agenting · querying

Pitching at Conferences

After my latest conference taking pitches from authors, I had some thoughts I wanted to share. Most queries to me end up as a rejection, and unfortunately that includes ones received from conferences. However that doesn’t mean pitching an agent can’t be worthwhile. For those who view agents as the scary gatekeepers, this is also your chance to see that we are real people too. And as an agent I enjoy getting the chance to talk to authors and hopefully be of some help. Publishing is a tough industry and I wish I could help more authors out, but my time is limited and my clients come first. Luckily I can give out tips on my blog!

In my experience a lot of people get nervous pitching face to face. The pitches usually aren’t as succinct as queries either. I tend to like to see the queries afterward because I don’t like to judge by a nervous pitch unless I know the overall concept definitely isn’t for me. My advice is don’t see that pitch to an agent as a make-or-break moment for your book and instead view it as an opportunity to practice pitching your work and getting to ask questions. Once you’re a published author you will get people asking what your book is about and if you can give a good pitch you might be able to convert curious people into future readers. You also may wind up in other networking positions where being able to pitch your book will help you.

Generally authors get ten minutes to pitch me and I like to be able to hear the pitch and then spend the remainder of the time discussing it and giving advice that might help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your project either. I really enjoy it when someone tells me they had a few questions they wanted an agent’s take on. It helps me feel like I’m helping them get the best value for their money and helping them prepare to query their project more widely.

Personally because I know how long the odds are of me finding a client from a conference (I can easily get 100 queries a month without a conference and that’s a lot to choose and sort through) I prefer to be able to give feedback outside of whether a project sounds like it is to my tastes or not. I like to use those pitch sessions to help make sure the author has no glaring issues like word count or genre issues that might hurt them when querying. Your project might not be for me but it could be right for another agent and I want to help you find them.

My advice before pitching an agent is to practice to help yourself feel more prepared. While you wait focus on something that helps calm you down but if you are feeling nervous don’t worry because we talk to nervous authors all the time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you just want to know how your genre is doing market wise right now. I know some agents have complained about this next one but I don’t’ mind when authors use note cards to help keep their pitch on track. I understand most authors don’t pitch for a living and may be brand new to it. Also don’t be afraid to make up business cards to hand out to agents you pitch or to other authors you’ve met. Having the card helps remind me of who you were since I can easily take pitches from over a dozen authors.

And my most important tip is to remember us agents aren’t there to judge you! We are hoping to find a new client and in the meantime give out useful feedback to those pitching us because we want to help.

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