Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
It’s that time of year in which many of us are headed to writers’ conferences. I’ve noticed there are plenty of blog posts with tips for authors attending conferences… but for some reason, we never see advice for agents! I guess we’re supposed to know this stuff by osmosis or something.
So as we head into conference season, I wanted to remind myself of the important things I think about when I’m at a conference having one-on-one meetings with writers. Herewith, my notes for myself, i.e…
Top 10 tips for agents:
1. Dear agent, it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s not easy sitting through pitches one after the other. But the writer may have paid a lot of money to be at the conference, and they also used up their precious “agent meeting” slot on you. They’ve probably been thinking about this meeting for days or even weeks. They deserve your very best, even if it stretches you. Even if you’re tired.
2. Everything you say will have an impact on a new writer. Good or bad, it will stick with them. Choose words carefully.
3. Writers are getting conflicting advice from other agents, editors and workshops. Don’t berate them for doing something “wrong” like bringing a proposal. Or not bringing one. Give them credit for trying. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. This may the most vulnerable a writer has ever felt. This may be the first time they’ve brought their baby out to show the world. If their baby isn’t cute, find a nice way to say it.
5. Maintain a spirit of humility. Cultivate a servant mindset. Constantly ask yourself how you can serve the writer in front of you.
6. A smile goes a long way. Use it to make others feel comfortable.
7. Offer helpful advice. If you need to say, “It doesn’t sound like this project is for me,” then try to follow it up with, “but can I offer you some input?” Then you can give them some helpful advice, either about their project, about the market, or about their pitch.
8. Be kind. If you’re having a rough day… if you’re exhausted from teaching workshops and taking meetings one after the other… remember that a word of encouragement can help a writer, and a dismissive word can wound them—and come back to haunt you.
9. Represent the publishing industry well. You’re there to find good writers, but you’re also there as a representative of the publishing industry. You are comfortable there, while many writers are not. You have nothing at stake; they might feel like everything’s at stake. Treat them well and make us all look good.
10. Your next great client might be the person sitting across from you. Of course, this one’s not hard to remember. That’s why you’re here!
Treat writers as you’d like to be treated, and remember that your words will be remembered. Be nice, be helpful, and everybody wins.
Any more advice for agents and editors in pitch meetings?
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