Friday, April 9, 2010

5 Lessons from my Agent Appointment

I had my very first agent appointment at the GLVWG conference at the end of March. I scored time with Michelle Humphreys, an agent with the Martha Kaplan Agency. Since this was a little bit different than most professional meetings I’m used to, I had to get a little bit of a game plan together before I went in for my appointment.

Be professional, but friendly and upbeat. My appointment was the last item on my schedule for the day, so this meant I was Michelle’s last appointment of the day, as well. It didn’t matter—I’ve gone into enough business meetings to know that no matter what time you’re scheduled, you have to act like this is the first thing you’ve done all day. I can’t imagine how jam-packed Michelle’s schedule must have been (there were nearly 200 attendees and only about 4-5 agents), but she was upbeat, as nice as could be, and most importantly, interested in what I had to say, which was a great sign. I tried to match her friendly, easygoing tone and hoped my nerves didn’t show (but just in case, I told her flat out that I was really nervous!)

Keep it short. I was only given a 10 minute slot for my pitch, so I had to keep it short and sweet. No problem there. I saw many folks with note cards and even heard a few practicing their pitch. Not a bad idea, especially for a manuscript with several characters or plot twists.

Talk about yourself (a little). I just reminded myself that Michelle was a professional, yes, but if things went well, we might be working a bit closely together, so I saw no harm in talking about myself a bit. She asked me about my other writing projects and we talked a little bit about the area where I live. She was super sweet and friendly, which went a long way toward putting me at ease.

Have more to pitch. Once I got through my initial spiel, I was encouraged when she asked me if I’m working on anything else. Unfortunately, the first response that came out of my mouth was a project I’d just been talking about with my friend Jodi on the way to the conference—a bit of an experimental work that I know would probably not be a huge bestseller. I completely blanked on any information about another idea that’s been stewing in my mind for a few weeks—an idea that would probably be much more marketable and successful and would no doubt have held her interest, giving me two projects to send her way. Oh well—I’ll have to remember to include that in my query.

Leave the manuscript at home. To be honest, the agents don’t feel like lugging around dozens of manuscripts even more than the authors don’t feel like lugging them to the conference in the first place. So make it easier on everyone and stick to emailing what the agent suggests—leave the 700 pages at home and just work on polishing a stellar pitch that will make the agent immediately excited about your project!

Any other advice for meeting with industry pros?

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