Legal Property

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pitching to Agents

Note from Anne: I borrowed this wonderful advice to pitchers from my friend and fellow writer, Lynn Squire. Well, maybe "borrowed" is not an accurate term, since I don't intend to return it to her. Nevertheless, it was too good to pass up her offer to use it in my blog, so here it is with very minor revisions.

At the Write to Inspire Conference, August 26, 2011, twelve chosen writers will pitch their manuscript to Literary Agent Karen Ball. If you are one of these people, do you have a plan?

Here are a few “tricks of the trade:”

• Plan ahead. Have your proposal in hand along with a professional photo of yourself and a business card. Some people prepare a one sheet that contains a short summary of their manuscript, a photo, a bio, and contact information. These are nice for quick reference. However, I suggest you have a well-drafted and well-edited proposal with you in case the agent requests it.
• Dress well. Don’t overdress, but don’t underdress, either. Consider the impression you wish to make, and dress accordingly.
• Use breath fresheners. Before your interview, have a mint, brush your teeth, or use mouthwash.
• Be on time. This should be self-evident, but if you are someone who struggles with time, set an alarm on your phone or watch a few minutes before your interview so you can arrive and compose yourself before you meet.
• Relax. Take a deep breath before you go into the interview. Believe it or not, at one time these professional agents were nervous about their presentation, too. While you want to make a good impression, remember that the only person’s opinion you really need to be concerned with is God’s.
• Be polite and genuine. While asking how a person is doing is polite, being genuinely interested shows character. (An aside here: when we first moved to California from Canada I thought Americans were very rude because they’d ask, “How are you?” and then walk away. While I’m a little more used to it, I find I instantly like someone who waits for an answer.)
• Let the agent guide the conversation. When the agent asks what you have for her, answer with a short, one sentence summary, otherwise known as the elevator pitch. Don’t forget to say whether your work is fiction or nonfiction. If she indicates she wants more, then you can give more, answering with concise statements.
• Smile. A cheerful countenance is not only nice to see, but helps you be positive. I look for something that will make me smile, in particular something that will make me laugh at myself. If I can laugh at myself, then I am better able to face anything I might receive.
• Be thankful. The agent has taken the time to listen to you. Thank her, even if you are rejected.

One more tip. Learn what the agent likes or dislikes before you come to the interview. I’m not just referring to work. Learn whether she likes chocolates, flowers, etc. I once took a Mexican Coca Cola to an agent I was meeting with. Another time when I interviewed with an editor, we spent more time talking about our dogs than about my manuscript.

Agents and editors can still be your friends, even if they reject your work. Think of your interview as an opportunity to make a new friend or bless someone God has brought into your life. After all, they are people, too.
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