How to find a literary agent with Juliet Mushens, Francesca Haig and Jessie Burton

Robin and Sophie took the train to London last week to attend a Guardian Masterclass on how to find a literary agent which was led by literary agent Juliet Mushens. Ninety-eight other people had signed up for the three hour masterclass and the event was held at Loft in Islington. Sophie tells us more about the evening and why every writer should consider attending this kind of event…..

Juliet started by welcoming everyone and then went through what a literary agent was and why you might want one. As most newbie writers soon discover, publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts are few and far between – most expect you to be represented by a literary agent – but this was just one of the many reasons outlined by Juliet for why you might want one. Juliet then talked us through the submissions process that literary agents like to see and went through how to write a good cover letter in detail. This was, as you can imagine, very interesting and incredibly helpful.

Francesca Haig and Jessie Burton (authors of The Fire Sermon and The Miniaturist) then arrived for a Q&A on the cover letters they had sent to Juliet which, together with their books,* prompted Juliet to make them an offer of representation. Francesca and Jessie’s responses to the thoughtful questions asked by the audience gave great insight into what it took to become a successful author – not least the volume of drafts you are likely to get through in making your novel the best novel it can be.

Everyone was then invited to pitch their novel idea to Juliet. Listening to the numerous novel ideas was fascinating – we were clearly in a room full of talented and able writers and I really hope many go on to become published as there were a fair number that I would like to read. Juliet asked me to read her my pitch and rather nervously I stood to talk about my idea to the world for the first time. Juliet gave me some clear pointers on where to go with the pitch and I sat down feeling pleased to have had the opportunity to receive her feedback on the work that I have been alone with for the last two years. Unlike most writers in the room I had yet to finish a first draft, but as and when I do finish my novel then thanks to this masterclass, I feel much more confident about the next stage in the process.

*It should be noted that all three speakers stressed that the main way to obtain representation was to have written a great novel!

Robin and Sophie will be talking a bit more about the masterclass at the next few meetings but if you are considering submitting your work to an agent they can both highly recommend taking this or a similar class before you do so.


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