Thursday, October 13, 2005

An Agent's View: Conferences

Michelle Grajkowksi of Three Seas Literary Agency talks about Conferences & the Pitching Session

Morning, everyone!! I'm so sorry to be a day late and a dollar short, but you know that old saying that sometimes life gets in the way? Well, I can attest that it's true. Yesterday morning, I was dutifully penning my blog entry when the phone rang. It was my daughter's school and they said that I needed to get over there right away - my daughter had fallen and cut her chin. So, I rushed over like a maniac (speed limits only count when you don't need to get somewhere fast, right?) and picked up my poor peanut. Four stitches and lots of tears later, we made it through the rest of the day. So, I'm so sorry to be tardy, but my little girl really needed me yesterday.

So, without any further ado, my blog...

A conferencing we will go, A conferencing we will go, hi-ho-the-dairy-oh, A conferencing we will go!

Sorry, please forgive my out-of-tune Broadway production. I'm just getting pumped and ready for my upcoming weekend. On Friday, I'm heading to warm and sunny Tulsa (the winter doldrums are already hitting here in Wisconsin) for the Cimarron Dreamin' conference and I can't wait. You see, conferencing is one of my favorite parts of my job. The excitement, the energy and the enthusiasm of the participants is truly rejuvenating!

Through the years, conferences have really become a place for me to hook-up with new writers. In fact, I've had a couple of authors that I now represent tell me that they had in the past "stalked" me at various venues. ("Stalked" in a good way, of course!!)

One author in particular made a huge impact on me when I met her at a conference - she was warm and friendly and had a dynamo personality. I knew right then and there that I would love to work with her and wished on a lucky star that when I got back to the office and read her materials that I would love them as much as I did her. My luck was with me - she was as amazing of a writer as she was a person. We signed together shortly after the conference, and making that first sale call a few months later was about as good as it gets!

Now, you may hear some not-so-good advice from your well-meaning friends. Stalking in a public restroom, for example, may not be the best way to attract an agent. But, if you are polite, professional and comfortable, an agent will take notice.

One of the highlights for many authors is the editor/agent pitch session. Because it can be a very stressful time, I'd love to share some of my insights.

My favorite pitch session is when an author comes in prepared and generally happy to be there. I love to chat and to learn more about the author. What does she write (a snapshot like, "I write romantic comedies)? What are her career goals? How long does it take to produce a project? What is her background?

From that point, after I feel like I get to know the author, I like to hear a two-three sentence pitch about the current project that she is seeking representation for. Why so short? Because honestly, the writing needs to sell itself. An author can describe the best book in the history of books, but if I'm not excited about the writing, then I can't under good conscious represent that project. So, nine times out of ten I will usually request a partial because I need to see a sample of the work.

After the author pitches the project, then I like to hear about the submission history. If it's been submitted to all the houses already, there may not be a lot more that I can do with that project.

Finally, I like to close with career goals. What future projects does the author have? Where does she want to be, and how does she plan to get there?

In all, you should almost treat your pitch session as a job interview. Put your best foot forward - be concise and professional. But, most of all, use this as an opportunity to see if you and the agent you are pitching to would be a good match for YOU. Turn the tables and ask questions that you may have about the agent. It's an excellent time to get a feel for the type of working relationship that you could have.

Good luck, and until next week, happy pitching!


At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Kendra said...

Hmmm. This was a very appropriate topic for today. Especially the bathroom part. :)

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Stephanie Rowe said...

Yes, my agent is "in the know" and she was giving me little digs with the bathroom remarks. Funny, isn't she?

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...



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