literary agents

Literary Agents #3: How To Pitch An Agent (Tips on Writing Tuesday #8)

In the first part of this series, we talked about what you should know about literary agents (hint: they are regular, everyday people!).  In the second part, we discussed why it would be a very good idea to pitch an agent in person.

Today, we will talk about how to pitch an agent.

1) Know What Your End Goal Is

Knowing how you are approaching the pitch and being comfortable with your decision will go a long way.  If you are shaking the agents hand and still don’t have a clue what direction you want to go, then you have a problem.

If your manuscript is ready and you are looking for representation, that’s wonderful.  If your end goal is to just get practice, network, and get feedback, that’s awesome, too – just make sure the agent knows.  Don’t try to pretend your book is done, when it’s not.

2) Dress Professional and Be Professional

The agent-author relationship is a business.  So if given the option of dealing with high-maintenance authors who have no idea how the business side publishing works, or working with writers who understand what it means to be prompt, courteous, easy-to-work with and NOT crazy…I’ll let you guess which author the agent will go with.

3) Use Your Time Wisely (aka The Anatomy of the Pitch)

Most conferences will allow anywhere from 7-10 minutes of time for you and the agent.  You want to take advantage of ALL of it.  You are in charge of the pitch, so knowing how to use your time is crucial.  In my experience, the pitch comes down to the three main parts: the intro, the pitch, the question and answer.

The intro should take no more than 30 seconds (maybe a minute if your agent seems especially friendly).  “Hello, my name is…nice to meet you…how are you enjoying the conference?  You can even ask about any new acquisitions they have or how a recent release is doing.  Doing so lets them know you have done your homework.  Smile and be friendly!

Then you go right into the pitch.  Tell the genre and word count of the book you are pitching and then give the pitch line – that one sentence that describes your story: “My book is James Bond meets vampires” or “My story is Joan of Arc meets Game of Thrones”.  You get the point.  Whatever it is, make it true and make it grab their attention.  Then go into the actual pitch.

The actual pitch of your book should be between 1 and 2 minutes long.  That’s it, no more.  Only a few main characters need to be mentioned.  What’s the protagonist want, how are they trying to get it and what/who is keeping them from it?  What is the conflict?

When you are done with the pitch…stop talking.  No, really, don’t say anything else.  Over and over again the one area where an author hijacks a perfectly good pitch is they don’t stop talking and walk themselves over a cliff.  Practice the pitch, say it, and then shutup:-)

You have just told the agent about your baby; the story you have been toiling over.  Let them ask you a question.  And then another…and then another.  When the questions come, keep your answers short and sweet and to the point, avoiding side tangents.  If you have done your job with the pitch, then the agent will have questions about the conflict, other characters, setting, etc.  Remember, you want it to be a conversation.

4) How to End the Pitch

When the time is up usually one of two things will happen: they will give you a card and tell you they want to see some or all of the manuscript, or they will shake your hand and think you for the visit.

If they want to see more of your work, take the card, thank them with a smile, and tell them you look forward to sending it and will be in touch shortly.  You can skip and jump and shout after you are out of their earshot.  If they don’t give you a card, still shake their hand, say thank you for their time, and walk away, grateful for the opportunity to grow as a writer.

Whether you feel the meeting was positive or negative, write your feelings about the experience as soon as possible.  What went well, what didn’t, what can you improve for the next experience you have with an agent?  Were there questions the agent had that you didn’t have answers too?  Learn from the experience!

What experiences have you had with agents at pitch sessions?  I would love to know!


Literary Agents #2: Why You Should Pitch an Agent (Tips on Writing Tuesday #7)

Last week I shared my experiences meeting agents over the past few months and the amazing conclusion that (gasp) they are people!

No, really, they are.

Today I want to talk about the other half of my experience: pitching an agent.

Literary agents want to find writers to represent.  They want to find that story that blows them away and gets them excited.  How do they find those stories?  One of two ways.

Either you query an agent through email/snail-mail following specified guidelines on their website or you “pitch” an agent at a writer’s conference.  A “pitch” is basically querying an agent, except it’s in person.

Today, we’re going to focus on the pitch.
As I mentioned before, I have had the chance to meet multiple agents in the last few months.  At both of the conferences I attended I took advantage of the opportunity to pitch my current novel – MAIDEN – to two different agents.
Was I scared?  You bet!
Did I survive?  Yes!
Did I learn a TON?  I learned a whole lot of TON! That’s why I want to pass it on.
Three reasons why you should pitch an agent:
1) Learn How to Present Yourself and Your Product 

The publishing world is a business, it’s that simple.  All writers got into writing because they love to write (mostly)…a good portion of writers are scared to death of the business side of things.  Either they don’t know or don’t care about marketing.  But, you need to care about marketing, at least enough to know how to present you and your story.

The more experience you get going to conferences, interacting with professionals, and pitching agents, you have no other option BUT to gain more experience.  When you pitch agents (or anybody really) you find out very quickly how you are doing in prepping your product for the marketing world.

2) Learn How to Improve Your Story

As I mentioned last week, finding an agent is like speed dating – I’m still seeking an agent myself – and the more agents you interact with

3) Learn What Type of Agent is Right For You

Find out the type of agent that is right for you – As a writer, I still personally do not have an agent (sigh), but…I definetely have a better understanding of the type of agent I want to work with.  “What?” you say!  “I’ll take any agent…it’s been my lifelong dream!”

Come back for the last post, part 3…Literary Agents: How to Pitch an Agent

Have you ever pitched a literary agent?  What was your experience?

Literary Agents #1: What You Should Know About Them (Tips on Writing Tuesday #6)

You’ve got your novel ready.  You have written, rewritten, revised, edited, lost sleep, written and written some more.  Beta-reader after beta-reader has torn it apart and you have made the appropriate changes.  Is your manuscript perfect?  Probably not, but it’s as good as it’s going to get.
Now what?
You are either going to self-publish or try to get picked up and published traditionally.  If you are planning to get picked up traditionally, most likely you are going to try to get an agent to represent you. 
What kind of agent do I want?
How do I get one?
Will they even know I exist?
I want to share with you some of the experiences I have had over the last few months as I have a) been researching agents and b) interacting with agents at local writing conferences I have attended.
The very best way to sum up the whole process of trying to get an agent was said by Rachel Dugas, a literary agent for Talcott-Notch, who said these wise words at Hampton Roads Writers Conference in September, “Trying to get an agent is like speed dating.”
Say whuuuu?
I can tell you she meant it figuratively, because the moment you send an agent flowers, you have taken a step backward:-)
No, what she meant was that, just as in speed dating, when you are trying to find an agent it’s all about making the right connection with the right agent.  There is not just one agent out there for every writer.
I repeat, it’s important to make connections with the right agent.  And believe it or not, those same agents are out looking to make the same connection with you.
“Are agents really interested in making a connection with me?” you ask.  
Question: How do you think agents make a living?
Answer: By building long-term, professional relationships with writers they feel they can represent.  
That means YOU!  That means right now, this minute, there is an agent out there who wants to work with you, now you just have to find them (which, I admit, is the tricky part).
But the first thing you have to remember is that they are people, just like you and me.  Just like you want to find the right agent to represent your book – your baby – they want to find that story that they can fall in love with and they can share with the world.
You don’t have to be scared when you talk to them and you don’t have to be nervous and you don’t have to hope that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime.  
You DO have to be professional and you DO have to do your homework.  If a particular agent isn’t right for you, more often than not they are going to give you positive feedback to help you improve your work so it’s even better for the next agent that you approach.
As I mentioned, in the past six weeks I have talked to a total of five literary agents (and one editor) and every single one of them was approachable, willing to answer questions, and wonderful to work with.  They were regular, everyday people that I was able to have a professional conversation with.
You can too!
To find out more about the agents that are out there, try some of the sites listed below:
To find out more about some of the conferences that may be in your area where you can talk to an agent face-to-face, try some of these resources: 
Do any of you readers have experiences with literary agents at writing conferences?  I would love to hear about them!