Thursday 4 September 2008

SCBWI's Agents Party ... How Nobody Was Bitten ... Plus Some Monster News

Last night was a big night for British SCBWI people, the Agents' Party is one of the truly packed events on the SCBWI calendar - an opportunity to look Rejection and/or Success in the eye.

But if there was trepidation in our hearts, we tried not to show it:

In fact some of us looked positively gleeful:

Indeed we were hilariously joyful despite the nerves fizzing all over the room!

On the panel were two artist's agents and two literary agents (there were supposed to be three but one had to drop out because of a personal emergency).

This was my fourth Agents Party - and yes, yes, I have an agent, but who else was going to take the pictures and write up the report ... okay, I admit it, I just love going to SCBWI events and getting together with all the people. Sad I know.

Anyway, though there were some people who didn't make it at the last minute, the pub was absolutely packed!

The agents very kindly didn't bite anybody, and the audience had the restraint not to offer the agents full body massages (yes, some of us are that desperate).

In attendance were:
Illustrator Agents - Edward Burns of Advocate Art and Mark Mills of Plum Pudding.
Author Agents - Daniel Neilson of PFD and Eve White, who is a solo agent.
Edward Burns (right) described his clients as "artists who can look after themselves" - "professionals who are sending their children through school".

Mark Mills (left), who is married to the art director at Little Tiger Press (cozy!), said his agency plan to set up in US and France.

The bad news for illustrators is that editors are becoming more choosy, "The price of oil affects the price of paper and the price of paper affects what publishers do," Mark said. "The net result is we have become more careful of the kind of artist that we take on."

Interesting though that the illustrators' agents take 30% commission while the author agents take 15%.

The author agents had some good news for picture book writers ... PB texts are selling again (hooray) - Daniel said: "PB texts are selling very, very well. We are looking for picture book texts that revolve around ethnic backgrounds such as African and Asian stories." How refreshing after the dire PB is Dead stuff we were hearing all of last year.

As it is every year, books for boys are much in demand - "For me, humour goes a long way," Daniel said.

Eve White (pictured below) tells the story of Andy Stanton who was working his way from A to Z in the Writers and Artists Yearbook with little success. After five or six rejections, he gave up on A to Z and started working his way through the list from Z to A, eventually finding Eve's agency.

"He phoned me and said what do you think of this book? I said it sounded wacky and probably very difficult to get published," Eve said. "But I loved it and he sent me the rest of the mansucritp and I said, don't talk to any other agents until I have finished it."

The result was the award-winning You're a Bad Man Mister Gum.

And that is definitely NOT You're a Bad Man Mister Gum, in the picture but From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma.

There is more of course but I've got to rush through this blog post so I can bake a chicken. Sorry. Hopefully Anita Loughrey, who was spotted taking copious notes will blog about the rest! Sue Hyams blogged about it hours before I wrote this on her excellent new website - in a post interestingly titled 'Too Busy To Write' ... she should add: 'But Not Too Busy to Blog' ... Sue organised the Agents Party - thank you, Sue!

On another note, how serendipitous that last night's Agents' Party happened the night before the formal launch of Authonomy - Harper Collins' social networking site designed to spot the gems in the slushpile. It's been in beta for three months and now it's live ... it works on the basis of aspiring writers reviewing each other on the site and supposedly will save editors the need to actually read their slushpile.

Former slushpile reader Aida Edemariam wrote a piece in the Guardian with the cute title File it in the Bin (hollow laughter) and describes the business of spotting talent from a stack of submissions as a "deeply fallible system":
The slush pile is the great awkward albatross of the publishing industry. Writing must come from someone, and go to somewhere, and not everyone has a friend whose boyfriend happens to be editor of a literary imprint: every day someone decides that there's nothing for it but to post their precious manuscript to someone they've never met, at a company that is receiving stuff from people like them all the time. And even in the best-case scenario - where every word of every submission is read - it is a deeply fallible system.
Rebecca Swift of The Literary Consultancy pointed out that
I think to leave it completely to peer management might be fantastically chaotic.
Which pretty much evens out the score:
No less chaotic, some would argue, than taking pot luck with a student on work experience, or an overworked editor who might be having an off day. Publishing is, in the end, a triumph of hope over logistics.
And now, having done my duty and reported on the Agents' Party, I must bring you the incredible and much more important news that my friend, Fiona Dunbar (The Truth Cookie, Toonhead) has this summer been seen with the Loch Ness Monster!


  1. Excellent reporting.
    Can we have a monster agents party next time?

  2. ACTUALLY addie, you should be grateful because i decided not to publish a photo of you because i am a kind and generous friend (plus i am collecting blackmail images for future use)

  3. Sounds like a great evening - I hope to be there next year! See you then! :-)

    And what, you have blackmailable photos of Addy? Aw come on now, you gotta share! ;-)

  4. We get around a bit, don't we!

    You write so well in a rush but don't hurry the chicken!

  5. Hi Candy,

    You might remember me from MySpace (I'm now on Facebook). Anyway, I read this post with interest and I was wondering whether you'd allow me to use on my website the photo you took of my agent Eve White holding up my book (I hope she wasn't using it as an example of what NOT to write!)

    Look forward to hearing from you. And hope the chicken was a success. ;-)


  6. Good party. Thanks for allowing us to virtually attend. I love SCBWI events, too! But ugh. The thought that oil prices could POSSIBLY affect our being published is too much to bear. It's hard enough otherwise! Ah well, the writers will just keep writing.

  7. hi guys! it was a great evening and it was also a great chicken (marinated in honey, soy sauce, ginger and garlic then baked in its marinade - mmm).

    tabitha - yes of course you may use the pic - if you want the high res version, i can email it to you. just email me on and she wasn't using it as a bad example, she was trying to give us hope that someday we too can be published like you! she was very generous and gave a lot of her time to us needy writers.

  8. This is really informative - thank you for posting this!

  9. Hi Candy,

    It was definitely a great night. I'm glad I went.

    Was thinking maybe you could send the picture of Addy to Eileen to print in Words and Pictures. LOL!

    OK... not funny! (hehehe)

    Looking forward to the next SCBWI professional meeting.

    Love anita

  10. Oh! Sounds like a great party. Wonderful pb news!
    How was the chicken? Fiona safe???

  11. I'd loved to have been there! Never mind, maybe another time! My slushpile experience is very random and too long to relate here but is interesting, I'll have to blog it one day. There has to be a better system!

  12. Hmmm, not keen on the reply to my comment linking 'monster' to my photo.
    However, I can only assume I was looking so devastatingly gorgeous, it would have just been embarrassing somehow.


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