Tag Archives: Madeleine Milburn

Knowing how to pitch your book to a UK literary agent

Pitching your book

We are getting very excited about the Frankfurt book fair next week.  In preparation, I’ve done a quick exercise – a tweet sized pitch for each new title by our clients.  I am always telling writers how important it is to get to the core of a story in just one sentence so I thought this would be interesting! I use a tweet sized pitch to get editors interested before delving further into the story with a compelling blurb. 

New Clients

Rebecca Powell UNDER THE CASHEW TREE– upmarket women’s fiction début based in Brazil – a story of unlikely love, lies and sacrifice. (on submission to UK publishers)

Jemma Forte IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE–  witty observations on married life combined with the destructive lengths that love will reach to achieve its ends, the third book by the popular women’s fiction author. (MIRA Books, spring 2014).

Karen Ross MOTHER OF THE YEAR –  an engaging comedy about a mother and daughter’s minefield relationship with real emotional depth and heart. (Ebury Press, February 2014).

Radhika Sanghani V!RG!N – New Adult / Young Women’s fiction début – funny and daring, the novel candidly explores its protagonist Ellie’s sexual journey and ultimately offers a powerful observation on the societal pressures that young women face concerning sex and status today. (on submission to UK publishers)

Talli Roland THE POLLYANNA PLAN – delightful, feel-good women’s fiction – can you find true love by simply changing your attitude?  (Amazon Publishing, February 2014)

Belinda Jones THE TRAVELLING TEA SHOP – deliciously funny and moving commercial women’s fiction perfect for anyone with an appetite for baked goods and sweet romance. (Hodder, summer 2014)

Crime and Thrillers

Nuala Casey SUMMER LIES BLEEDING – thought-provoking and intelligent suspense novel about four lives that are about to come crashing together.  (Quercus, June 2014)

Mel Sherratt TAUNTING THE DEAD – a dark, gritty, sexually-charged police procedural that twists and turns in every direction to uncover ‘whodunit’.  (Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer, December 2013)

Luana Lewis DON’T STAND SO CLOSE – a gripping psychological thriller about a reclusive psychologist who is forced to confront trauma from her past and secrets in her marriage. (Transworld, February 2014)

C.L. Taylor THE ACCIDENT / BEFORE I WAKE –  a dark psychological suspense thriller about one mother whose life falls apart when her fifteen-year-old daughter deliberately steps in front of a bus, and the chilling journey she goes on to understand why.  (HarperCollins/Avon, February 2014)

C.J. Daugherty FRACTURE – third book in the international bestselling NIGHT SCHOOL series: a world of mystery, danger, romance and thrills, now translated into 22 languages. (Little, Brown/ Atom, August 2013)


Women’s Fiction

Victoria Fox WICKED AMBITION – a sex-filled, high-octane romp through the hidden lives of the rich and famous perfect for Jackie Collins’ fans – addictive, dark and buzzing with suspense (MIRA, June 2013)

Emma Garcia OMG BABY!  – a hilarious sequel to NEVER GOOGLE HEARTBREAK where Viv and Max come to terms with an unexpected pregnancy. (Hodder, spring 2014)

Janet MacLeod Trotter A CRIMSON DAWN – a gripping and impassioned historical saga set against the fascinating backdrop of the Great War.  (MacLeod Trotter books 2013)

Carolyn Jess-Cooke DARK TRACES – a dark, edgy and inventive Victorian thriller involving hypnosis, obsession and removing memories. (on submission in the UK)

Lynda Page WHERE MEMORIES ARE MADE – a nostalgic, heart-warming family saga set in a holiday camp in the late 1950s for Downton Abbey fans. (Headline, February 2014)

Anna-Lou Weatherley WICKED WIVES – women’s suspense full of intrigue, revenge and decadence.  (HarperCollins/ Avon July 2013)

Sophie Hart THE NAUGHTY GIRLS BOOK CLUB – a new take on erotica: inspired by their naughty novels, a group of shy suburban readers shake off their inhibitions and discover a new side to themselves. (Avon, June 2013)

Evie Hunter THE PLEASURES OF AUTUMN – Irish erotica perfect for fans of E.L. James’ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY’ (Penguin, October 2013)

YA & Children’s

Holly Bourne THE MANIFESTO ON HOW TO BE INTERESTING – a dark-humoured, contemporary YA novel identifying what it is that makes a person interesting.  (Usborne, September 2014)

Lara Williamson A BOY CALLED HOPE – a joyous, heart-breaking and life-affirming story of one boy and his messy, muddled and madcap family, perfect for fans of Annabel Pitcher and Frank Cotterell Boyce. (Usborne, spring 2014)

Rupert Wallis THE DARK INSIDE – a gripping, magical and haunting story about loss and hope, perfect for fans of Patrick Ness and David Almond.  (Simon &Schuster, February 2014)

Jenna Burtenshaw CONVICTION – from the author of the critically acclaimed Wintercraft comes a YA prison break thriller and love story set in a place of darkness, danger and death (on submission in the UK)

Dave Lowe MY HAMSTER IS A SPY the third in a hilarious series for 6-9 year olds, following the adventures of Stinky the sarcastic talking hamster and his owner Jinks. (Templar, March 2013)

S.B Hayes DON’T LOOK BACK – a gripping psychological suspense thriller about a girl who takes on the search for her missing brother. (Quercus, June 2013)

It’s important to grab the reader’s attention at the start of your submission letter. Understanding the genre you are writing in is key to showing an agent that you’ve researched your market.

For submissions advice


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New York Times review for Madeleine Milburn Agency author

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-CookeCarolyn Jess-Cooke’s THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS has been reviewed alongside Louise Penny in The New York Times.

Random House / Delacorte Books published THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS in August this year with fantastic endorsements by a host of bestselling authors:

“Brilliant!  Rich with fully formed characters and stunning psychological drama, this heart-gripping novel will keep you riveted from first page to last.”

—Jeffery Deaver, author of XO

“Utterly captivating, this is a book I adored and savored from the first to the very last magical page.”

 —Tess Gerritsen, author of Ice Cold

“A psychologically complex thriller, told with compassion in a marvelously suspenseful narrative that keeps you engaged from the first page to the last.  This novel has it all: a dark and dangerous setting, characters full of depth, rich emotions, and a clever plot.  You’ll fall in love with Alex—and his demons.”

–Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing

“THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS is an absolute chiller.  Deep, moving, and utterly gripping, I was riveted from the unsettling beginning to the mindbender of an ending.   This is a stellar read that will stay with me a good long while.”  

–Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies



The Madeleine Milburn Agency is very excited by the US response, particularly given that the US edition has a completely different ending to the UK edition, published by Piatkus in 2012.  Carolyn Jess-Cooke is the prize-winning international bestselling author of THE GUARDIAN ANGEL’S JOURNAL, now translated into 22 languages.


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Children’s Award Winner

L.A. Jones wins award

L.A. Jones receiving her award

Enormous congratulations to L.A. Jones on winning the Waverton Good Read Children’s Award 2012-13 for her novel for 9-12 year olds, THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY.

L.A. Jones visiting Waverton and Saighton primary schools

L.A. Jones visiting Waverton and Saighton primary schools

There were seventeen shortlisted books which were read and reviewed by local schoolchildren.  Lucy visited Waverton and Saighton Primary Schools to receive her prize of £500 and to meet some of the young readers who voted for her.

THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY has also been shortlisted for Southampton’s Favourite Book Award 2013, chosen by children and librarians across the City.  This Award is still open for votes.

Hachette/Orchard Books have published both THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY and RISE OF THE SHADOWMARES.

Lucy is now writing her third novel for children.

.The Rise of the Shadowmares by L.A. Jones   Lucy Jones THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY

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UK literary agent tips for new writers

Winchester Writers' ConferenceFrom my Masterclass Courses, Q&A panels and one-to-one sessions at the Winchester Writers’ Conference this year, I’ve compiled some tips for new writers.  These should hopefully help you pitch your work successfully and capture an agent’s attention!

There are key things to think about whilst preparing a submission letter.  I personally receive between 20 and 50 submissions from new writers each day, but the strong ones still really stand out.  Here are some things to think about whilst preparing your submission before sending to agents.

  • Read the blurbs on the back covers of books in the area that you are writing.  Are they compelling?  Do they draw you in?  Do they make you want to open the book?  Your pitch needs to be an enticing blurb that ‘sells’ your story.  The aim of the blurb is to grab a reader’s attention and to make them want to read your book.  This should be part of your covering letter, not your synopsis.
  • To practice, write the blurb for the last book you read and see how it compares to the blurb on the back cover of the book.
  • Practice pitching your favourite books in one line too – we naturally do this when recommending books to friends. Now try pitching your own book in one line.  Imagine you only have enough words for a tweet.  This should help you get to the core of your story. Word of mouth is the greatest publicity tool for books when they hit the market, so it’s important that people can describe your book easily.  You should be able to sum your book up in this way, for instance the following pitch used for THE GUARDIAN ANGEL’S JOURNAL by Carolyn Jess Cooke:

‘When a woman dies at forty years old she is sent back to earth as a guardian angel to herself and is forced to re-experience and record her biggest mistakes and fiercest regrets from the beginning of her life to her untimely death – she is told she must not change any of her actions, but should simply learn from them.’

You can shorten this to: ‘What would you change if you could live your life again?’

  • Read the first chapter of bestselling books in the area you are writing.  Do they draw you in?  Do you like the characters? Are you excited to read more?  This is how an agent will approach your work.  This is also how a publisher will approach a book they receive from an agent.  It is very important that these chapters hook the reader in.
  • Choose an eye-catching title.  Test it out on your friends and family.  I want a title that grips me before I start reading the manuscript.  Think about your title in a bookstore. What is going to get the most attention?  Bestsellers tend to have really strong titles for instance ROOM, ONE DAY, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, THE HELP, GONE GIRL, THE LOVELY BONES, THE HUNGER GAMES, ME BEFORE YOU.  Some titles only make sense once you’re fully immersed in the book but really strong titles should say something before you’ve turned the pages.

Room by Emma DonoghueGone Girl by Gillian FlynnMe Before You by Jojo MoyesBefore I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

  • I receive so many submissions where the blurb and the synopsis merge into one.  The blurb should ‘sell’ your story and should be incorporated into your covering letter/introductory email as the pitch.  The synopsis ‘tells’ your story and it should be a separate document. It should be in chronological order telling the events as they happen.  Who, what, where, when why?  Don’t include backstory as it would make it too long.
  • I want to see that a writer has researched the market and has an idea of the potential readership. Where do you think your book would sit on the shelves in a bookshop?  Who will enjoy your book?  For instance, will it appeal to readers of Maggie O’Farrell and Sarah Winman, or Lee Child and Harlan Coben?  It is always helpful if you try and position your novel because an editor has to do this when they take it to acquisitions to get the support of their sales team.  Please don’t say are ‘the next’ Dan Brown, or the equivalent though!
  • Once you have pitched your work in your covering letter/introductory email, you should mention your experience and achievements, but these must be relevant to the work you are submitting.  Include any publications, for instance short stories, self-published or traditionally published fiction or non-fiction, features or competitions you have won.   I personally don’t mind if you haven’t had anything published, but it would be nice to know if you attend a writing group, have been to writing festivals or have a degree in Creative writing. I just want to see that you are serious about your writing career.  It’s a long-term business and most authors are only successful once they have had four or five books published.
  • When you are ready to find an agent, subscribe to the The Bookseller for a short period.  Most publishing professionals read this trade magazine for industry news.  Top deals are announced, and any acquisition news usually includes a really compelling pitch about the book that has been sold.  It will also give you an idea of what is popular in terms of fiction and non-fiction as publishers are usually ahead of the market.
  • Follow agents on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs, and research them on the web – you need to be submitting to agents who are actively seeking new writers.  You should also feel as if yFestival-logoou could be friends with your agent.
  • Join writing organisations specific to the area you are writing in, for instance the SCBWI for children’s fiction or the RNA for women’s fiction.  Attend festivals such as the crime festival in Harrogate, the York Festival of Writing and the Winchester Writers’ Conference, where you can meet agents and get advice from successful authors.SCBWI
  • The Writers and Artists Yearbook is updated annually and has the contact details of all the literary agencies in the UK.  There is also the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for children’s fiction and illustrators.

Old Peculiar Crime Festival

  • John Burnside, who taught me creative writing when I was at St Andrews University, told us that the best piece of advice he ever had was in three simple words: ‘rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.’  Make sure your work is as polished as it can be before sending it to agents.  You also need to be prepared to edit your work with your agent and your publisher.
  • My author, Victoria Fox, gives more essential advice in one simple word: ‘persevere’.
  • Good luck!


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‘Thought-provoking and intelligent’

Soho 4AM by Nuala CaseyThought-provoking and intelligent, Nuala Casey’s début is one to savour.’  Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner

Enormous congratulations to Nuala Casey on the publication of her début novel, SOHO, 4AM.  Set over 24 hours, SOHO, 4AM is a psychological thriller about four ordinary people who walk a dangerous, twisted path in London’s greatest adult playground.  Come the morning of the 7th July, as jubilation turns to horror, will they have fallen into Soho’s poisoned embrace whilst the nation’s eyes are turned elsewhere?

In the early Noughties, Nuala Casey moved into a tiny, cramped studio flat in Soho with her then boyfriend, and set about forging a career as a singer-Nuala_Casey_03songwriter. Yet despite being in her early twenties and living in the heart of London’s jazz and entertainment scene, Nuala became disillusioned with the celebrity-obsessed world of the music industry and found her inspiration, instead, in the colourful characters of Soho; the ordinary men and women who lived and worked amid the partying and excess. Soon, her scribbled song lyrics developed into detailed stories which chronicled the real, hidden world that existed in the shadows of the noise and neon. These stories would go on to form the basis of her début novel.

Quercus publish today on 4th July and have secured fantastic promotions with retailers including WHSmith Travel, Waterstones and Asda.  Nuala is currently writing her second thriller under contract, THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER, where she returns to the characters seven years on.

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KATE: A Biography – Marcia Moody tells us about ‘the real her’

KATE by Marcia MoodyCongratulations to Marcia Moody on the official publication of KATE: A biography.  Michael O’Mara published yesterday, 1st July,  in hardback.

This biography explores the life of the woman who has done so much to revitalize the public image of the royal family, covering her early years, her family, her time at St Andrews University and her meeting with Prince William, their early relationship and its trials, the wedding and her new official role, her style, and, of course, her pregnancy.

Marcia tells the Agency ‘writing about Kate has made for an interesting few months. When writing a biography of someone, it helps if they are someone you don’t mind spending time thinking and writing about, and I couldn’t have asked for a lovelier subject. There have been many misconceptions about Kate over the years, so it was very interesting to learn about the real her – I think readers will be surprised about a few things.’

Marcia Moody

Marcia Moody

Marcia Moody spent eight years at OK Magazine as Features Editor and Royal Correspondent, accompanying the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their Canadian tour (2011) and Prince Harry on his Caribbean tour (2012) and US tour (2013).

She is currently finishing her second book HARRY: A Biography, which Michael O’Mara will publish in October 2013.

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Hottest Summer Reads

Belinda Jones short story competitionCongratulations to all of the agency’s clients who have contributed to the cracking anthology, SUNLOUNGER, with over 40 sizzling stories based all around the world.  1st July marks the official publication day, and SUNLOUNGER is already No.1 in Women Writer’s & Fiction Short Stories on Amazon UK.

Take a look at the dedicated website www.va-va-vacation.com which features a page for every contributing author.

Huge congratulations also to the competition winners, Holly Martin, Kate Guest and Pernille Hughes whose stories are included amongst the bestselling authors in the anthology.

You can download your own copy here.   This is perfect reading in the sun.

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