10 Steps for Successfully Meeting Literary Agents at Conferences

Conferences, seminars, retreats, book festivals, and workshops provide an opportunity to meet an agent in person. Agents expect writers to approach them at these events. Some conferences even schedule sessions for authors to pitch to agents. The goal is to connect with agents and leave them with a positive impression of you and your work for when you submit your pitch package in the future. Some agents may even ask you to send them your manuscript or book proposal.

Introducing yourself to agents who are a good fit for your writing increases your chances of acquiring an agent; it lays the foundation for a future relationship. The benefits of meeting a literary agent in person are: You create enthusiasm for your project before the agent has even read it; the agent gets an idea of your potential promotion by the way you present yourself and your work; and when you submit your query, it will stand out among the masses of letters they receive daily.

Most important, nothing replaces a one-on-one connection and the chemistry it can generate. Attending conferences and other literary events is a strategy that produces results.

You can follow these 10 steps to make the most of your conference experience:

  1. Review the conference website to determine the agents who will be attending or speaking and create a list of the agents you wish to approach.
  1. Create a plan of how you will spend your time at the event. Prioritize what you know you must do and what you would like to do if time permits.
  1. Complete your pitch package or manuscript prior to attending the convention so you will be able to send the material immediately upon returning home from the event.
  1. When you arrive at the conference, study the map and the program to better navigate the terrain.
  1. Plan to attend both educational and social events and walk the exhibition floor if one is presented. Collect business cards from everyone you meet.
  1. Determine the best time to approach your pre-selected agents – this may be early morning, after a round-table or seminar presentation, or at an opening night cocktail reception.
  1. Prepare and practice a pitch speech. Create different versions of your pitch: a 15-second pitch, a one-minute pitch, a two-minute pitch, and a three-minute pitch. Remember, an agent’s time is valuable. Keep your speech simple, exciting, and compelling. Leave the agent with a desire to know more about your story. Pitch the idea first and then follow with your credentials, accomplishments and platform if time allows.
  1. Be prepared to answer follow-up questions.
  1. Do not ask an agent to read your work or tell him that you will be sending it to his office tomorrow. Wait for an agent to invite you to send your work.
  1. As soon as you return home from the conference, send your query letters to the agents who expressed interest. Be sure to mention in the letter that you met them at the conference. Do not send your manuscript or book proposal unless invited to do so.