Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meeting an Agent at a Conference

Will you be presenting any workshops at the RWA conference this summer?

If I saw you there and if (Big BIG IF) I had the confidance to approach you, can you give any do's and don'ts? (I imagine squeeling and pointing are a big no no.)

Can you recommend an opening line we could offer you to get the dialogue going?

Unfortunately I was not chosen to present workshops this year, which is a bummer for me because I LOVE presenting workshops. However, I will be at RWA and wandering around the hotel, and I always look forward to meeting authors, readers, and other industry professionals.

Here are some of my tips on how to approach agents, editors, or even other authors in a conference setting.

1. Do introduce yourself. Remember, we're all people too and love meeting authors, fans, readers, and generally other people. There's nothing to be nervous about.

2. Don't interrupt a conversation, especially if the agent, author, etc., is sitting down clearly talking with someone. Recently I was at a conference where people regularly came up to interrupt agent/author meetings. It was shocking really. One woman even wanted to sit at the table with us and became angry when we explained we were having a meeting.

3. Do feel free to wait for the agent to finish the conversation.

4. Don't hover. If you choose to wait, wait far, far back. Sit at another table or move to the side, but don't stand and stare. Just be patient.

5. Do just walk up and introduce yourself. Say hello, ask how the conference is going, discuss the author's latest release, or your favorite book. Discuss the agent's most recent blog post or a client you're a fan of. Or just ask how the conference is going.

6. Don't pitch. You can make a lot more headway by just talking to an agent, having a conversation, than you can pitching. At the end ask if the agent would mind if you send your material, but don't turn every introduction into a pitch. It starts to make us feel like machines and we like being people.

7. Do have fun. Because that's what it's all about.



Sally MacKenzie said...

I had to laugh at Jessica's first point--that we all love meeting people. I'm an author, not an agent, and I DO love meeting people, but I'm also an introvert (though I must be a good actor because even my husband doubts this). So while I do want to meet new folks--I often force myself to get out of my comfort zone and sit at a table during the lunch with people I don't know--I'm probably mildly freaked out most of the time and likely won't remember anyone's name--even my own by the end of the conference.

Waiting in line is a good time to make small talk with new people. I actually crossed one agent off my list this way. After a very brief chat while we were waiting to get into the room for lunch--I don't remember what we talked about but it was not my book or writing--I had serious doubts as to whether she had a sense of humor. I don't remember her smiling once! Obviously we would not have been a good match.

Anonymous said...

Great. Thank you.

trump said...

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Donna K. Weaver said...

Funny how much of that is just common courtesy and not so common sense.

Robena Grant said...

I remember running into you in a hallway, somewhere, maybe in San Francisco? I introduced myself and then raved on about you not being as tall as I'd thought you'd be. *Slaps her forehead* Did I pitch? Nope. So I have no clue what I said, but I do recall you were nice. : )

Anonymous said...

I've heard flirting a little helps, too.

The Cardboard Crafter said...

I'm so bad with names, if I went to a conference, I'd probably recognize your face but be afraid to introduce myself because for the life of me, I wouldn't be able to recall your name. (Sometimes I have trouble recalling the names of the characters in my writing if I leave it for a day or two... bad stuff, lol)

JP Kurzitza said...

Good tips. I have a tendency to sometimes shove my size 11s into my pie-hole.

Thank you. This should help.

essays said...

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sharon Bially said...

Saw this on the Writer Unboxed page and headed right over. Good, simple and intuitive advice, BUT -- not as easy in practice. I've noticed agents often have a crowd of people hovering around them, so all good intentions aside, it's not that easy at all. Often these people include their own clients, whom they need to catch up with and spend some time with, too, which complicates things.

One interesting alternative I've seen is at Grub Street conferences, where participants can pay an extra $50 to sit at a table with a few agents at lunch.

Thanks for the post!

sharon bially said...

PS - Meant to ask this, too: since agents like meeting new folks, too, why do so few (if any?) follow back writers on Twitter? I realize it's not at all the same as face-to-face, but in this day and age, it's often the closest there is!

Sally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally said...

I didn't read anything about NOT confronting an agent in the restroom...I would never think of doing that, although I have heard that it happens.

Thanks for the tips!