I often recommend my clients attend the International Women’s Writing Guild’s Big Apple Conference, specifically for the “Meet the Agents” portion of the program. It offers a terrific opportunity to hear a variety of literary agents share the types of books they are interested in and then pitch your book in 3 minutes or less.
A client recently sent some great questions and I thought they’d be valuable to anyone who wants to learn how to get published by a traditional publisher and get a book deal. Here, then, are her questions and my answers:
1.What should I bring with me? I was thinking of bringing a short pitch and possibly printing out some cards with my contact info and the book info.
Bring business cards. You’ll want to give them to agents and also to other people you meet on line or in the audience. Don’t bring your proposal. An agent does not want to lug any of your stuff home with them. Send that to their office the next day by e-mail or mail (ask them which they prefer).
2. How can I prepare for this? I know that I can do research on each of the agents to see who is a match, but do you suggest I do other prep work?
Research is always helpful and may be necessary for some conferences, but at the IWWG conference the agents will each speak about the types of books they are looking for and their particular interest. The only prep work is to practice your 3 minute pitch.
3. What can I expect as far as layout? Do each of the agents give a talk in a classroom setting and then there is a meet and greet? Or, is it more like a trade show where everyone is at a booth/table and you just walk up and approach them? Or, do they approach you? Or, is it a total free-for-all?
At the IWWG in particular, agents will speak from the stage. In the past, attendees would then form lines behind the agents they most wanted to speak to. Sometimes the agents remained on the stage and other years they were scattered throughout the venue at that point.
4. Are there a known list of do’s and don’ts when talking with agents? Specifically are there things that I definitely should avoid saying and/or things that I definitely need to emphasize? Do I hand people my pitch and then talk or vice versa? Do I only give people my pitch if they seem interested? Are there appropriate ways to follow up after (i.e. a quick e-mail note, etc.)?
You’ll speak your pitch, not give it to them.
* Do line up behind your first choice agent at the IWWG. You may not have a chance to speak to more than one or 2, so prioritize.
* Do make eye contact.
* Do say your name and include the book title, hook and market, as well as mentioning the high points of your platform.
* Do pause so they can ask you questions.
* Do breathe!
* Do smile.
* Don’t talk too fast–slow down.
* If they are not interested, feel free to ask if they have advice for how you can make your book more marketable. Their feedback can help you perfect your pitch and proposal and improve your chances.
5. Are there appropriate ways to follow up after (i.e. a quick e-mail note, etc.)?
Ideally, your book proposal will be ready to go when you return from the event. Send it with a short cover letter in whatever way the agent indicated (e-mail or US mail).
If your proposal won’t be ready to send right away, let the agent know that when you are pitching.
6. Anything else?
Enjoy yourself and let your passion for your subject and your book shine through.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.