Blogger: Mary Keeley
If you have yet to experience a meeting with an agent at a conference, or if you’ve had several but came away with regrets on your performance, you need to invest in some careful preparation. Follow along on this mock meeting and read my inner thoughts during a 15-minute meeting with a writer.
But first, a guideline. If your debut novel isn’t completed, it’s best to wait until it is finished and polished before scheduling an agent appointment. Nonfiction authors may be tempted to pitch their book as soon as it’s written, but if your platform is weak, you won’t serve your purpose to get an agent’s or editor’s interest until your name recognition is established as an authority on your topic over a broad audience base through speaking, published articles, and a strong social media following.
Publishing houses pay the travel expenses for their editors to attend conferences and connect with writers. Editors may be willing to meet with an attendee whose goal is to learn about the process or get some advice on his WIP. Agents, however, are independent contractors, which means they pay their own expenses. As a general rule, without a finished manuscript, it’s better to pick an agent’s brain at lunch or dinner or during breaks. They want their appointment schedule filled with attendees who are ready for representation.
Now, here comes my next appointment. The following are the basic questions I ask in one of these meetings.
Welcome. I’m happy to meet you. In a sentence or two, tell me a little about yourself. Note to self: friendly handshake, direct eye contact, nice relaxed smile, seems confident, prepared.
When did you decide you want to be a writer, and how have you learned your craft? Note: She’s ready with an answer, belongs to a critique group, mentioned books on craft she has read. I see her eyes light up. So far, so good.
Thirteen minutes left.
Do you have a one-sheet for your current project? Good, she knows what that is and hands me her one-page pitch for her book. Nice layout, not too crowded, easy-to-read nuggets for my quick read. Intriguing hook. I understand the primary points from her succinct description.
Tell me about your book and how you came to write it. I note her passion and excitement as she begins her elevator pitch. It sounds marketable. I’m interested in hearing more. She continues. Good, she isn’t getting bogged down in too much detail, which I couldn’t possibly follow since I haven’t read any samples yet. She’s hitting on the main points as they flow in her book. Obviously, she has spent plenty of time practicing. I’m impressed with her and decide to ask if she brought a copy of the first five pages. She easily thumbs through her bag and produces a hard copy of chapter one. The first page draws me in. I look at my watch.
One minute left.
I’d like to see a formal proposal and the first three chapters of your book. Here is my business card. Her easy smile broadens as she stands and shakes my hand, and I write on the hard copy: “Promising!”
Pitch complete and ended on time.
What main points did you draw from this fly-on-the-wall observation? What do you need to work on to be prepared for your next 15-minute meeting with an agent? What made your best agent meeting a good one?
Did you ever wonder what the agent is thinking during your 15-minute meeting at a conference? Click to Tweet.
Practice makes for a successful author-agent meeting at a conference. Click to Tweet.
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