Ever wonder how to talk to a real, live agent face-to-face about your project? How are you going to make your pitch? For those who have no experience in this area yet...it's a good idea to get some pointers and PRACTICE! Especially if you have a chance to go to a writers conference where agents will be in attendance.

Rosemary Clement-Moore, a published writer of YA fiction, has some excellent pointers she shared on the GENREALITY blog: 

I’m speaking this weekend at the DFW Writers Conference in Dallas. I’ll give it a plug, even though this year’s conference has been sold out for awhile, and there won’t be any admission at the door. It’s an exciting, growing conference, and this year they (which is, in the interest of disclosure, actually “we” since I’m a member of the hosting organization, DFW Writer’s Workshop) have 10 agents attending to take pitches and speak in breakout sessions.

I’ve noticed this thing happens when some writers anticipate being around agents, especially if they have a finished book to pitch.  Their eyes glaze over with a sort of panicked fervor.  I hear them in the halls, muttering their 30 second “elevator pitches” over and over, like a mantra.  They get all wound up with a sort of desperate-and-dateless-the-day-before-the-prom energy that goes beyond nerves.

The key to making the most of an agent-attended conference is to present yourself as a professional. Here are some things to keep in mind, whether you’re pitching your work, or just networking preparatory to querying and submitting later.

  • Be friendly, but not too familiar.  A formal pitch session is a combo job-interview-slash-speed-date. You want to be personable (smile, sit up straight, don’t chew gum, ask how her day is going), but you don’t want to come off like that skeevy car salesman who uses your first name too often. And even if you’re Twitter friends, don’t assume you’ll be besties when you meet in person.
  • Be temperate. A social setting is a great place to let them meet the real you, as long as the real you isn’t a loudmouthed bigot or a sloppy drunk. Don’t be that guy. Watch how much you drink.
  • Be passionate about your project but not desperate. Do I need to explain what I mean by desperate? Yes, we love our books, but let’s not turn into a pack of rabid hyenas. Trust me. “What do you write?” is the “What’s your major?” of writer’s conferences.  You don’t have to push.
  • Be confident, but not arrogant. Your book may well be the next Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, or Lord of the Rings.  But don’t tell them that. Pitch your book, and let them discover its brilliance for themselves.
  • Be prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the books in your genre, know what’s out there that your book is akin to, and also what makes your book different from all those others.  Have an idea where it would go in the bookstore, or who the audience will be.
  • Be professional about rejection. If the agent doesn’t see the brilliance of “When Harry Met Sally meets Alien vs. Predator” accept that even a great agent and a great project may not be a love match.  Que sera sera.  It doesn’t mean she’s stabbed your metaphorical baby. Nor is she a stupid shrew. And even if she is….
  • Be silent. Never, ever bad mouth other agents, editors, authors published or unpublished, either in your pitch session  (i.e., “Jane Smith rejected this, but it’s clear from her client list she just doesn’t know good literature.”), in the bar, in the hall, or even when you THINK you’re alone in the bathroom. You never know who is in the stall. Publishing professionals all know each other, and they all talk to each other. And they never, ever forget.
  • Be open to the full conference experience. You may have picked a conference because your dream agent is there, but don’t forget the rest of the conference. Networking with other writers, attending breakout sessions and just absorbing the energy of a bunch of creative people in one place, is just as, or more, important than blurting out your “Dungeons and Dragons meets Steel Magnolias” logline. (I totally stole this from Kristen Lamb, because she’s right.)

Anything to add in the comments?  If you want to dish on horror stories, keep them anonymous, okay?  Remember ‘don’t badmouth people’ applies online doubly. (Unless, of course, you chose to tell tales on yourself. I could let you learn from MY fail, but this post has gotten long enough.)