Masterclass Recap: Juliet Pickering’s Top Tips For Getting Your Book Published

Last week, Juliet Pickering – a literary agent – popped by to give a masterclass on what her job was like and some advice on how to get your book published.

Being a literary agent means a lot of things: it means reading LOADS of books, editing books and working with authors to help them get their book published. She currently works at Blake Friedmann and her authors have been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, Commonwealth Prize, Orwell Prize, Green Carnation Prize and Guardian First Book Awards, so you can be sure that she knows what she’s doing.

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She gave us a loads of tips on getting your book published and approaching agents with your work. She gets between 10 and 15 new pitches every day, and one of her co-workers even gets between 25 and 30. When agents receive so many submissions, first impressions are key. I’ve pulled together 14 of her best tips into a handy list, complete with cat gifs to help you out:

1) FINISH THE BOOK

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Finish your book before you send it to an agent (or at least get 90% of the way there). If an agent likes your book and asks for the manuscript then you want to be able to send it straight over. If you make them wait a few more months till you finish it, then they might have moved onto different authors. Your ship may have sailed.

2) Do Your Research

When you’re writing your book – ensure that you’ve done your research. If you’re setting your book in a different country or time period, do your best to make it feel really authentic. It can really make the difference when an agent is reading your book.

3) Do Your Research (Again)

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But this time, take a look at what agents you’d like to approach. There is no point in sending your rom-com set in space to an agent who only works with horrors set in the 1960s. Take a bit of time to make sure that you’re sending your work to an agent that would be interested in your book.

4) Use Twitter

Twitter can be a great place to interact with people within the industry. A like every now and then, the odd re-tweet and the occasional reply can go a long way. It helps people get to know you and equally you to know them. You can even follow her on Twitter to get her ready for when you drop your sweet pitch for your new book. Just don’t be stalky.

5) Don’t Send Your Book In April Or October

These are mega busy months for agents. Your application could very likely get lost amongst everything else that they have going on. It’s much better to send it in the slower months such as August where they’re looking for something to get their teeth into.

6) Agents Share

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If you’ve been turned down by one person from an agency, it may be worth trying somewhere else. Before turning you down, a lot of agents will have a chat to their co-workers about it and get other opinions. On the plus side though, that means that if the agent you send it to doesn’t like it, then you could still get some interest from their co-workers.

7) When Pitching Your Idea – Compare It

It can be tricky to get across the idea of the book in a small paragraph, so use existing books to compare yours. One of the best pitches Juliet has ever received described it as Bridget Jones meets ‘Downton Abbey’. Think James Bond meets ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Think Harry Potter meets ‘The Walking Dead’. It can give a powerful image of what your book is about.

8) Don’t Try To Make Your Pitch Funny

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It will not work. You won’t stand out. You will fall flat on your face.

9) Talk About Yourself – But Not Your Pet

Introduce yourself. The agent wants to know a bit about you, but keep it brief. They don’t want to know about how much your cat weighs, what colour they are, how regularly you feed them and what their favourite toy is. Do you have any experience writing? Do your experiences tie into your book? Keep it relevant.

10) Be Clear With Your Storyline

It’s good to include a clear outline of your story. A synopsis of the main narrative in 200/250 words. Don’t worry about including all of the subplots and minor character quirks, it’s an overview. If you’re struggling to come up with one, write down the ten main events that happen in the book then take your character through them. If that doesn’t work, then you can always look at other synopses online for inspiration.

11) Don’t Take Too Long Setting Up Your Story

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Most agents will ask for a couple of sample chapters to start with. The mistake that people often make with this is that they spend ages stetting up the story. They will spend pages describing the scenery, then the characters before getting onto the actual story on chapter three. The most interesting stories are the ones where things actually happen. Don’t be afraid to open with dialogue either – it can be really useful for establishing your storyline. But equally…

12) … Don’t Set Up Your Story Too Quickly

But on the other hand, don’t use your first three stories to give away all of your book. You don’t need to start with pages of exposition about the characters – let their behavior do the talking. If you tell the story well, then we’ll get to know your characters over the course of the book.

13) Be Happy To Make Changes

Your book will always change from the very first idea that you send out initially. Agents can help pick out the parts of the book that you’ve looked at for too long to spot any mistakes. A fresh set of eyes can work wonders on a book.

14) Be Polite

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Above all though, an agent can be there to work with you to improve not only your book, but future books to come. It’s important to build a good relationship with your agent, and that all begins by being polite. You can have a bad pitch and a messy book, but you’re more likely to get a response by being polite than having a brilliant pitch and book but acting rudely in your application.

So we hope you found these tips useful. We look forward to reading your first book.

If you want to find out more about Juliet Pickering, you can follow her on Twitter or check out her profile. Did you find this masterclass round up helpful? Keep an eye out for our next one. You can check out more from us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

And don’t forget your daily reminder for the Rife guide