Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If You Were the Agent

Put yourself in an agent's shoes at a conference. People treat you in one of the following ways:
  • They dodge you, fearful of your power;
  • They sneak looks at you, as if you'll make some grand decision and they'll catch a glimpse of history in the making;
  • They'll smother you with attention, as if you've known each other for twenty years, sometimes never mentioning a book proposal at all (i.e., groupie);
  • They'll apologize, then apologize again, as they try to pitch their book, the interruptions and nervous twitches disrupting any chance of delivery;
  • They'll catch you in the bathroom/restaurant/front desk/bar and ask if they can have a moment of your time then take a half hour;
  • They'll make their pitch in a sterile manner, then appear glad to escape;
  • They'll make light conversation, offer a subtle pitch, then thank you for your time.
I'm sure there are other interactions at play during these events, but the point is no one sees himself as the pain in the butt, the prima dona, or the tongue-tied wall flower. If you were an agent, how would you like to be approached? There is no perfect way, simply because agents have personalities, too. Some are gregarious, others are demure, and others simply get down to business.

When you entertain pitching an agent at a conference, loosen up. Here are some suggestions:
  • Don't corner an agent in any situation you would not like to be cornered in her stead.
  • Have a genuine conversation with her, as if she were a regular human being. Open with talk about her dress, her presentation, her blog, her most recent deal on PublishersMarketplace. Oops, that means do your homework about her before the conference, doesn't it?
  • Don't thrust a business card, query letter or manuscript at her. Wait until you are asked. If you aren't honored with such a request, ask in a subtle manner if you can offer her your card or query, just in case.
  • While you may have an elevator pitch, don't make it seem like one. Work it into the conversation. Just be able to talk your work in clear, concise sentences.
  • Believe it or not, an agent would like to be able to enjoy the human side of authors, not just the pitches. Be genuine. Be polite. Be professional. Be respectful. You just might be rewarded by a request for your book.


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Cheryl Barker said...

Hope, what helpful tips -- thanks! Will definitely be keeping these on hand.

Terry Odell said...

And no slipping your manuscript under the bathroom stall--unless perhaps she's said something about being out of toilet paper.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Mary Jo said...

Thanks, Hope! Going to a conference this weekend - very timely tips :)