Blogger: Mary Keeley
Next week I’ll be at Book Expo America (BEA) in Chicago. This annual trade show is the general market’s equivalent of the Christian market’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). BEA is the largest book and author publishing event in North America. Both of these shows are energizing and stressful, but they are great places for agents to meet with a multitude of editors under one roof. Kind of like writers conferences are for writers when they understand that agents are not to be feared.
Conferences are energizing because they’re beehives of activity with all kinds of potential. If you think agents always breeze in to these events cool, calm and collected, let me correct your impression. Like you, we spend weeks planning presentations and scheduling meetings, while trying to keep up with daily schedules.
AGENTS UNDERSTAND you are probably sleep deprived, squeezing conference preparation into an already full life. We’re rooting for you from the other side of the appointment table, not only because we hope to discover a fabulous new writer with the next-big-thing proposal, but also because we genuinely respect writers and appreciate your passion and hard work.
It’s possible to spend so much time on your proposal and presentation materials that you forget to prepare you. Here are a few practical tips I learned years ago. They’ll help you prepare yourself so you can do your best presenting your proposal, because you are a reflection on your work:
- Begin preparing well in advance of the conference. You never know what interruptions might arise in the last weeks before the conference that require top priority. Avoid the mental and emotional stress by being prepared early.
- Get plenty of sleep the week before the conference. Conferences are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. If you arrive tired, it will only get worse. That isn’t a recipe for best results in your agent appointments.
- Plan your wardrobe early. Last-minute, haphazard choices will result in a last-minute, haphazard appearance. Neat, well-groomed appearance matters. You’re in a business setting.
- Practice your pitch in the mirror. The natural tendency will be to talk too fast so you can get through quickly and be done with it. Practice it several times a day until you can say it smoothly, at a reasonable pace, and with muscles relaxed.
- Time your pitch. In a 15-minute appointment allow a minute for beginning introductions and two minutes at the end for the agent to give feedback and instructions. That leaves 12 minutes to talk about your book, what makes it stand out from others like it, your platform, and a brief summary of your writing experience.
- If you start off poorly in your appointment, apologize quickly and begin again. A simple apology shows honesty and willingness to own your blunder, rather than trying to cover it up. When I see a writer do this well, it impresses me and I remember it.
- Practice confidence. Have you heard the phrase, Fake it till you make it? As you practice saying your pitch in the mirror, give attention to your posture. Stand or sit up straight. Correct slumped shoulders and stressed facial expressions. Keep you hands from fidgeting. Use direct eye contact. Practice a firm handshake with a friend. When you see confidence reflecting back at you from the mirror, you’ll begin to feel it internally.
AGENTS. EDITORS. WRITERS. WE’RE ALL IN THIS BUSINESS TOGETHER, AND WE ALL WANT TO SUCCEED. You might not receive the feedback you hoped for, but agents are not to be feared. Most will offer you constructive comments because they sincerely want to help you grow as a writer.
Do you feel less intimidated about agents after reading this post? Tell us about a memorable pitch session you had with an agent or in-depth feedback you received from an agent in response to your submission. (No names, please).
A reminder that agents are not to be feared. They root for you to do well in your pitch appointment. Click to Tweet.
An agent shares tips to help writers do their best in pitch appointments at conference. Click to Tweet.