Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Books & Such main office; Santa Rosa, Calif.
On Saturday, after a long day of appointments, I was waiting outside of the appointment rooms to introduce myself to an editor I had never met face-to-face. I love making these connections at conferences! We had spoken on the phone the week before and arranged to make a connection.
Unfortunately, two writers decided I was fair game for pitching because I was sitting there. Conference organizers always warn that you aren’t supposed to pitch to agents and editors in the bathroom, but hallway pitches are just about the same. I listened and had a little advice for both writers, but removed my name tag after the second writer walked away. I was practically brain dead after such a long day of appointments. I didn’t want anyone else to recognize me as an agent.
Now, I understand the writers paid a lot of money to attend the conference and they weren’t guaranteed an appointment with me. I understand their disappointment if they wanted to meet with me. But I was not in a receptive spot when they approached me and very tired.
My suggestion for those tempted to do the desperate hallway pitch (or airport pitch) is to instead email that editor or agent after the conference and explain you were unable to get an appointment, but ask if they would please take a careful look at your query letter.
You may or may not get a response, but I prefer this approach and I assume other agents and editors do as well.
Your other option is to sit with the editor or agent at a meal. I always ask the writers at my table what they’re writing and will pass out business cards. My lunch table the first day was not full, so there was opportunity for a few more writers to talk with me about their projects then.
I love it when people come up to introduce themselves to me, but pitching in that situation really is different.
I hope my suggestions help you for future conferences!
It’s got to be frustrating to have the pitching paparazzi lurking around every corner, especially if you’re supposed to be winding down, or have your head in the game for something else.
It’s a good point you make, because just like we would want agents to be feeling their best when they read our queries, we want them to be ready emotionally and mentally, for pitches as well.
Thanks for showing us wanna-be authors a perspective from the other side.
Even the lunch table pitches were awkward. It was very hard to hear in the room, plus the poor agent needs to eat. At least we knew that was an appropriate time to talk to an agent.
Hi Rachel ~ This is great information to know. I’m attending the Muse Online Writer’s Conference and wasn’t able to get a pitch time with a couple agents I’d hoped for. Maybe now I’ll have a second chance.
What a great reminder! Thank you for this. I agree introducing and pitching are two different situation. I hope you were able to meet with the editor that day.
I once witnessed an airport pitch. An exhausted editor was sitting by himself in a corner of the airport–probably the first time he’d had a moment to himself in days.
A conferee told me she hadn’t had a change to present her project to this editor and was going over to talk to him. I tried to talk her out of it, but the conferee ignored my advice.
The editor’s body language during their conversation told me her pitch was doomed. When she rejoined me, the conferee complained that the editor hadn’t really listened to her and didn’t express interest in her project. What did she expect?
Rachel, thank you for reminding us not to approach editors and agents in conference hallways. Great advice.
I have to admit things like this still surprise me. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve been sharing links from some of these articles at my writer’s blog. All writers should have this information.
The hallway pitch is the true sign of the newbie.
Me, I never attend a writers’ conference unless I’ve brought a lasso, grappling hook, and superglue. You just gotta be prepared 🙂
Janet Ann Collins
I originally thought writers pushing mss on editors and agents in bathrooms was just a story. How could anyone, especially a Christian, be so rude. But I’ve actually seen it happen at conferences. Come on, people, let’s have some manners!
Larry, I was taking a peek at the comments on Rachel’s post and had to laugh when I got to yours. Sounds like that’s good standard equipment for a writers conference. How has it worked for you so far?
When I’ve taught new writers, I’ve warned against the proverbial (albeit true-to-life) restroom pitch. Thanks for adding a new layer to my instruction (Rachel, not Larry–although I’d probably add a roll of duct tape to your list).
Conferences are exhausting for faculty as well as attendees. And you’re more than gracious to offer mealtimes as additional contact opportunities.
One more thing: love the new (?) head shot. So pretty!
Sounds like some writers become so frantic about being heard that they let eagerness overrule good manners and common sense. Perhaps my colleagues need to remember that they’re pitching both their project and themselves. If they create an impression of being pushy, rude, and self-centered, then who will think, “This is the type of author I want to work with”?
Sorry I missed meeting you there, Rachel, but I hope your positive moments outweighed the not-so-positive!
It works fairly well Janet, except for when people think I am there as a promotion for the new James Patterson or Tom Clancy novel 🙂
And I am happy to help Marti. There are just some things they don’t teach you in writers’ guides 🙂