In two weeks I will attend my first writer's conference. One of my goals is to network and hopefully get an agent to consider representing my book. Once at the conference, how do I approach an agent? How do I catch their attention without chasing them away?
I've searched for advice on the internet (links included below), and here's a quick compilation of what I've learned.
First off, it appears that (reputable) agents usually come to these conferences announced. What this means in my case is that the three agents I list in Part 1 are the only agents I can plan on being there. Other agents may be "preditors". (That's "predator" + "editors" - something I'll explore in a later blog.)
Since I've signed up for the Manuscript Mart, I don't have to worry about a cold-call approach. I'll get to talk to an agent for about 25 minutes. I have an appointment to meet with Daniel Lazar. I've already sent the first 20 pages of my novel, a synopsis, and a sample query letter. The purpose of the session (what I'm paying for) is for me to pitch the novel, and for Daniel to critique it.
There's also a chance that he may decide that his agency, Writers House, would want to represent me. If Daniel doesn't do science fiction, perhaps he'll refer me to one of his colleagues. Then I would follow up with a query letter to his colleague. Though, if I go in there and flub the pitch, this extra stuff won't happen. I'll get the critique - and that'll be it.
I'll have to prepare my verbal pitch. This is going to be very difficult, because: #1) I'm an introvert; #2) I'm not a salesman; #3) I hate hearing myself speak. But in the same vein, I know that most writers are just like me. If they can overcome these shortcomings, then so can I.
I need to act natural - start off with some small talk. Try to talk about the agent, and not about my own life history. That means I'm going to have to do a little more research on Daniel and his agency.
Don't act desperate - agents hate that. I think I have this one handled - as I know that if the agent thing doesn't work out at first, I can continue on without an agent until I find one. See more about this in Part 2.
Be thankful for the time the agent spends listening to me - even if he bashes my pitch and my dreams into smithereens. Whatever happens in the session, I'll learn something - and in 25 minutes, Daniel will tell me something I can use to increase my chances of finding a publisher or an agent.
The main verbal pitch itself needs to be short - something like one or two sentences. It should cover the overall gist of the story without all the plot details. Then if the agent asks questions, I give more details. Again - each answer needs to be short. I should be prepared to answer what books are similar to mine. What makes my book different? Why would people want to read it? If I believe in my book, then the pitch will sell itself.
Also, I will keep my eye open for any other opportunities that arise. Perhaps other reputable agents will come unannounced. Perhaps I'll strike up a conversation with the other two "announced" agents. I could talk with Quinlan Lee about my future children's book plans and ask for advice. Or I could talk to Sally Hill McMillan about Southern literature (something I don't really do, but would love to hear about that market). Or I could skip the agents and directly approach editors, such as Kevin Watson and ask him about local opportunities.
Whatever happens, I need to have fun. I'll still learn from the other conference sessions. I'll meet other writers. I'll exchange plenty of business cards. I'm only just now beginning this "Hello world" thing, and whatever happens, I know that I'll keep pushing forward.
Wish me luck - and I'll let you know in two weeks how it went.
PS: Here are those articles.
How to Pitch Your Book at a Writing Conference
Networking and Promotion Through Writers' Conferences
How To Approach a Literary Agent In-Person
How to Turn Off an Agent
The Writers Conference Pitch