Last week was filled with revels surrounding the Edgar Awards, then Malice Domestic. During much of this I was in the same place with authors, published and unpublished, agented, not-agented, ept and inept. After a week of seeing some good interactions, and more than a few bad ones, here are some tips on what to do to increase your chances that if you are looking for an agent, your interaction with one you meet in the wild will be a good one.
First, how to introduce yourself.
1. Tell me you read the blog. It's better if this is actually true of course. As an opening, this is gold, because then I am thanking YOU, and can then ask where you're from and what you write.
If the agent doesn't write a blog, figure out something else, like "I saw your interview in Writers Digest, it was very helpful."
2. Tell me that QueryShark helped you. That's a sure-fire winner because then, I can ask you about your book. This is so much more effective than you leading with "here, let me tell you about my book."
If you start by making it personal and important to ME, you've engaged my interest. This is the first rule of selling, and if you want to talk to me about your book, you ARE SELLING.
Second, if you want to meet me, here's how to get on my radar at a conference:
3. Be nice to my clients. Often they introduce me to their friends at conferences. Any pal of a client is ok in my book.
4. Give good panel. I attend panels that my clients are
on, and if you're fabulous I will buy your books and introduce myself.
How do you give good panel? You read the books of the other panelists,
interact with the other panelists in a good way, and are charming. A
light-hearted bio always helps. A willingness to be funny about
yourself too. Not everyone is capable of giving great panel, but it's a
great way to get my attention.
5. Win the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript grant. I pay serious attention to this contest.
Third, once the conversation gets started:
6. Don't mention previous rejections. There's simply no way to reply
to that, even if you say it without rancor, with something other than:
I was deranged, please send it again?"
"Oh did you find anyone who
thought it was good?"
"Yea I remember that."
None of these lead
to pleasant conversation. Pleasant conversation is your goal here!
for another gambit. The very best one is asking about my clients:
"How's that amazing Stephanie Jaye Evans?"
"I loved RUNNER!"
Ulfelder's books knock my sox off."
If you don't have
those salvos available (and it's ok if you don't) ask what I'm reading.
Ask if I'm having a good conference. Ask me if you can buy me a drink!
I too am in a social situation there with you, I am fully prepared to
take your opening salvo and return it with gusto; Yes, I'd love a drink.
Shall we find a waitress? What do you prefer? or I'm exhausted I had to
catch a 7am train! How did you get here? Where are you from?
See how that works? Now we're having conversation, and I
don't want to eject you from my table because you started out with that
stupid "hey you rejected me" thing.
Fourth, be attuned to setting
7. Don't interrupt a meeting. ASK if you're not sure. I was always glad to say "no, you're not interrupting" this weekend at Malice. I'm much more likely to be in a meeting if you see me talking to someone at BEA. That said, two of my colleagues at Malice were there for LOTS of meetings, so don't ever assume. ASK.
8. Don't hover if I'm talking on my phone.
9. Don't start a conversation on the way in to the Ladies. Start it when I'm washing my hands.
10. If I'm wandering around looking distracted and anxious, I'm probably trying to find the room I'm supposed to be in in five minutes. Asking if you can help me is a very nice thing to do.
When you look at that list, it's true, it's all about ME. Remember, this is a sales situation. You want my attention. I'm not sure yet if I want yours.
And if this feels one-sided, just remember, I'm in YOUR position at conferences when I'm introduced to or want to meet editors. These tips apply to that situation too.
Above all, remember agents are people. You're just not going to like some of us, and that's ok. I don't like some of us either.