Pitching 2020

Because we are unable to have the usual face-to-face meetings at 2020 conference, pitching were conducted via Zoom or over the phone.

The list of agents and editors who took pitches are below, but please be aware that those conference attendees interested in pitching to either Anna Boatman, Tanera Simons, Rachel Donovan or Nicola Robinson needed to have the first chapter and blurb (max 2500 word count) ready to send to the pitch coordinator.

The number of pitching slots were less than usual because of the circumstances around the 2020 conference. Pitches are allocated to people as they register – first come, first served. It will be the same in 2021. We recommend anyone interested in pitching to register early. Those who want an opportunity to pitch, please make careful note of when registration opens and don’t delay in registering.

Most editors and agents created and managed the Zoom meetings and phone calls themselves, and invited the pitchee to join, with a volunteer from the conference team available in case of technical failure.

As per the original conference rules, only those registered for the conference are eligible to apply for a pitch session.

THE 2020 PITCH TAKERS WERE

Agents:

Alex Adsett Adsett Agency (AUS) Local Agent

Alex Adsett is a literary agent specialising in fiction for all ages, as well as a freelance publishing consultant offering commercial contract advice to authors and publishers.  She has more than twenty years’ experience working in the publishing and bookselling industry and has managed Alex Adsett Publishing Services since 2008. As a consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors review and negotiate their publishing deals, or strategise about their career path. As a literary agent, she is focused on finding exceptional fiction and non-fiction manuscripts for adults, young adults and children, with a focus on genre fiction. She represents more than forty authors including Melissa Lucashenko, Isobelle Carmody, Sasha Wasley, Leisl Leighton, Jodi McAlister and many more.  She is often to be found on twitter at @alexadsett or via her website www.alexadsett.com.au

The minimum word-count Alex’s publishing house requires? Single title only (75k and upwards for adults) and 60,000 and upwards for YA.

Sub-genres or genres Alex is not looking for? Not looking for urban fantasy or dystopian (I love it, but unless you have an incredible new angle, and I mean *incredible*, it is almost impossible to sell to publishers at the moment)

Genre or sub-genre Alex is particularly keen to see? Romantic mysteries, with a really strong plot and wonderful characters. Bonus points for something set during the glamourous 1920s or 30s. Science fiction or fantasy romances – particularly by authors from a diverse background (culturally, socially, economically, lifestyle etc).

Personal favourite genre? Normally, I adore SFF romance, but right now I’m loving the brilliant rom coms like Red, White & Royal Blue, and The Hating Game.

Alex’s major turn-off in a book? Stupid heroines, unequal relationships, and heroes who don’t listen or wait for consent.

What is likely to really knock Alex’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? Strong characters interacting as equals. Friends to lovers. Bantering relationships that aren’t mean. Consent.

Advice to Alex’s potential pitchers? Make sure your manuscript is finished (or as close to finished) as possible before you pitch. Write what you love, even if the trends are not supporting it at the moment.

Tanera Simons – International Agent – Darley Anderson (UK)

Tanera Simons joined Darley Anderson in 2017 with a view to building their women’s fiction list. She is actively looking for stand-out stories and compelling voices in all areas of the genre, but particularly enjoys contemporary rom-coms, uplifting love stories, and sweeping historical romances. Tanera currently represents authors Beth O’Leary, Sandie Jones, Mandy Baggot, Claire Frost, Lauren North, Nicola Gill, and Mary Hargreaves, to name a few. Collectively, her authors have Sunday Times top 5 bestselling status, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, and WHSmiths’ Fiction Book of the Year.

What Tanera is looking for: We only take novels, no short stories/novellas.

What Tanera isn’t looking for: I am not looking for fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, or erotic romance.

The genre or sub-genre Tanera is particularly keen to see: I would love a sweeping generational love story, a timeslip, or a historical romance as I don’t currently have anything similar on my list. I am also always on the look-out for an uplifting novel – rom-com, love story, historical – with a very clear pitch.

What is Tanera’s favourite genre: Contemporary rom-com is a perennial favourite of mine, but it must have something that sets it apart: a unique hook, an edgy voice, etc.

What is Tanera’s major turn-off in a book? It’s difficult to pin down: most of the manuscripts I turn down, I do so for a combination of small reasons (such as the voice being not quite engaging enough, there not being a really clear hook) as opposed to one major issue. If I had to give a more specific answer, I would say a cliched opening: the book starting with the protagonist waking up in the morning, stretching, looking out of her window whilst thinking about her day ahead, etc. The opening is so important because both agents and editors are extremely pushed for time: you want to grab their attention from page one and, if I’m not intrigued at the beginning of the book, it is unlikely this will change the more I read.

What is likely to really knock Tanera’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? A book that delivers above and beyond its pitch: perhaps in terms of emotional depth within what I’d thought to be a light-hearted rom-com; or twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. If a book makes me cry, then I’m on to a winner!

Tanera’s advice to prospective pitchers: Follow each agent’s submission guidelines (they are there for a reason!) and take your time over the submission: make sure you have edited the manuscript at least once, polished the opening chapters, and that your email is engaging and concise.

Please note: those who are successful in getting a pitch slot with Tanera Simons will need to submit a blurb and first chapter (2500 words max) by 1 July to the pitch coordinator pitch@romanceaustralia.com.

Editors:

Anna Boatman Publisher International Editor – Piatkus (UK)

I’m Anna Boatman, Publisher across PCR Fiction. This means I oversee the Piatkus Fiction and Constable Crime lists, which publish women’s fiction and crime fiction respectively, working with five editors across those imprints to ensure we publish every author and book as brilliantly as we can! 

I began my career eleven years ago at Mills & Boon,  so romance is my first love, and though I’m always on the lookout for books that might suit editors across the team, I directly acquire and edit commercial fiction for Piatkus, particularly all kinds of romance fiction. My authors range from international bestsellers such as J. R. Ward, Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh, Sarah Maclean, Charlaine Harris and Christine Feehan to new authors across a whole range of genres, such as romantic comedy (Sally Thorne), fantasy (Maria Lewis), Historical fiction (Pamela Hart), or commercial fiction (Love Letters From Montmartre, a beautiful love story translated from the German). 

I’m always on the lookout for very commercial stories, fantastic characterisation and authors who have the ability to not only deliver consistently high-quality fiction but also to reach out directly to their fans. If it’s addictive, page-turning, uplifting, emotional and creates a world readers want to return to, I will want to read it!

What Anna is looking for:

I generally am looking for full length, over 80,000, but there isn’t a minimum word count as our publishing house has such a range of different lists. If something was brilliant but 60,000 words, or a selection of short stories, I would still look at it!

What Anna isn’t looking for:

I’m not looking for non-fiction or children’s, though am interested in very upper-end YA (16+). I’m also not looking for literary fiction. We have a lot of sagas on the list already, so it would need to be exceptional, and also the market is quite crowded for psychological suspense at present – same rules apply!

The genre or sub-genre Anna is particularly keen to see:

Funny, thoughtful love stories where the protagonists are over 40!

What is Anna’s favourite genre?

I really don’t have one as I’ve always read and enjoyed books across a whole spectrum of fiction. I have a particular love of epic fantasy romance – great world building and great love stories – or books with a dystopian element that manage to remain uplifting, engaging and commercial. I also enjoy books that cross over lots of genres like Station Eleven.

What is Anna’s major turn-off in a book?

Inconsistent characters whose motivations don’t hang together.

What is likely to really knock Anna’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book?

Sorry to be boring, but back to the characters! If there’s an outstanding character with a great arc, someone whose fate I care about (whether they are a good person or not), then I’m generally hooked. I also really love seeing strong, chemistry-filled relationships between characters, where romantic or not.

Anna’s advice to prospective pitchers:

– The first few chapters are more important to me than the synopsis. Plot is fixable, tone of voice, characterisation and freshness of style is harder to improve.

– Get to know your characters really, really well – what do they think they want and what do they really want?

– Remember that in real life people very rarely say what they mean – for your dialogue to feel natural it’s important that you think not only about the words your characters are saying but also the things they can’t say, wish they could say, or are trying to hide.

Please note: those who are successful in getting a pitch slot with Anna Boatman will need to submit a blurb and first chapter (2500 words max) by 1 July to the pitch coordinator pitch@romanceaustralia.com

Liz Pelletier – CEO Entangled Publishing (US)

Liz co-founded Entangled Publishing in 2011. Over the past ten years, Entangled has gone from a small start-up to a bestselling romance publisher, with more than 18 NYT bestsellers and 71 USA Today bestsellers. Her out-of the-box approach to everything from pricing strategies to marketing to editorial allows Entangled to be both disruptive and agile within a dynamic publishing landscape. You can find her on Twitter at @Liz_Pelletier.

The minimum word-count Liz requires?  We publish all three of those lengths.

The sub-genres or genres Liz is not looking for? We are not looking for memoirs or non-fiction of any sort, nor middle grade fiction at this time.

A genre or sub-genre Liz is particularly keen to see?  I would love to see more thrillers, historicals, and small town romances.

Personal favourite genre? My favorite genre right now is RomCom but I also love an addictive YA or snarky historical.

Liz’s major turn-off in a book?  My major turn-off in a book is anything cliche. I really love it when an author finds a new way to say something, or a clever twist on an idea.

What is likely to really knock Liz’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? If I can’t stop reading a book, even though I know I have a hundred other things I should be doing, then not only am I blown away but I know readers will be as well.

Liz’s advice to potential pitchers? Relax. As long as your book is a genre we publish, I’m going to request a full as the only real way to judge the quality of a manuscript is to read it. So relax. You already did the hard part. You wrote a book!

Annette Barlow – Publisher/Editor Allen & Unwin

Annette Barlow has worked at Allen & Unwin, Australia’s largest independent publishing house, for over twenty-five years. She has a wide and vibrant list of fiction and non-fiction, and is proud to publish Fleur McDonald, Karly Lane, Nicole Hurley-Moore, Maya Linnell, Lee Christine, Kate Morton, Kirsty Manning, Genevieve Gannon, Jessica Rowe and Minette Walters, among others.

What Annette is acquiring?

Minimum word-count required?  Single title only (70k and upwards).

The sub-genres or genres Annette is not not looking for? Fantasy and sci-fi, category romance.

Genre or sub-genre Annette is not particularly keen to see?  I’d love to acquire another rural storyteller, optimistic in tone, with real rural issues in the narrative mix and engaging characters. There’s a big place in my heart for a gripping historical/contemporary dual narrative. And I’m also keen on acquiring contemporary domestic drama, like the works of Petronella McGovern, Genevieve Gannon and Charity Norman.

Personal favourite genre? That’s a hard question. I love working with Fleur McDonald, Karly Lane, Nicole Hurley-Moore, Maya Linnell and Lee Christine on rural stories. And I also adore the satisfying weaving together of historical/contemporary narratives by authors such as Kate Morton and Kirsty Manning.

Annette’s major turn-off in a book?  Something that makes me yawn! Perhaps that’s caused by an information dump in the beginning pages or single-dimensional characters or cliched language.

What is likely to really knock Annette’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? Well, if it has those two advantages already, I’m keen. But to really knock my socks off, I’d want to feel from the first page that I’m spending my time with a writer who has a talent for storytelling.

Annette’s advice to potential pitchers? Don’t be nervous, remember all of the people to whom you pitch really, really, really want your book to be fantastic. Know your market, know your competitors’ books and tell me why yours is going to stand out in the marketplace.

Rachael Donovan Harper Collins (AUS) Local Editor

Rachael works with the Harlequin publishing team as a commissioning editor. She has been in the Australian publishing industry for over ten years and has worked in a variety of roles from administration and sales to editorial. She joined Hachette Australia as a division coordinator before branching out into product management and marketing in the heady days of YA Vampire romances. She crossed over into editorial with the local publishing division before moving to Allen & Unwin. There she worked with a creative and fun children’s publishing team as a children’s editor. Over the years she has helped create books of fantasy, moving memoirs, kids’ picture books and war stories; but fiction is her one true love. Now she is dedicated to hunting down those compelling stories filled with unforgettable characters that you can’t put down. 

The minimum word-count Rachael’s publishing house requires? For HQ Fiction and Mira imprints: Single title only (80k and upwards) For Escape: 40,000 – 80,000 (short novel) & 81,000 – 100,000 (novel).

Sub-genres or genres Rachael is not looking for? For HQ Fiction and Mira imprints: Erotica, Horror, YA and Children’s, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Georgina/Regency/Scottish historical romance and non-fiction Escape: must include a central romance or romantic elements focused on lead characters and an uplifting ending.

A genre or sub-genre Rachael is particularly keen to see? Romance: rural, historical, suspense, contemporary — funny, sad and in between! — women’s life fiction, family saga and historical epics, particularly with Australian content.

Personal favourite genre? There are too many to count! Like most readers, I read widely.

Rachael’s major turn-off in a book? Psychological tension and the connection between people is engrossing, but anything overly gory on the page is hard going.

What is likely to really knock Rachael’s socks off besides an engaging voice and well-written book? Something that shows you more about the world around us or the universality of human experience without you even realising it as you’re too engrossed by the characters.

Rachael’s advice to potential pitchers? It’s easy to say, I know, but don’t be nervous. I want to hear all about you and your story, as we’re actively looking for novels by new local voices.

Please note: those who are successful in getting a pitch slot with Rachel Donovan will need to submit a blurb and first chapter (2500 words max) by 1 July to the pitch coordinator pitch@romanceaustralia.com.

Nicola Robinson – Harlequin Books (AUS) Aquiring Editor

Nicola Robinson is a commissioning editor at Harlequin Books.

She is commissioning editor at Harlequin Australia, where she works with authors including Fiona McCallum, Alison Stuart, Sarah Barrie and Meredith Appleyard. Previously she was senior editor at HarperCollins Australia, where she edited fiction and non-fiction, including books by Dervla McTiernan, Holly Ringland, Jimmy Barnes and Stan Grant. Nicola is based in Sydney.

Nicola is looking for historical fiction, contemporary fiction and cosy crime.

Length in all cases is 80K to 120K.

Nicola is not keen on fantasy or paranormal, and doesn’t publish YA. She loves a good Scots historical!

Please note: those who are successful in getting a pitch slot with Nicola Robinson will need to submit a blurb and first chapter (2500 words max) by 1 July to the pitch coordinator pitch@romanceaustralia.com.