Following my post from last month (How to Find an Agent Part I: Where to Find and Research Agents), let’s continue the series with How to Find an Agent Part II: Pitching/Approaching an Agent. In this post I’d like to share some useful tips for pitching your work to agents at conferences, as well as via email queries. Let’s cover conferences first, then finish with query letters….

Pitching your work at a conference: Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t try to “sell us.” I know this seems a strange notion, but I promise you’ll get more out of a 3-minute pitch appointment if you don’t use the whole time trying to get in all of your plot twists, etc. I want to be able to ask you questions, and vice versa. We want you to get something out of this time, so having time for a back and forth exchange is important. Usually we can tell from an elevator pitch whether or not the concept is something we’d be interesting in, so getting in that last minute of plot synopsis probably isn’t going to win us over, if it hasn’t already.

Do be concise in your pitch. What you do want to prepare is your tagline or elevator pitch. How would you pitch your book in one or two sentences? This is what we’ll be most interested to hear. From their you can elaborate a bit on the important or unique elements of your story, but otherwise let the meeting evolve organically. We’ll ask follow-up questions on interesting points or one’s that need clarification.

If an agent requests materials at a conference DO send the query letter along with the requested materials. We’re probably not going to be reading it that night so you need to refresh our memories (“Oh right, the ‘monster motel in space’ project–I loved that pitch!”). I should also point out, you shouldn’t be sending any requested items that night, or week, either. You’re at a conference where you’ve hopefully learned some tips on polishing your craft, so you should be revising that manuscript and getting it in it’s best possible shape–no matter how long that takes. We’ll remember you, I promise!

Querying Agents

There’s no one correct way to write a query letter—rather I’ll give you a couple quick Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Always personalize your letter! Anything that looks like a mass submission may be deleted.
  2. Keep it brief—no five paragraph synopses. One intro paragraph (you can include genre, word count, target audience and tag line here); personalization (why you feel it’s a fit for that particular agent); a brief description of your work (no synopsis!); and any relevant professional/ writing background, or publishing history.
  3. Research your agents—don’t send us something we don’t represent.
  4. Follow their stated guidelines; send sample pages if required.
  5. Send ONE project only—we’ll ask for more if we’re interested.
  6. Misc: don’t send quotes of your friends who love the book; don’t say your kids love the bedtime story you made up so you want to get it published (that’s awesome, but we want to deal with career authors); don’t send descriptions of all your projects and ask me to choose; don’t send a 2,000 word chapter book–show us you know your stuff.
  7. Do let us know if you receive an offer. It’s not mandatory (unless we’ve already requested materials), but it will make us review faster!

I hope the above tips can provide some guidance on your agent search, and perhaps help avoid some pitfalls. Stay tuned for “How to Find an Agent Part III: You Have Interest! Next Steps and Choosing Your Agent Match”….