How to find a literary agent a Guardian Masterclass with Juliet Mushens

So what happens when you finish a novel? You definitely should find a literary agent, and the course run through The Guardian Masterclasses explains the Why and How.

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-1-22-25-pmIn my previous post I had attended a morning Creative Writing workshop with author Kate Mosse and her editor husband Greg Mosse and so after a quick lunch (and a cheeky mulled wine at Granary Square) I settled in for the second event I had booked at The Guardian offices.

Juliet Mushens is a literary agent whose authors include Jessie Burton (The Miniaturist and The Muse),Francesca Haig as well as social media favourites such as Very British Problems (@SoVeryBritish). Juliet is very active in social media and tweet/instagrams through the tag @mushenska.

I had met Juliet at a previous panel ‘What Makes the Perfect Book?’ with Emerald Street, HarperCollins & Picador in March 2015, so I was excited to get a more formal and structured discussion on the publishing process, the role of a literary agent, and what they look for during submission.

juliet-mushensThe afternoon as broken into three sessions, the first part was around best practice and Juliet’s role as a literary agent. The second part was listening to two guest speakers who’s novels were called in by Juliet and would be published in 2017 (it’s a long journey), and how they submitted to Juliet. Their role was to provide advice, their process, and what they wanted from a literary agent.  The third session was how to pitch a novel and a chance to pitch to Juliet.

It was a different atmosphere to the earlier masterclass with Kate Mosse and Greg Mosse where everyone in the audience was there to really learn and be reassured. The atmosphere with Juliet Mushens, I felt, was a little bit more egotistical (on the audience side, not Juliet’s) It was a room of people dreaming that this was their moment, their moment to have Juliet go ‘YES, YES! AMAZING! I NEED TO SIGN YOU RIGHT NOW’, and they would not give her a moments peace during the break, after the class, or during the class. at one point while everyone was revising and preparing to give their pitch a woman jumped up and tried to get personal one on one, getting in before anyone else.  And some people didn’t want to listen to what she had to say. Juliet was incredibly professional and was there only in the sense of offering advice, and not there to pitch to.

Below are a few highlights from my notes

Juliet’s role and some do’s and don’ts

  1. Never pay for a literary agent- their role is based on your success.
  2. Her role is to offer expert advice and business expertise. She keeps notes on all editors and their individual tastes.
  3. Juliet calls in around 100 full submissions a year, and will always provide constructive feedback on why she won’t take you on
  4. Juliet will accept resubmissions if specifically revised or if it’s a completely different novel
  5. Your literary agent should be the gatekeeper for all offerings, admin, contracts etc
  6. Do finish your novel before submitting to a literary agent. If it’s called in and you only have a chapter then your will miss an opportunity
  7. Do your research on who you are submitting to and make it all about you book
  8. Only send exactly what they ask for (super important, and if you have research correctly this step is the next logical)
  9. Do submit to more than one agent at a time- don’t put all your eggs in one basket as the saying goes
  10. Do send your cover letter addressed to the right person and their name spelt correctly
  11. Don’t use gimmicks. resist!
  12. Don’t  submit to just one agent (see above DO)
  13. Don’t give up- MOST IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER, have courage and fait

Guest speakers: Katie Khan (Hold back the stars, Penguin 2017) and Ali Land (Good Me, Bad Me, Penguin 2017) and their advice

  1. Beta readers are important- a regular reader, and a structural reader.
  2. Give your beta’s the story on a kindle file so they can get the overall experience (and they can’t edit!)
  3. When they met with agents they wanted to find someone who saw the book as they did/ On the same page
  4. They wanted someone to be the champion of your book, who will support and push you
  5. They wanted someone to be accessible and know their business

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything I took away. I recommend this course for anyone at any stage in their writing. If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to get a whole look at the picture. If you’re disheartened it’s a good chance to hear success stories. It’s also a good place to hear other people pitch their novels, and put your feelings on your writing into perspective- If you feel your idea is out there, I can assure you someone else’s is infinitely stranger

Guardian Masterclasses offer a broad range of short and long courses across a variety of disciplines from creative writing, journalism, photography and design, film and digital media, music and cultural appreciation.

Disclaimer: Featured photos are saved from internet sources and are not the product of my own skills. All workshops/events are paid for by me and all reviews are mine from my own notes, opinions and experiences.



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