CBC – Querying

Having completed the mentor process and, once happy with Query letter, synopsis and full manuscript, there comes the nutty issue of pitching agents. The good thing about the mentorship is that you are, in theory at least, connected to Curtis Brown and Colville & Walsh far better than a cold-call, having journeyed through the process of a novel course and then mentorship.

So the CBC team will table not just an opening chapter, but the full MS to the agent of your choice, along with a synopsis and personalised query letter. It therefore behoves you to get these things absolutely right before doing so. They’ll also only pitch to one agent at a time, so as and when you get a pass, you can approach another agent within these two twinned agencies. If you have no clue who to approach, they’ll also offer guidance, based on your synopsis, genre and themes.

What they will also do however, is send your pitch to about 15 other agencies outside of CB, to agents declaring interest in CBC graduates. I have duly approached my first choice at CB, but if they pass, will probably open it out not just to another agent within the CB stable, but the wider list as well.

Having completed the novel course prior to the mentorship, as well as my mentor, it was great knowing a couple of friendly grads would critique my synopsis and Query letter before finally sending them in. Outside eyes that also had a good handle on your work. I have a strong sense the chances of landing an agent and then a publisher are vanishingly small, but you have to try. It’s important then that you do expend some energy ensuring your pitch is as good as it can be and not rely on the impact of your work.

I have found in the past I have found this last element to be the hardest and have definitely not spent as much time as I should have on these elements, but of course, they are so important, being as they are the first thing an agent sees of your work. First impressions and all that. If you aren’t able to crystalise in coherent fashion what your novel is about in a single page, or who you are and what you’ve done, then the likelihood is your novel won’t be the best it can be either. That’s their thinking.

Of course, all of this happens at a much slower pace than you might wish as a writer, but then, with the annual London Book Fair just ending and any number of clients to cater for, plus a pile of unread manuscripts at any one time on their desk, it’s a wonder any agent gets around to anything new. Patience is therefore the game… hopefully with you having something else to focus on, rather than just watching the weeks crawl by…