Becky Bagnell, of the Lindsay Literary Agency, was kind enough to adjudicate our November competition. Numbers were a little lower than expected at only eleven. Becky offers her expert advice on how to ‘Write a covering letter to a literary agent’ by sharing her tips below.
1st Place: Gillian Shilson – Covering Letter to a Literary Agent
2nd Place: Wendy Fitzgerald – Letter to Literary Agent
3rd Place: Peter Hitchen – Covering Letter for Becky Bagnell
Highly Commended: Linda Welch – Riptide and Summer Quigley – Cover Letter
Covering Letter to a Literary Agent – Gillian Shilson
Becky Bagnell: This letter showed great spirit and I particularly liked the fact that the character of the author seemed to shine through. The writer also stuck to the basic guidelines of beginning the letter by telling the agent what they might expect from the submission, in this case romance/psychological thriller cross, women’s commercial fiction. The author then gave a brief summary of the plot, making it intriguing. Then in the final part of the letter the character of the author came across giving the submission a great sense of energy.
Dear Caroline Powerful,
I am seeking representation for a first novel, The Girl in the House with Green Doors, 114,000 words (romance/psychological thriller cross, women’s commercial fiction) and would be very grateful if you could take a look.
Three Line Synopsis:
Vacationing in a woodland hideaway, romantic, book-loving Ethan squares up against devilish antagonist George to absolve himself of guilt over the death of a child and to win the heart of mystical Abby whom George lusts after and seeks to possess.
This is the story of three people whose lives become entangled following a tragic accident. It is also a love story with some spiritual elements. I think it might appeal to the same readership as The Lovely Bones or The Secret Life of Bees.
I was born in the West Indies and ran barefoot about the tropics until condemned to hard shoes and boarding-school in England at the age of thirteen. I started writing seriously in my twenties and was agented (near misses, but no luck) by Pollingers.
I brought up three boys, divorced, took a degree in fine art and cared for my demented mother until her death, working as a painter but always writing in my spare time.
I have several other novels almost completed. Writing is my absolute passion, the thing that makes it worthwhile getting up (early!) for. I live alone in a cottage by a lake with a study, a desk and a pen. I love walking while thinking about the current novel, constantly rejoicing in my freedom to write again.
I still hate wearing shoes.
I heard you speak at this year’s Winchester Writer’s Conference and would dearly love to be represented by you. I hope very much that you enjoy my chapters, which I attach with a one-page synopsis.
Letter to Literary Agent – W Fitzgerald
Becky Bagnell: This letter was simple, but it conveyed everything an agent needs to know while at the same time adding a touch of intrigue. It is a romance novel, it has an original football theme with strong female protagonist and the author is passionate supporter of the beautiful game – sounds interesting!Address
Lindsay Literary Agency
East Worldham House
Hampshire, GU34 3AT
October 22, 2016
Dear Ms Bagnell,
Novel: ‘Her Own Goal’: Genre: Y/A (Romance). Length: 50,000 words.
I am seeking representation for my first novel, noting from your website that your special interests include young adult fiction and that you encourage debut authors.
‘Her Own Goal’ is one of a planned series of young adult romances, featuring normal everyday girls, and men who just happen to be footballers:
Single parent Anna is bringing up her daughter Lily alone, whilst working as a housekeeper and finishing her degree. Theo is a successful footballer: handsome rich and famous. The gulf between them seems enormous when she becomes unexpectedly involved in the dramas of his life.
But when her father falls ill, it is Theo who is there for her: can he really be just a nice, regular kind of guy under all those trappings? What exactly does the formidably beautiful Arianna still mean to him, and what will happen when Lily’s father comes back into her life?
Anna must come to terms with both her pride and her prejudices before she can ever hope to build a future for herself and Lily.
The second book is currently in progress.
I have a degree from London University, and am a member of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, including their critique group. I am also a mad, passionate supporter of the beautiful game!
I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis, and can be contacted either by email: WF@xxxx.com; phone, 02380 xxxxxx; or at the above address. I look forward to hearing from you.
Covering Letter for Becky Bagnell – Peter Hitchen
Becky Bagnell: This entry achieves everything that I’d expect from a covering letter. PH explains exactly what the book is about, a boy ‘Daniel’, after whom the book is named, is 11 years old and part of child trafficking circle in Northern England. The author also makes clear the book has heart. We also find out a little about the author, an academic and a father. The only thing this covering letter doesn’t do is tell the agent who the book is aimed at? I’m assuming this is a children’s book because of the age of the central protagonist, but because of the content it might be adult?
Dear Becky Bagnell,
I would like you to consider representing my novel, DANIEL, a plot-driven work of literary fiction comprising 103,000 words.
Set in 1970s Northern England against a backdrop of life in institutional care, the book opens at the point when the eponymous 11-year-old character has been trafficked to a meeting with catholic priest and serial child abuser Father Greg. Despite, or perhaps because of his newly altered circumstances, Daniel begins to develop an unusual inner-courage. This fortitude gradually evolves into a transcendent spirituality which changes the lives of all those who meet him in unpredictable and unforgettable ways. The narrative sees the boy struggling to make sense of some fundamental questions; the issues of loyalty, betrayal, love, guilt, forgiveness and self-sacrifice are all set against the activities of Father Greg, and the sadistic head of Daniel’s orphanage, Alex Smart.
However, as affecting as the boy’s circumstances are they are not the heart of the story’s mystery. Several narrative arcs – the foul play leading up to the boy’s estrangement from his single post-partum mother, the matrix of criminality stretching from the church of St Mary into the wider diocese, the corruption and incompetence within local government and the seemingly chance emergence of alcoholic vagrant Sammy Sugden – interweave to culminate in an unstoppable and deadly climax.
I’m a 53-year-old married academic and father to two young children and DANIEL is my first novel. I enclose the opening three chapters of the work along with a synopsis. Should you wish, I can be contacted at the above address or via the email address and telephone number shown below. I very much look forward to hearing from you.
Riptide – Linda Welch
Becky Bagnell: This submission could have been in the top three, as it was strong. However, the author suggests that the novel isn’t yet finished and so usually an agent does ask that the author waits until they’ve got a final script before submitting.
25 October 2016
Lindsay Literary Agency
East Worldham House
Hampshire GU34 3AT
Dear Ms Bagnell
Please find enclosed the first 3 chapters and synopsis of Riptide, an urban fantasy about a teenage mermaid. The novel is currently at 65,000 words. I anticipate the finished novel to be approximately 75,000 words.
Urban fantasy continues to be popular with teens and mermaid novels are an increasingly widespread genre: Goodreads has a whole section devoted to mermaid novels with at least 100 titles. (Source goodreads.com/genres/most_read/mermaids retrieved 24/10/16). The majority these titles are based in the US and I feel that UK-based stories would be equally popular in this country, where no-one is more than 70 miles away from the coast.
Riptide is set in the south of England, and is told from the first-person viewpoint of Lori, a 16-year-old girl whose reality is thrown into question when she discovers that she is a mermaid. As she says herself, ‘When you’re a child you believe every word your parents tell you. Mine told me I was allergic to chlorine, and that a rare skin complaint meant that I could not immerse more than 10% of my body in water at any one time. I never learned to swim, I only took showers, never a bath. I never questioned them or considered for a moment that they might be lying, until one night, when I took my friend’s dinghy out for a moonlight sail …’
This novel addresses themes that will resonate with teens and young adults, such as loss, growing independence and challenges to parental authority.
I would welcome any feedback you have on Riptide and enclose a stamped addressed envelope for its return.
Thank you for your time.
Cover Letter – Summer Quigley
Becky Bagnell: This letter contains everything you’d expect and was well thought through.
27th September 2106
Anne Clark Literary Agency
Dear Ms Clark,
I am sending the attached picture book manuscript Toilet Seat Thief for your consideration. It is a lighthearted rhyming story which provides a reminder of how even if you want to for kind reasons to another person, you must never take things without asking. Comparable books would be Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard or The Detective Dog but I feel my book is differentiated by its kookiness and ‘toilet’ humour which appeals to children.
Raccoon, the detective, wears a distinctive black mask,
He has many others for each undercover task.
A toilet seat was stolen from a museum’s prize display
Will Raccoon catch the thief or will they get away?
I have a few different ideas for running a series of rhyming detective picture books. Characters include Stickins – the stick insect undercover police officer and Teeny Weeny Spi-Guy – the money spider spy. Of course, if you felt Racoon would be popular I could work on different cases for him to take on.
A little about me
I am a mother of two and currently work to fit around my children’s school hours; prior to having children I completed a journalism degree, a post-graduate diploma in public relations and worked within the communications industry for 10 years. Last year I completed an online ‘writing storybooks for children’ course and since then have written a few picture books which haven’t yet been submitted to any agents as I want to strengthen them before I do so.
Any questions, please let know,