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:”
Have your proposal in hand along with a professional photo of yourself and a business card. Some people prepare a one sheet that contain 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.
Don’t over dress, but don’t under dress. 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.
Take a deep breath before you go into the interview. Believe it or not, agents are people, too. While you do 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, than you can give more, answering with concise statements.
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.
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.
Bonus Tip: if you are pitching to Karen Ball, do not wear perfume. She is highly allergic and will not be able to devote her full attention to your pitch.
Lynn Squire is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the president of the ACFW SF Bay Area Chapter. She resides in California with her husband and three children and spends several hours a day corralling her vivid imagination into short stories, novels, and creative nonfiction. This led to the creation of her book Best of Faith, Fiction, Fun, and Fanciful. You can find her work at: http://faithfictionfunandfanciful.blogspot.com/