Sit Down and Relax: The Agent Meeting

Melissa Jeglinski – The Knight Agency

Conference Faculty Member

So you’ll be attending the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop in October. And you want to make the most of your experience. You’ve looked over the program and decided which workshops to attend. But the list of agents is confusing. Who do you meet with and what do you do when you sit down face to face?

First, remember that the agent is there to find quality material. As much as I love the idea of Myrtle Beach in October, I’m still giving away my weekend of free time to work. (Though an ocean view can make anything sweeter.) We all want to come out of this with something positive to show for our time. I would love nothing more than to find my dream project and sign a client right on the spot.

You need to decide whether you want to work with an agent. If so, which agent or agents? Why meet with one you have no interest in? Time is a valuable commodity for everyone so don’t waste it just because you’re curious. If that’s the case, come to one of our sessions and ask questions there. But save the one on one times for those who are really interested in that agent; the opportunity for such a face to face meet does not often occur. And remember, you can always chat us up over a meal or in the hall between sessions–as long as we’re not looking like a frazzled mess.

Be sure you’re meeting with an agent who represents the type of project you are working on. For example, I don’t do non-fiction or illustrated books or short story collections; not because I don’t enjoy those works, I’m simply concentrating on other areas. Take a look at the agent’s website and see who they represent and what types of projects they are currently selling. If you think you may be a good match, try to get an appointment.

When you have the chance to sit down with the agent, be prepared. When pitching your project, be succinct but complete. I like to know the title, word length and genre. Most importantly, is the manuscript complete because I can’t shop an unfinished project by and unpublished author. As for synopsizing the plot; I prefer to just hear about the main conflicts, set up and resolution. I don’t need to know every little plot point. Tell me if it is a planned series or a standalone novel. I’d also like to know about your writing credentials or background, something that tells me you are serious about your craft. I’m using this introduction to see if this is a project I could be excited about and not every project will be the right fit. However, if I’m intrigued I will ask you to send me your work as nothing can tell me as much about your writing as actually reading it.

Then it’s time for you to ask questions.

There’s a time limit for these appointments and it’s usually pretty tight. So really plan out what you want to know about the agent. If you’re the type to get nervous, have your questions in front of you. It’s okay to read from a piece of paper or jot down notes. You can ask about the agent’s current client list, most recent sales, subjects or genres they are particularly interested in. Question them about their agency agreement, commission percentages and the like. Feel free to ask them how they prefer to work with clients; are they very hands-on, do they send revisions, give detailed notes, etc. Any question is fair as long as it has to do with publishing.

When your meeting is over and you go back to the conference and then return home, don’t forget to follow up with the agent. If they requested material…send it. If it’s not quite ready, update the agent on when you expect to submit the project. Or, if you’ve decided that you wouldn’t be a good fit, let them know that as well. Acting in a professional manner is always key.

Hopefully the conference will prove a wonderful experience for you and provide an opportunity for us all to make some terrific connections.

Looking forward to seeing you in October!

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