Meeting Agents at Conferences—Make a Good Impression

Here's a bit of advice you probably thought I would never say ... When you're at a writers conference, and there are agents there, don't be afraid to not pitch them. Wait a second. Back up. Let me explain. At conferences, there are designated "pitch times" where writers meet with agents, or perhaps there's some kind of "speed dating" thing, such as how the WD conference worked a month ago. Naturally, you want to pitch agents during this time.
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Here's a bit of advice you probably thought I would never say ... When you're at a writers conference, and there are agents there, don't be afraid to not pitch them.

Wait a second. Back up. Let me explain. At conferences, there are designated "pitch times" where writers meet with agents, or perhaps there's some kind of "speed dating" thing, such as how the WD conference worked a month ago. Naturally, you want to pitch agents during this time.

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What I'm talking about is those other times—when you're sitting down together for a meal, or perhaps you're giving an agent a ride somewhere. The thing is: Agents are sometimes overloaded with pitches at conferences. If you can just avoid business and strike up a normal conversation ("Hey, I love the Yankees, too!"), then you have a better chance of sticking out in her mind later. An agent is going to remember a few of the day's best pitches as well as a few of the worst. Besides that, it all could very well blend together in a haze. If you can stick out in her mind by cracking a joke or talking about some hobbies you both have, you can make a positive impression not as a writer, but just as a person.

Now, it all depends on the circumstances, of course. If you're a romance writer, and you're at a lunch table with an agent who accepts romance, you don't need to ask, "Can I pitch you later?" You already know you can! Instead, start chatting and try to get her to smile. Ask for a business card later. A few days after the conference, when she's caught up from all the madness, pitch her then, and remind her of what you were talking about before where you both had a connection. Something like, "It was so very nice to meet and talk with you at the conference, Mary. And here I was thinking that I was the only person on the planet who lived in New York yet somehow never set foot in New Jersey. You have shown we are not alone. We do have another connection, though—we both love romance."

And then you gracefully slide into your book and pitch.