Guest Post by Maria C. Palmer
About a month ago, I quit my day job to devote 100% of my energy to finishing my book and book proposal. For someone accustomed to working away from home a minimum of 60 hours a week with little free time, this meant quite a change of lifestyle. I still remember the first day I woke up and didn’t have to go to work. I realized my life was transforming–I’d stopped doing what I knew how to do and starting doing what I’ve always wanted to do: WRITE–a BIG leap of faith.
However, I am not navigating alone. I am truly blessed to work with my amazing writing coach Lisa Tener. Lisa had suggested that I go to the Meet the Agents session at the International Women’s Writing Guild in NYC and pitch my memoir to literary agents. When she first mentioned it, I felt considerable doubts and my anxiety almost got the best of me. Was I ready? What would I say? What if I choked? What if…(insert outlandish thought here)?
After some discernment, I decided to give it a try and I am glad I did. Not only did I meet amazing people at the conference, but I also generated substantial interest. All three agents I spoke to were interested in seeing my proposal and/or sample chapters. And two of them had specific ideas for additional books they’d like to see me write.
Lisa helped me prepare for the conference, answering my questions, making suggestions, even having me role play and giving me feedback on my pitch. All of this preparation helped me get such positive results in pitching my book to literary agents.
Here are my tips for making the most of a writing conference and, in particular, how to pitch agents at a writers’ conference:
1. Do your homework. Find out as much as possible about the literary agents who will be attending. What are they looking for? What have they sold? If your book doesn’t fit into these categories, don’t waste your time or theirs.
2. Less is more. Focus on your top three agents. I observed two approaches: authors who signed up to see every agent at the conference and authors who targeted their searches. You can guess which group had more success.
3. Prepare, prepare and prepare more. Work on your book pitch and practice on others. The literary agents will be hearing many pitches this day so you have to find a way to be different. Lisa had me start with a dramatic part of the story and book hook and then follow with why I should be writing this.
4. Arrive early. Lisa advised me to arrive early and I was so glad I did: At IWWG, sign ups are well before the start time and the folks that arrived early got to meet with their top choices.
5. Maximize your time. If you can help it, try not to sign up for back-to-back appointments. If your appointment runs late, you will miss your next appointment.
6. Smile and relax. You’ve done your homework. The pitch should be conversational. Even if you don’t get a yes, the agents will give you some helpful tips on what they would like to see. This is a great time to get feedback.
7. Don’t leave your luggage. Lisa warned me ahead of time not to bring my book proposal–imagine agents lugging around 60 proposals at the end of the conference! Print up business cards with your information, your book name and a short log line. This is all the agents will want to take from you.
8. Have fun. In addition to meeting with potential agents, you will meet other amazing authors while you are sitting around waiting to pitch. I found this to be an incredibly inspiring experience.
Share your own tips or questions below. (Lisa is happy to answer questions on this post).