One of the great things about having the Bologna book fair close by, is that agents often swing through Paris on their way back home. This year we were spoiled by having two agents from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency available to participate in a SCBWI workshop: Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat) and Jennifer Mattson (@jannmatt).
The focus of the workshop was pitching – what makes a great pitch and how to do it successfully. As the agents explained, authors often have only one minute to get across the essence of their book, so learning to distill the important points is extremely important. As Jennifer Laughran explained, a good pitch should give an idea of what the book is about, i.e. who the main character is, what he or she wants, what’s stopping them from getting it, and what choices they must face.
The agents also emphasized that while it is good for the tone of the pitch to match your book, it’s important to keep it simple and – no opening with rhetorical questions or didactic explanations of the themes. Be specific, and don’t forget to mention the genre and age range. Using comparative titles (books, movies or TV shows that are similar to your project in story or style) is also a useful tool. Finally, Jennifer Mattson reminded illustrators to include samples of their work and a description of the mediums used.
Everyone in attendance got a chance to practice pitching their work and have the agents respond, which was an invaluable learning experience. Towards the end of the workshop, we broke into smaller groups so we could pick the agents’ brains about everything from the role of an editor to where to workshop query letters (the SCBWI Blue Boards, of course).
We’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who participated, and especially to Jennifer Laughran and Jennifer Mattson for sharing their time and experience with us.
Reported by Elizabeth Brahy Photo by Marie Cambolieu