Have you ever gone to a writer’s conference and attended an agent meeting? I rarely get nervous. Seriously? Even at job interviews – they either like me or they don’t. I’m cool and collected.
But I’ll be honest, my first and even my second agent meetings were the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. Those five to ten minute meetings were a disaster. If that’s how people feel when they go to job interviews – egads! Let me add – the group agent meeting was even worse! So, I got to thinking, ‘why am I such a wreck when it comes to agent meetings?’
Agent meetings are an incredible opportunity to sell my novel with excitement and show my professionalism and experience. I represent ‘me’ as an author and a person. I’m convincing them they ‘would’ love to work with me as an author.
As we get older and have more experience, the more confident and relaxed we are. It’s the simple truth. Putting pressure on yourself before these meetings just doesn’t help a thing. Your whole future does not depend on this one meeting – there are other agents. Just tell yourself that.
The key to any meeting; be prepared and you’ll come across skilled, qualified and professional. So what are some things you can do ahead of time so you can show up for your meeting exited and ready?
1. Know the genre you’re pitching - You should know everything there is to know about the genre you write. It’s important to know where your book fits in today’s market. Where will it fit on the bookshelf? If your book fits in several genres, it still must fit on the shelf somewhere. You know your book the best, so know your audience and pitch it with confidence.
I don’t advise you to say, “This book fits in three different genres, I thought I’d let you decide where it will fit.” That won’t get you an agent. Know you genre, support your genre, and pitch that genre.
2. Jump to the summary – not the details – You only have five to ten minutes to pitch your book. That’s really not all that long. Don’t get caught up ‘setting-up’ the story. Jump right into the plot (you don’t have time for an intricate plot), the characters, their relationship to each other, and the plot, the purpose of the story, and what is learned or solved at the end.
Think about the back of the book jacket. That paragraph or two determines whether you’re ‘hooked’ and want to read the book. The pitch to an agent is exactly the same thing . . . with an added plus of personality. Share your story high-points and remember to show your love and excitement. You show passion for your story and the agent will know you wrote it with passion.
Now for the best advice I’m going to give here – practice. Write down what you’re going to say, time it, and practice - practice – practice. Keep practicing until you can say your five minute pitch without glancing at your notes . . . and then practice it some more. And remember, there is nothing wrong with taking your notes with you… just don’t go decide you can just read it. You are a professional – be prepared and knowledgeable. Act like you’ve done this a thousand times.
3. Make the most of this opportunity - Keep in mind not only are you representing your work and ‘you’ at this meeting – this is your time to ‘decide’ if this is an agent you want to work with. Ask questions about the agency, the market and where they fit into it, and anything else you want to know.
4. It doesn’t end there - Write down exactly what an agent asks from you at the meeting. This just might be the beginning, but it will be the end if you don’t follow-up after you get home. If he/she asked for material, get it in the mail as soon as you possibly can. In your cover letter remind him/her who you are, where you met, and what exactly they asked for.
5. Relax and enjoy the experience – Again, a reminder to enjoy yourself. Soak up the experience and learn from it. If your pitch didn’t work out as you planned, think about what you could have done better. Write it down for the next agent meeting.