Monday, 16 February 2015

Meet the Agent with Shelly Instone Wednesday 11th February

Hi Guys

I went to the above event as part of the Leeds Big Bookend Festival at the Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds centre.

It was a very nice modern bar with many other writers including Karen from CWG. Although it took a while to find and the woman I asked for directions was looking for it too as she was a fellow writer.

The Leeds Big Bookend Co ordinator Fiona Gell introduced Agent Shelly Instone and her debut author June Taylor.
June told how she met Shelly at Eve White Agency when June was taken on after being in a children's competition.  Shelly helped June edit her first novel although it wasn't taken on.
When Shelly left to set up her own agency she signed June on and they are now working on June's second novel.

Shelly advised an agent should have a strategy for a book, meet with publishers and send to readers for feedback and communicate with authors throughout.

Shelly told the audience she is from Leeds and grew up in the Yorkshire Ripper era which helped inspire her liking for dark stories and crime.  She was also inspired into reading and writing by stories from her family.

She started working at Eve White Agency then worked up to an editor,  then a freelance editor. Last year she then became an agent.

What Sally is looking for:
A rough diamond that she can help shape and mould so that she can leave her stamp on to the novel as well as the authors.
A wow factor from the first page and a confident authorial voice.  A manuscript which is compelling and original with strong dialogue with good scene setting.   She is a fan of good plotting and structure.  But Shelly will help with this.

Shelly can spot an authors strengths and weaknesses from the first page.  She also said alot of hard work involved with up to 7 to 8 edits involved which debut author June confirmed and jokingly said Shelly has her working through the night.

When Shelly likes a manuscript she sends it to a reader at Harper Collins, the author can track changes through Tracker Changer.  Once details feels it is ready and only then will she pitch it to Publishers.   The whole process takes between 6 and 12 months.  At the end the author will be a professional writer.

She advised alot is about being in the right place at the right time and a lot of luck.
What Shelly looks for is an introduction letter that is short and sweet and to the point.   A professional letter, plus a short synopsis.  An A4 page is enough for the synopsis and not to give everything away.   Shelly also wants the first 3 chapters.   She reads the chapters first.
 She also advised if a manuscript goes over a word count by alot - a thriller being 90,000 to 100,000 words she work take on and some other agents may not as shows a lack of discipline.

Also Shelly advised a writer to do the research for the genre they writing and read other novels in the same genre.  Also an awareness of the commercial market helps and general life experiences.   A realistic plot is important.

Shelly said that the job of an agent is to make the writing look effortless including no errors at all - correct grammar and punctuation.

Shelly is looking for strong northern writers as not enough out there.

For the agency Shelly is hoping for 50% being children's literature,  including novels for 7+, young adult and new adult and middle grade.

After the talk Shelly opened up the floor to questions.   Here is some of the information we got from Shelly answers -

Percentage the Writer/Agent gets depending on publisher with world rights 15% of advance/royalties,  and 20% of TV and merchandise.

Before you send a novel leave the manuscript a few weeks then go back as can be easier to spot any errors missed previously.

Turnaround - Shelly doesn't send rejection letters as too busy but will be an automated response.   If interested Shelly will contact you personally in 5 working days.

Word counts - Middle grade/ thrillers 90,000 to 100,000 words.
Children's fiction 30,000 to 40,000 words.
Fantasy/ Sci fi up to around 120,000 words.

Shelly wants real names not pseudonyms.  She doesn't sell picture books, poetry or plays as no experience in them.

Publishers usually want to invest in trilogies or series and if a first novel strong will pitch series on it.
Writers have to fight and want to be published as alot of hard work.
Can take an Author being published more than once before they see any gain.

Shelly doesn't like stereotypes and clich├ęs.

Publishers like to see that writers have an online presence - they will read your Twitter, blogs etc.  If they don't like what's on social sites it could break a deal.

Usually if a writer hasn't been taken on by a publisher by the third novel the Agent and Author will probably part company as a lot of work being invested by the Agent.

Shelly likes to read crime, dark humoured stories and Greek tragedies.

All in all a very good night mingling with other Writers and saying Hello to an agent - could be nearest I get to one.   For information see below:

Shellys website and submission details

Website and submission details:

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