View Full Version : Conference Questions

07-12-2007, 10:03 PM
I don't have a clue if this is the right place to post this. Mod-Feel free to move it.

I am going to the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association Conference in Seattle at the end of this month. I have two scheduled appointments; one is with an agent and one with an editor. The agent-time is 10 minutes.

So my questions about the agent time are;

1. What is the agent expecting me to present?
2. How should I prepare and what materials should I have with me? (book proposal, complete manuscript, etc.)

For the editor time, I am sharing a half-hour with four other writers. So my questions are;

1. What will that time be like? How is it structured?
2. And again-what materials should I have with me?

This is a first for me. I've been to conferences but I haven't had agent/editor time scheduled. Any hints or advice would be greatly appreciated!


aka eraser
07-13-2007, 04:30 AM
I've never attended one of these shindigs Lavinia so I'm not going to hazard a guess. This may do better in the Roundtable forum. How about I leave it here for a bit longer and if there's not much action, I'll port it over there tomorrow?

07-13-2007, 07:38 AM
I've never had editor time at a conference, so I'll skip that question. I have had agent time with several different agents.

You can do a quick, few minute (at most) pitch. Don't expect to spend the entire 10 min on your pitch. Leave time for the agent to ask questions. Don't give all the details of the plot (if fiction). Just the highlights. Think of what you might say if you've just seen a movie you adored and are trying to convince a friend that she HAS to see it.

For nonfiction, expect to give your platform at least equal time to the topic you're writing about.

If you only have one project to pitch and the agent isn't interested (or if you have more, but still have time at the end) ask her for feedback on your pitch and your project. Don't be defensive. Ask her with genuine interest, "OK. You're not interested. No problem. Do you think other agents might be?" "If not, why?" "Can you give me some feedback?" "What might I do to strengthen my pitch?" "What were the weak points?"

My attitude when I pitched agents was that I was paying for their time, not their interest. If they had no interest in my projects, that was fine (well, OK a little disappointing) but I still expected feedback for my money. It wasn't only about getting someone to request my proposal/ms. Spending 10 min with an agent can be priceless if you ask the right questions and she doesn't feel you're just trying to defend your project.

I would NOT bring pages to the session, it looks too desperate. If someone expresses interest and wants to read your stuff, ask if she would like it sent or if she would like you to get it to her before she leaves. (I remember reading that the vast majority would like it sent, as how many pitch sessions are they attending? They'd be over the weight limit on the flight back if they took everything home.)

Hope this is helpful. I'm sure others will have other opinions.

aka eraser
07-13-2007, 06:04 PM
Going away for the weekend so I'll port this over to the Roundtable now and see how it does over there.

Jersey Chick
07-13-2007, 06:08 PM
I'm seconding the no-pages. A cheat sheet is ok if you're afraid you'll freeze up and forget important things. Under no circumstances should you offer up the entire manuscript right there and then, I think a partial is even off limits, even if the editor or agent requests. Mail it when you get home, or per their instructions.

Relax and take deep breaths. Some water or a mint if your mouth gets dry from nervousness. Remember, they are people to and if one passes, it doesn't mean your project sucks.

I posted some conference tips on my blog a few days ago - take a look (the link's in my sig). It's short, but sweet. It's ok to be nervous - they are expecting that. And smile!

Hope this helps a little.

07-13-2007, 06:21 PM
I went to a conference last year where one of the agents had a sign-up sheet for pitch sessions. You basically sat and sipped coffee and pitched your book, fiction, memoir, whatever. She liked it and asked for the partial right there. (Which I had).

We were also assigned a 1/2 hour mentoring session, and mine was with an editor. We sent 30-page manuscript excerpts, or short stories of similar length in advance of our meeting.

The editor I met with read my short story and had a detailed summary and a lot of notes. He walked me through it, liked what he saw and urged me to write the novel-length version, which I did a few months later.

I signed with an agent in May, off that same manuscript.

Just go and be open, but be prepared to pitch your work succinctly. It seems strange that you're meeting with an editor with four other writers.

07-13-2007, 07:51 PM
The defunct and desperately missed Miss Snark had a lot of great advice about conferences, including group appointments for pitch sessions:


grommet (http://www.kathrynmillerhaines.com)

07-13-2007, 09:38 PM
I just had my first editor pitch session here at RWA. It was basically, "tell me about your book".

I got lucky. The editor I'd been signed up with was late so they sent me to an editor who was taking extra pitches. She loved it and wants the whole thing. Then, the guy I was supposed to see got there and said he'd see me later if I wanted to wait. So, I stayed and spoke with him. That pitch didn't go so well because we were interrupted by an "emergency" that evacuated the building so we had to do it walking through exits. He asked for a partial and synopsis.

Basically, though, it was just telling them the story of your book. As the first editor told me, she couldn't tell from the pitch whether or not I could write. She just wanted to get an idea of the premise.

Good luck.

07-14-2007, 09:22 PM
These are great tips. Thank you all. And thanks for porting this over too. Looks like it helped. I'll go check the links you all gave now. Keep your thoughts coming. I'll keep coming back. The more I know, the better!


07-14-2007, 09:26 PM

How about posting on your experience when you get back? I'm sure it would help a lot of people to know about the pitch sessions, what was helpful, what wasn't, etc.

07-15-2007, 08:17 AM
Great idea...I'll do that.


Linda Adams
07-16-2007, 01:09 AM
Bookends posted something up last month about pitching to an agent that might help: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/search/label/pitching

07-24-2007, 09:33 AM
I'll chime in for a moment about conferences. I posted in Goals and Accomplishments a few days ago about my first conference I attended because I finally sent off the requested fulls (nf proposals).

This conference had both formal and informal pitch sessions. I agree with the others that you do not need any paperwork- I had mine in my hotel room, but it was very clear that it would be bad form to even offer it- the agents have enough to carry around. Also, many authors had business cards to exchange with each other, but the agents do not usually collect them.

The formal pitch session was just a sit down, and the agent (or editor) asked you to tell about your book. The conference organizers suggested to limit this hook to the title and about two or three sentences, and I think this was great advice. After I gave my pitch, the agent asked me some other questions about my book, and then asked for the full. This took only about five minutes (of a ten minute pitch session), which was plenty of time to find out if the book was right or not for the person.

For informal pitch sessions, I understand every conference is different, but many offer a coffee or chat time with agents and editors. I decided to be bold like many others and approach everyone who might be interested, but I did it in a subtle way. This is just my impression from one conference, so it may not be what fits for you, but here is what I saw. There were some writers sitting around wishing they had the nerve to talk to someone. There were other writers pushing their business cards on agents and trying to convince agents they were the next best thing. Then there were the subtle confident writers, whom I tried to follow.

I casually joined in conversations, and after a while of saying nothing about my own book, each agent asked me what I write, as if surprised I had said nothing. This led to a great discussion and requests for fulls. One time I had to be more aggressive only because others were dominating the entire discussion time, and I said "I write practical nf" and was quickly asked about my topic.

I was nervous at first, but did two things to get rid of the jitters. First, I listened in as writer after writer was rejected by agents, preparing myself to hear whatever the agent or editor might say. Then, I tried out my first pitch on an agent I thought only represented narrative nf and not practical nf, as a trial run in case I was more nervous than I thought-so I would not make a bad impression on a more likely agent. Presuming a "not right for me" gave me a surprising confidence, and I also discovered this agent was very interested in the project and requested a full. I approached one agent I thought accepted practical nf and was rejected because she only does narrative. I crossed her off the list, and kept going, finding new conversations to join and casually get my turn.

I had a lot of fun, and since I am just starting the query process, I think it helped prepare me for responses to query letters as I send them out. I spent some time checking over my proposal, finally sent it off to those who requested it, and I am now hoping that my written proposal sells the book as well as I did in person.

So, I sum this up by saying: be confident, or at least act it. Do not be too pushy, but be bold. Let your idea speak for itself, and be ready to answer questions- assume there will be interest! :)

Best of luck.