There are hundreds of literary agents out there, and many times that number of writers submitting to each one. I frequently advise clients to attend writers’ conferences for a variety of reasons, but one of the best is to take advantage of one-on-one agent/editor sessions. Many conferences bring out agents and editors from top agencies and houses to meet with attendees in private consultations. Expect to pay a little extra for this option on top of your conference registration fee.
If you have a manuscript or book proposal that’s ready to submit, it’s worth the extra cash—a one-on-one session is an excellent way to make a personal connection to an agent or editor. If you aren’t quite ready to submit or if you’re self-publishing, you can still get valuable advice from these industry pros, many of whom don’t offer freelance services or normally charge a lot more for them than you’re paying at the conference.
Agent/editor sessions at conferences vary in length but are typically short, lasting anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. Get the most out of these golden opportunities by following the ten tips below.
- You can usually choose who you want to meet with, so pick a pro who might actually want to rep/buy your book or who is familiar with books like yours. Do a little background research ahead of time so you can impress them with your industry savvy.
- If you’re angling for an invitation to submit, make sure your work is ready to go before you attend the conference so you can send it out immediately afterward, but don’t bring it with you. Imagine if everyone meeting with that agent/editor brought a manuscript! Would you want to lug all that home?
- If your goal is to get feedback on a work-in-progress, again, polish up your work so the agent/editor is reviewing your best attempt.
- Prepare an “elevator pitch” of your book. This should be a one-minute description designed to grab interest. Pitch it and see what the agent/editor thinks of your concept.
- If she doesn’t invite you to send it to her (or someone else at the company), ask her if she can suggest agents or publishers who would be better fits.
- See if she knows of any comparative titles you aren’t aware of, or has information on what made those books successful—something you might be able to emulate in terms of format or marketing.
- Self-publishing authors may wonder about the best time of year to publish their book. See if the agent/editor has any thoughts on this.
- Briefly, outline how you’re building your platform and see if she has any feedback on what you’ve done or advice on what to do next.
- Ask if she has any tips on media outlets that might be appropriate to hit up for some platform-building publicity.
- You can also ask what things you might do/avoid if you plan to use self-publishing as a way to get a traditional publishing contract down the road. One thing doesn’t necessarily lead to the other, but sometimes a self-published author who does really well can parlay that experience into a contract. There might be things you can particularly aim for or avoid doing that would help in this endeavor.
For upcoming writers’ conferences near you, check out the extensive listings on the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ website.
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.
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