Monday, June 8, 2015

Agency Lessons: 5 tips for talking to agents

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made. 
In just over a week I'll be making my way to UtopYAcon for several days of non-stop literary fun. As am extreme extrovert and industry insider, conferences are the ultimate charging station for my brain. But I get that's not the case for everyone. For example, the introverted writer still in the query stage. For you, I imagine conferences to be this big ball of black hole possibilities. It could be amazing, but you're going to have to talk to so many people, including DUM DUM DAAAAAHHHH, agents. Because, I've been told, we are ferocious, manuscript destroying, dream eating beasts.

Obviously, I see things a bit differently. So I'd like to offer my advice on how to talk to agents at your next conference.

1. We are real people
I get that it can feel like we are some kind of mythical force with magic swirling at our fingertips. But we aren't. We are real people who do normal real people things just like you. Yes, my role in the literary world is different than yours, but it's certainly no more important. Remembering that we are not any different than you can help ease those nerves a bit.

2. We like things
Expanding on that whole real people concept, just like you, we have varied interests. So feel to strike up a conversation about my Dr. Who themed nails or Vote for Pedro t-shirt. I will happily ask you who your favorite companion is and how you feel about the newest doctor. I am also interested in your conversation about the 20 degree temperature difference in the main ballroom and what's on the menu for lunch. Because I like things, and I eat, and am concerned about your lack of jacket. It's fine (and welcomed) to talk to us about non-book stuff.

3. We came here for you
I go to conference for lots of reasons. To learn about new trends, meet and rub elbows with editors and spend a few days kid free. But my main reason for attending conferences is you, the author. I come to meet you, to learn about what you like and what you're working on and what you're hearing from readers and so much more. I come to be around authors because you are cool people.

4. We are pitch magnets
It always seems to happen that at least one or two authors don't get the memo that they shouldn't pitch every agent they happen to breathe the same air as. This is always awkward, for both of us. So please don't introduce yourself and launch into your pitch. Just don't. However, if I ask you what you're working on, please tell me. And if there is an agent there that you are just dying to pitch and you can't get them aside for a formal pitch session, may I recommend this polite option. After saying hello (like normal people) it is perfectly okay to ask if I am currently open to queries or actively looking for new clients. This is a great chance to dig in deeper into what I'm looking for and if the conversation is going well, I might ask what you're working on.

5. We love books
If all else fails and you find yourself completely tongue tied and ready to bail, remember that we share a mutual love for books. Ask what I'm reading or if I have anything I've loved recently. I could talk about books until I'm blue in the face and I bet that you feel the same way.

We aren't so different, you and me. At the end of the day we both want the same thing. More amazing books that keep us up at night and make us see the world a little clearer.

So if you see me at a conference, come on over and say hello. I'll be the perfectly normal person waiting to have a great conversation with you.


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