Notes from the Conference

Hyatt Regency St. LouisRandom things that are on my mind at 1:00 am as I’m finishing up day 3 of this 5-day conference…

1. If an agent or editor is walking quickly and purposefully, they’re probably late to a meeting. That’s not the time to grab them and introduce yourself. Standing in the Starbucks line or waiting for an elevator… better.

2. We always appreciate when you mention that you read our blog. Encouragement = good.

3. You don’t have to tell us you’re nervous when you’re about to pitch. Chances are, if you hadn’t mentioned it, we’d never have known. You’re fine, relax.

4. If you’re pitching to an editor or agent and you want them to pay attention, your story better have a strong hook. Find the hook in your story and tell us about it. Ask yourself what you’ll say to guarantee we’re thinking about YOUR project on our flight home.

5. Try not to say you have a quick question — you and I both know there’s no such thing.

6. Keep in mind that if one more person asks us how e-books are affecting the publishing industry, we might just spontaneously implode.

Got any funny or mortifying writers’ conference moments to tell us about?

Posted in

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. xtreme no on February 29, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    I think Snooki is so cute. I might be her man any day of the year.

  2. Jane Steen on October 2, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    AHAHAHAHA I asked the e-book question, didn’t I? And nobody imploded.

  3. Courtney Walsh on September 29, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    The e-book thing makes me laugh because I think I said “I don’t want to hear anymore about e-books” at least three times at the conference! 🙂

    Congrats on your award, btw!!

  4. Terri Haynes on September 27, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    I know meals are a great time to pass out business cards, but can you not reach across my plate to do it? So rude. The sad part is that happened to me more than once, like home training just went out the window. I should have started biting everyone who did it.

  5. Amy Leigh Simpson on September 27, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    Not necessarily mortifying, but then again, not a great start. I was heading to the first time orientation meeting on the 18th floor the first day of the conference-Not really knowing where I was going but just following the herd. To get to the room we had to pass through an area where agents and editors were having a reception. As I was passing through, a woman stepped into my path. Thankfully avoiding collision, I halted to let her pass. She stared at me with thinly veiled curiosity and didn’t attempt to move, so I just smiled and said “Hi.” She inspected my name tag and face several times before informing me that I was NOT where I was supposed to be. I think she thought I had snuck in and was trying to pitch to her! I maneuvered the final two steps around her and into the orientation, where I regaled a few nervous newcomers with my blatant faux pas. It seemed to lighten the mood. At least something good came of my embarrassment! Who knew a friendly greeting could get you in trouble?

  6. Matthew Sheehy on September 26, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    At the conference I was in the elevator with an editor and two other ladies. One of the ladies pitched the editor. I had never seen an elevator pitch in an elevator! I could clearly see that the editor seemed tired and not interested; the pitcher didn’t. The doors opened for the editor’s floor and she backed out with her hands held out like you would when you didn’t want to turn your back on a vicious dog. And the pitcher kept talking. Then the doors closed with the editor still holding out her hands like it was sign language for “Please leave me alone.” Then the pitcher’s friend said, “I think that was good.”

  7. Camille Eide on September 26, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Grinning. I had a couple mortifying moments, and lived to tell, because as you know, I am accustomed to learning everything the Hard Way.

    Began my pitch to an editor, asked if she would like to see my one sheet, then rifled through my bag to discover no one sheets. None. Rifling faster thinking, God, You’re totally going to make me wing this from memory after all those prayers that I could get away with the written pitch, aren’t You? I looked at the editor and said, “I think I left my one sheet in the waiting area,” wincing inwardly. She said, “Would you like to go out and get it?” Nodding, I went “Mm hmm.” Smooth. She was totally cool about it. Proof: Editors ARE actually very nice people. 🙂

  8. Connie Almony on September 26, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    Oh man! I think I saw you in Starbucks, too … but I was talking to a dear friend, and I’m new to this “stalking agents” thing. Missed that opportunity, because … my compelling hook would have been what you were thinking about on the plane home ;o). Hope your conference was productive. I normally pray for peace, but I have a feeling that would have needed a real miracle for an agent at a writer’s conference. Like sheep among (Christian) wolves :o). God Bless. Oh, and by the way, I read your blog ;o).

  9. Reba J. Hoffman on September 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    How about almost running over you when out for my morning jog? I’m still wondering what you were listening to in your earbuds. I should have pitched you but I can’t pitch and gasp for air at the same time. 🙂

  10. Kelli Hughett on September 26, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Rachelle, you knew I had to post this! I’m the poppy seed girl. I pitched to an agent face to face with a poppy seed in my teeth. They asked to see the manuscript, maybe because they hoped I would run off for a mirror check. Congrats on Agent of the year! I’m pretty sure I avoided all faux-pas you mentioned. Maybe you should add, “Check your teeth before an agent meeting…or think of a humiliating way to be remembered.

  11. Mel's World with Melissa Mashburn on September 26, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    This is just great! Thanks so much, it was honest, direct and to the point…perfect! 🙂

  12. Barbara Cameron on September 25, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    It’s so typical of the modest person that you are that you mentioned that members of the agency were recognized and didn’t shout, “I was named Agent of the Year” like some others might have done.

    So very happy that you were honored. You richly deserve it!

  13. Bethany R. Kaczmarek on September 25, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Rachelle, I so enjoyed reading this post. Kudos on Agent of the Year. None of us who read your blog regularly (even us lurkers) are surprised. Glad ACFW took notice.

    Keep up the fabulous work encouraging, challenging, and sharpening us.

  14. Barbara Scott on September 25, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Rachelle, I was so proud when your name was announced for Agent of the Year. I had already typed a congratulations post to you on Facebook before I heard your name called. All I had to do was click send. Congratulations…again!


  15. Stephen King on September 25, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Thank you for the insights, as always. These are particularly timely, as I’m attending my first conference week after next. I’ll try not to accost anybody who’s walking quickly and purposefully, though at all my Ph.D. conferences all the professors we wanted to talk to were always already surrounded at the Starbucks line, and elbows are frowned upon among doctoral candidates–I presume the same compunction exists with writers, too.

    I disagree that there’s no such thing as a quick question, though I’ll nod to the wisdom that typically when the label is applied it indicates the opposite.

    Finally, I agree with some of my fellow posters: might be interesting to see how somebody implodes. I mean, there’s not an awful lot of empty space in there. Maybe at the conference I’ll pick an agent (one who doesn’t represent my genre, of course; no point narrowing my own choices) and ask them a few differently-worded questions about the future of e-Books. Then I’ll have a story to tell here. 🙂

  16. Elaine Cougler on September 25, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Agent of the year? Very exciting. Congrats, Rachelle.
    I’m going to the Algonkian Niagara conference at the end of October so will certainly follow your points. And I love reading your blog!

  17. Peter DeHaan on September 25, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    I’m impressed that 3 days into a conference, you are blogging at 1 AM!

  18. carol brill on September 25, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Hi, not funny or mortifying – just encouragement to newer writers to attend conferences and workshops if you haven’t yet. The energy and encouragement (not to mention writing insights) will recharge and keep you going.

  19. Edwina Cowgill on September 25, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Congratulations on winning the Agent of the Year Award!

    Love the new blog look, too!

  20. Andrea Nell on September 25, 2011 at 3:30 AM

    Mortifying moments … you mean like when I ran over to introduce myself to you on Thursday and called you Rachel instead of Rachelle by mistake? Sorry about that! It was so great to meet you though.

  21. Maril Hazlett on September 25, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    🙂 hang in there, and congrats on your award!

  22. Giora on September 25, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    Congrats as well for being Agent of the Year. There are hundred of agents, so your win is impressive.

  23. Sherri on September 24, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Congratulations, Rachelle. I just watched the ACFW Gala which was great, and of course, saw you win the award for agent of the year. Lots of hard work behind that!

  24. Marji Laine on September 24, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    I had a feeling the e-book question would be the hottest topic. The insecurity of the unknown, gee and I bet you don’t have your crystal ball with you either. 🙂

  25. Beth MacKinney on September 24, 2011 at 7:36 PM


  26. James Pinnick on September 24, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    I love your advice!

    Very interesting.

    James Pinnick
    The Last Seven Pages

  27. Eric Dean on September 24, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Quick question: How are e-books affecting the publishing industry?


  28. Heather Hawke on September 24, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    I went for a walk between sessions. On the way, it began to rain. Not in appropriate footwear, I slipped. Then I had to rush to my critique session, mud beslimed and dripping onto my submission.

  29. Karen Lange on September 24, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Good to know, appreciate the reminder! I think nerves get to some people and they don’t think through everything before they act. Love Richard’s thought on it too. 🙂

  30. Richard Mabry on September 24, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    If they’re walking quickly and purposefully, they might also be on their way to the bathroom–do not follow. Repeat, do not follow.

    • Barbara Scott on September 25, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      Richard, you’re a jewel! So true. One time I felt like the pied piper. lol

  31. Michelle on September 24, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Good points. Personally, I always prefer the proposal shoved under the bathroom stall door method rather than the accost in the Starbucks line. 🙂 These are good points to keep in mind and especially witty considering it’s 1 am in the morning! Thanks for always having entertaining posts!

  32. Anne Love on September 24, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    What advise do you have for a writer who was told by an editor on the very last day of the conference that they need an agent, but its really too late to network with one on the last day. Query with that comment in the query?

  33. Cathy West on September 24, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    ROTFL! 🙂 I’m reading this just before going into my appointment this morning, and I feel so much better. Anyone accost you in the bathroom yet??

  34. Timothy Fish on September 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    This I’ve got to see. How are e-books affecting the publishing industry?

  35. Charley Pearson on September 24, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Good points – esp. for 1 a.m. I promise not to ask about e-books unless it’s in person (it would be so cool to see an implosion!). 😉

    • Joanna Aislinn on September 25, 2011 at 8:27 AM

      Seeing a human implode–now how would I describe that in my next wip…? 😉

      Enjoy days four and five.