Recovering from a Meeting Misstep
Blogger: Mary Keeley
Several comments on my blog post last week, “How To Prepare for An Agent Interview,” referenced a fear of botching your meeting with an agent or editor. So this week I have four tips for recovering after a misstep. We’ve all done it. We say or do something that comes across all wrong. Or your deer-in-the-headlights eyes betray that you don’t know as much as you thought you did. Don’t be too hard on yourself because it won’t be the end of the world. Only in extreme cases would a single faux pas mean the end of a writing career.
These tips will help you to know what to do if and when you slip up. Then you can use the experience to grow your thick skin that every author needs throughout your writing career. The type that leaves you wiser and preserves your confidence.
First, decide if your perceived misstep is worth worrying about.
Maybe you’re imagining your gaffe was more serious than it really was. Talk it over with your agent or a writer friend you trust to give you honest feedback.
Apologize right away in your meeting.
When you make a mistake in an interview, a simple apology shows honesty and willingness to own your blunder. Having participated in countless interviews and pitch meetings, agents can spot a cover-up attempt right away. It triggers a flashing warning light about the writer and only makes matters worse.
Besides, agents always fact-check writers we’re interested in, and embellishments or undisclosed information will be uncovered. We have to do this because we need to be sure our projected time with a potential client will be well invested. Sometimes it’s a long time before we reap a financial return.
Feel free to stop and apologize in the middle of your meeting if you got off on the wrong foot. Take a deep breath, explain your nervousness, and then pick up where you left off. Most agents who see you recover this well will dismiss the earlier nerves.
Be yourself and project confidence in your next meeting.
Be yourself. It’s key to projecting confidence. It relieves unnecessary stress worrying that you’ll inadvertently reveal a crack in your façade. Avoid the tendency to talk a mile a minute due to your discomfort with lulls in the conversation. This invites missteps, because your brain can’t keep up with your mouth under stressful conditions. You will end up rattled and certainly not reflecting confidence. Agents appreciate a momentary lull because it allows time to process what you have told us up to that point.
In addition to hearing about your book, agents are formulating a gut-level first impression of you: This writer looks like she’s trying to be something she is not. I wish I could see the real person. Or, this writer is comfortable and prepared. Inwardly most agents are rooting for you and want to help you to be your confident best. After all, we’ve been there too. Agents are the ones pitching clients’ proposals to publishers. Editors are the ones pitching authors’ projects to their pub board. We understand what it’s like on your side of the table.
Mishaps can be prevented when you are at ease. Your thinking is clearer, and you can process what the agent or editor is saying to you better. You put yourself in the best shape to be relaxed when you prepare thoroughly using steps like those I outlined last week and pray for God’s peace and confidence in his plan.
When did you make a misstep in a meeting with an agent? What did you do to recover? What do you do to relax before an important meeting? Do you have a tip to add to the list?
Follow these tips to regain your confidence after a botched meeting with a literary agent. Click to Tweet.