I only got around to joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) a few months ago after attending the local SCBWI critique group a few times and my first event took place last week.
I wasn’t sure at first whether to go to the Agents’ Party as my manuscript is in early draft stages and it will be a few more months before it’s finished. However on the encouragement from other SCBWI members I booked a ticket.
I also booked a space on the Pitch Perfect workshop run by Book Bound in the lead up to the party. I thought it would be good to work on my pitch ahead of time. And I’m glad that I did.
Book Bound also ran a webinar the evening before the party and whilst there was a lot of overlap between the two I learnt things from both.
The party was held at the Royal Overseas League just round the corner from the Ritz. I planned everything meticulously. I sorted childcare, I arranged back ups and timetabled my leaving the house with military precision.
The train being cancelled was sadly out of my control. However, there was just enough time to get there on the next available train.
Also out of my control was the horrible cold virus that one of my children and my husband went down with in the week leading up to the party. “Just don’t give it to me until Saturday,” I pleaded.
But no, I woke up with a scratchy throat on Friday morning. I sucked lozenges on the journey and as I ran up and down the escalators racing to catch up lost time. (I’d forgotten how deep down the Jubliee line is).
I had arranged to meet another SCBWI member outside and I texted her as I ran. “I’m late!” followed by, “I’m nearly there” and “Where are you?” and we finally found each other as I queued.
We’d never met before but it was lovely to feel like I knew someone as we went in and found somewhere to sit.
The evening kicked off with two panel discussions with the agents. This was really interesting – lots of insight into the market, what agents want to see in a submission and just as importantly what they don’t want to see and so much more.
It was the first time I’d sat still all day without having to get something done or be somewhere else and perhaps that’s why a fog of weariness descended on me now.
But there was no time to worry about that as next came the exciting bit: networking and chatting to the agents. So with a deep breath, I grabbed a glass of wine in the hope that it would cure rather than kill.
And it did the trick. I navigated around the five agents I wanted to see. I had lovely chats with them all and all five said to send the manuscript in when it is finished. Fantastic result!
I did go into a swift decline after that and made a slightly earlier exit that planned. But I’m so pleased I stuck to my aim of chatting to as many agents as possible.
The evening isn’t just about seeing agents though. It’s also a great chance to meet up with fellow writers and illustrators – some published, some not – and make new friends.
Aside from the things that were out of anyone’s control this was a brilliant evening and particular thanks must go to the SCWBI organisers Kathleen Isaac and Terri Trimble as well as all the agents who attended.
If you missed it and are thinking about going next year, then here’s my advice:
- Even if your manuscript isn’t finished – don’t let that hold you back. It’s a great evening for talking to agents about what you’re doing and making contacts.
- If there’s a pitch workshop you can attend – either in person or online – attend it. (It is more geared for writers than illustrators, but that may change).
- Practice your pitch. Yes you may feel silly talking to your cat/dog, into the mirror or recording onto your phone but it’s a good way to practice and you’ll feel less self-conscious when you come to pitch in person.
- If you don’t know anyone then find someone to buddy up with before you go. The SCBWI facebook page is a good place to shout out for this.
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
- Have a glass of wine – but not several. You’re aiming for the relaxed approach rather than the sozzled one.
The event is only open to SCBWI members so if you’re a children’s writer or illustrator and you’d like to find out more about joining SCBWI then follow the link through to the SCBWI web page.