5 Great Ways To Make An Agent At A Writer’s Conference Dislike You….

by Wendy Keller

Writer’s conferences are a feeding frenzy for authors. A few agents, editors and various publishing people are squished into little rooms to spew out their knowledge to anxious want-to-be writers. The publishing people laugh at the “feeding frenzy”, similar to raw meat in a shark pool, yet they good-naturedly throw themselves into the pit every so often to stay in touch with the writers – and maybe even get some new talent.

Because in the end, that’s what it really is about for us – discovering new talent. If an agent or an editor can discover someone at a conference, the conference was worth the effort. It was worth enduring an astonishing number of crazy questions and actions be desperate writers – actions and questions you won’t risk using by the end of this article! It was worth listening to furtive pitches from writers scared that if they raise their voices some passerby might steal their great idea and sell it for millions to someone else. It was worth being offered the exclusive to the life story of any number of people with singularly uneventful, uninteresting lives.

Agents and editors attend writers conferences to discover new talent, and the writer is there to get discovered. It sounds too good to be true, and it is. There are a lot more writers than there is talent. 

For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume you are one of the truly talented ones. You are certainly better off than your peers, because reading this implies you are computer literate. If that is so, you can type and proofread your manuscript before you submit it. (Something a large percentage of the average conference attendees can or do not do!). 

Access to the Internet implies you can research not just your book idea but also the competition by going to, for instance, Amazon.com. 

Further, reading an article like this implies you can be and want to be taught. You’re way ahead of the pack already.

Now what? You register for a writer’s conference. Several agents will be there. You and all the other attendees believe that the purpose for their attendance is to meet the agents. (That’s why more often than not the agents/editors panel is one of the last sessions – so you have to stay to the end of the conference).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get one of the publishing people to talk to you. You might believe that if they talk to you, they will be more inclined to represent or buy your material. You might believe they came to meet nice, friendly authors like you. You might believe if you can only explain your book in person, they will understand its greatness when they read it. None of those is true. Yet authors often are affronted when I reject material that was offered to me at a writer’s conference! Here’s a big tip: It doesn’t matter how much we like you. It matters how well you can write and how marketable your topic is!

You do want to be memorable, in a professional sort of way. So how do you do it? Well, by remembering the 5 things NEVER to say or do to an agent (or editor!) at a writers conference. 

1). Never say, “Can I give you my manuscript now?” The truthful answer is always no, although kinder souls than me have been known to say yes. Try “May I mail you my manuscript (or proposal)?” We all know you probably have a copy of it up in your room, and if we wanted it now, we would ask. We won’t. Mail it.

2). In the event you meet one of the few sweet agents in the business, and you do convince them to physically take your material while they are at the conference, NEVER say the next morning, when you bound up to them, “Well, what did you think?”. If they even remember who you are out of the two hundred other people who have approached them, chances are they won’t remember what your book is about. IT makes is very uncomfortable. And why should they feel guilty for not going back to their room at 10PM and staying up reading your material all night?

3). NEVER corner an agent. They are there to meet writers, but insisting that you simply must “pull them aside” for “just a moment” is sure to elicit dread, even if they do it. Your fear of someone overhearing and stealing your material is a sure sign of unprofessionalism. 

4). Never slip things under the agents’ room door. They are not inside watching in eagerness for the next “under the transom” submission. I woke up to three manuscripts once when a group of writers figured out all the agents were sleeping on the same floor on the left side of the hall!

5). Never stalk them into the restroom or to a restaurant. Not only is this behavior creepy, but surprisingly common! 

6). Never start your pitch by commenting on all the “idiots” who have passed on it at publishing houses or agencies. Guess who looks like the idiot if you do!

7). Never begin your pitch with, “Oh my, I’m so nervous to meet a real agent!” I hear this ten times at least at every writer’s conference I attend. I’m looking for people I can put on talk shows and book signings. If you cannot talk to me about your passion, me, an agent who might become your ally in the denouement of your project, then what in the world will you do in front of real “strangers”?

8). Never bring product samples to stuff into the agent’s hands. At one writer’s conference, the lady had made a book with flowers from her garden she had pressed herself. The gift book she proposed would have pressed flowers on the cover of each one, tied with a ribbon and neatly arranged. The paper stock she insisted was best was particularly expensive. I asked her how she intended us to handle a first print run of say, 10,000 units. She paled. Once a man offered me some sort of book on making your own perfume. He started his pitch by spraying it all over my jacket. The stench was horrid, and I’m allergic to perfume!

9). Never make a big deal out of your ignorance. If you start by saying, “I cannot spell/write/read or my grandkid typed this for me on one o’them whizbang computer things you’re not on the right footing. 

Wendy Keller
Keller Media, Inc.
Literary Agency & Speakers Bureau
23852 West Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 701
Malibu, CA 90265 USA
310.857.6828 voice
310.857.6373 fax


Want to write a book? Go to Rita’s web site www.RitaEmmett.com and click on The Writer’s Room. Take a look at Rita's The Procrastinator's Guide To Authorship: Stop Putting Off Your Success. Find a free article about writing proposals in The Writer’s Room

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Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinator’s Handbook and The Clutter-Busting Handbook, is a professional speaker who presents Keynotes and Seminars nationwide. She can be reached at 847-699-9950 and email is Rita@RitaEmmett.com

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