listen to what they have to say. Treat the appointment like a professional meeting and try to see any criticism as an opportunity to improve your book. My first experience of a 1-1 made me a better writer because the agent saw issues in my manuscript my writing group and I hadn’t. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the feedback you were hoping for - we all have different reading likes and interests and it’s okay if your book isn’t right for them. Provided you leave a good impression, you’ll still have the opportunity to pitch the next one. Stay professional and remember writing a good book is a process. 

The dream!

Sometimes writers are picked up for options fees, invited to the agent offices for further discussions or, of course, the holy grail – been offered representation! For many the 1-1s are an invaluable part of the conference.

Clare Juliet Bell said:

 I love the 1-1s, and even though I've got an agent, I love meeting with editors and actually discussing a manuscript in person. It's usually the highlight of my conference.

Some of the agents and editors for the 1-1s ( Alice Williams (Alice Williams Literary), Becky Bagnell (Lindsay Literary Agency), Bella Pearson (Guppy Books), Catherine Pellegrino (Catherine Pellegrino & Associates), Clare Wallace (Darley Anderson), Davinia Andrew-Lynch (Andlyn), Emily Lamm (Hachette), Gemma Cooper (The Bent Agency), Joanna Moult (Skylark), Joe Marriott (Penguin Random House) and Megan Carroll (Watson Little)

Check FAQs and how to submit here.

*Header image: The Hook 2018 (picture Clare Welsh, Notes from the Slushpile)

Zoe Cookson for The Hook and Holly Butcher for1-1s

Zoë Cookson spent fifteen years in the grown-up world before quitting her management job to write for a living (albeit mostly reports, funding bids and business cases). A vociferous reader of children’s books, she runs her own children’s book review site – Madge Eekal Reviews – where she loves to promote fellow SCBWI members. Zoë has a MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. She enjoys writing for children of all ages and has a particular love of middle-grade action adventures. Twitter: @MadgeEekal and @MadgeReviews

Holly Butcher is assisting with the writer 1-1s at the conference this year. She joined SCBWI earlier in the year and is passionate about writing for young people with an MA in Writing for Children from The University of Winchester. Holly also runs her own podcast series called Active Voice, where she interviews children’s authors about their writing processes, how they were first published, and anything to do with the world of children’s literature. Find her on Twitter. Or email her at


Anne Boyere is part of the Words & Pictures events team, managed by Events Editor Fran Price. Contact:

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