By Leslie C. Halpern
Writer’s conferences are a great way to meet agents and present your proposal, because literary agents fly in from all over the country specifically for this purpose. Meeting a literary agent (or publisher or book coach or editor) face-to-face may seem far more intimidating than sending out query letters and proposal packages through the mail.
These 10-minute pre-arranged interviews, however, provide a tremendous advantage over the thousands of other writers who never get (or never take) the chance to pitch out-of-town agents in person.
Although direct interaction with the agent has a strict time limit, the amount of time spent preparing for the writer’s conference should be extensive. Authors can’t just walk in unprepared and expect to dazzle the agent with a great idea. Many people have wonderful ideas; it’s having a wonderful idea and proving that you can implement it that lands an agent and publishing contract.
In addition, if authors are lucky enough to interest the agent in a book project, then they need to send the materials immediately before his or her enthusiasm dies down. The only way to send these materials in a timely manner is to have them prepared in advance before the interview. Authors can consult one of the many books on the subject of how to prepare a book proposal.
In preparing for an agent interview, focus on two areas: what to do and what to bring.
What to Do
- For nonfiction book projects, write a clean, edited proposal, a table of contents, and up to three sample chapters.
- For fiction or collections of stories, write a clean, edited proposal and the entire manuscript, if possible.
- Prepare a writing resume that highlights your publishing history and relevant education and experience.
- Research the agents attending the writer’s conference to see what kinds of genres they represent.
- Dress as if you were going to a job interview.
- Be prepared to deliver an oral 2-3 sentence synopsis for your book. Have a clear idea of the genre and market.
What to Bring
- The manuscript (or at least a portion of it). Agents usually don’t want to read it there or take it with them (because manuscripts weigh down their luggage). Typically they will give you a business card with directions to send it to them.
- A writing resume, a 2-3 sentence synopsis, and business cards.
- Copies of your previously published books or articles (if no book credits).
- Pen and paper to take notes. Write down any suggestions the agent offers, even if they don’t want to take you on as a client.
- A list of questions you would like answered.