How to Talk with Publishers and Agents
As a literary agent, I love attending conferences and meeting authors. My career is about helping writers share their words with the world, and at conferences I get to sit down with them and spend a few minutes getting to know what they’re passionate about. There’s nothing more rewarding.
When I meet with you, my goal is to get to know you and your book idea. I’m rooting for you as you sit down and we begin our conversation. Every writer has something valuable to offer, and I’m always on the lookout for the golden nugget you’ll share.
But what if you’re nervous?
Many writers feel self-conscious when sitting down with a publisher or literary agent. In any social situation, the key to reducing butterflies is to take the focus off yourself. (Tweet this.) Don’t worry about what they think of your ideas, whether or not they like you, just focus on the other person. The easiest way to do this is to ask people about themselves, about their writing, about how their day is going. If you are genuinely interested in them, you will become interesting to them.
So what do you say to a publisher or agent?
The secret to success is thoughtful preparation. Assuming you want to talk about your book idea, remember this is a conversation, and start like you would in any conversation: with a bit of context or background. Take a moment to introduce yourself and establish rapport.
The best book pitch will begin with some background information. (Tweet this.) For example:
My name is _____ and I wanted to meet with you because _____.
I’ve been blogging for ______ (how long) and my blog is about _____ (brief description).
I work as a _____ (if related to your book). Or, My ministry is _____.
Today I want to tell you about my book which is currently called _____ .
Then, launch into your pitch. This should be a maximum of 2 to 3 minutes long, and after you’re finished, the agent or editor will ask questions. Have a 1-minute pitch prepared, too, in case of mealtime or elevator pitches. (See “Crafting Your Elevator Pitch.”)
Here are some guidelines:
→ Include a closing line in your pitch—you don’t want to trail off in uncertainty, creating an awkward moment. A good closing line expresses your intent, such as, “I’m hoping this book will encourage women to become more socially conscious in their daily life, and give them practical tips for doing so.” Sometimes the best closing lines are questions, such as, “Is this something you’d like to hear more about?” Or, “Those are the basics. Can I answer any questions?”
→ Don’t get ahead of yourself. The purpose of your pitch is not to close a deal. It’s to pique your listener’s curiosity and desire to continue talking. (Tweet this.)
→ Be prepared to talk “numbers.” Know your blog stats and number of email subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter and Instagram followers. Letting me know the work you’ve put into your project tells me you’re willing to undertake the work we have ahead.
When you go to a conference, I hope your publisher and agent meetings are among the most enjoyable moments. It’s such a great opportunity to make positive connections. Be yourself, and try not to stress too much.
You may also like this post: What Should I Bring to a Conference?
What are your biggest concerns about meeting with publishers and agents? (Tweet this.)