As promised, here’s the first of my reports from the Winchester Writers’ Conference. The first talk I attended was by agent Lorella Belli of the Lorella Belli Agency who publish general adult fiction and non-fiction. Lorella explained what it means when you get a rejection letter from an agent as well as general advice on submitting and netting an agent. Here are some of the points that I thought were useful:
- Your covering letter is your business card so be professional. No ‘dear sir or madam’ – use a name!
- Don’t write about all the different books you’ve written and ask them to choose – pick one and get known for that book first.
- The vast majority of manuscripts they receive are competently written but they are looking for something with the wow factor, something they can rave about to publishers.
- Big deals are not necessarily good – there is more pressure on the author to sell.
- Agents don’t help to grow an author’s career anymore – you have to be successful the first time round or you’ve ruined things at an early stage. A bad track record is worse than no record.
- Agents do close their lists sometimes to catch up with submissions and concentrate on existing authors.
- BUSY TIMES TO AVOID – New Year (the New Year’s Resolution effect!), and the Book Fair periods (London, Bologna, Frankfurt).
- First novels and drafts are never wasted – they feed into your work and may be dug up later if you are successful!
- If you have similar feedback from different agents, take note and improve.
- Do as much revision as possible before submitting to the next agent.
- An agent will only be paid if they can sell your book so don’t want to spend time on rejections – and also they don’t have the time to spare. Don’t take it personally – they are assessing your manuscript, not you.
- The more you write, the more you will realise the areas you are really good at, for example a certain genre or style.
- If you are talented, have saleability, are professional and are planning more than one book then keep going – sooner or later you will succeed!
I love the last point! It was great to hear Lorella speak; I enjoyed her obvious enthusiasm for her job and she showed that agents are not the fearsome tyrants we sometimes imagine them to be. On the other hand they are running a business so will be business-like and direct in their transactions with us – as we should be with them.
5 thoughts on “Tips from an agent – talk by Lorella Belli”
Lots of great points to digest, thanks for sharing.
I agree – they are doing a job and reading the submission pile is just a very small part of that. Useful advice!
I wish I’d gone to that talk now.
The agents I have seen all tell me something different about the same book. 🙂
Thanks for the tips! just wondering if you may know this since the website you provide above the lorella belli agency has been under construction for years now. is there another site or do i just use the emails she has provided. thanks!
You are right, it is still under construction! This link gives a bit more information on what she’s looking for but I can’t find another official site.