Recently I attended the Maryland Writers’ Association Conference and met some wonderful aspiring authors. One thing many writers take advantage of at conferences is the agent pitch session, where you have the opportunity to discuss your material, gain advice and ask if they’d be willing to accept a submission. The only problem is that in many cases you have only ten minutes to explain to the agent who you are, what your project is about, and why your book will undoubtedly be a success. The following are some recommendations on how to make the most of your ten minutes with an agent:
Don’t bury the lead. Don’t hold off on boasting about how you’re considered an expert in your field, or about the awards you’ve won, or how well your recent interview with Ann Curry went. Agents often have back-to-back meetings scheduled and we meet a lot of people at these conferences, so you want to make sure you share all the information you have that would make you stand out from the crowd before your time is up.
Practice reciting a succinct synopsis of your work. You should not take this valuable time to share every single plot point or divulge information about each minor character in your novel. If your story is too complex to explain in less than ten minutes, then agents will lose confidence that they will in turn be able to convey to editors what the story is about. Same goes for non-fiction: your idea should not be so convoluted as to make it impossible to express what you’re writing about.
Do your research. It’s a good idea to know a little bit about the agent you’ll be meeting with before your pitch session. There’s no point in wasting your time talking about your self-help book if the agent you’re meeting with only represents fiction. It’s also a good idea to know what books their agency has represented in the past. I was impressed at the conference I attended at how many people had taken the time to check out our website before meeting with me.
Ask questions. Most conferences will have a variety of panels, lectures, and seminars to choose from that are aimed at guiding you through every stage of publication. But not everyone gets called on at the panels, and not every subject can be covered in the lectures, so you will most likely have some questions that will remain unanswered. Now is your chance to get these questions answered so don’t be shy!
Relax. If an agent has taken the time to attend a conference that means that they are eager to meet new authors and share their insider knowledge about the publishing industry. We are not there to criticize your work, we are there to give you honest and helpful answers and feedback.
Well, I guess my ten minutes is up. Do any of you have additional tips to share about attending pitch sessions with agents?