Why Isn’t My Agent Working for Me at Conferences?

Often I’m asked by writers to pitch a book at a conference I’m attending. Sometimes I’m asked to find out the status of a submission. Because of my writing background, I totally understand these impulses. When I was writing novels, I asked these questions of my agent. So believe me, I’ve experienced the frustration of being at home, wondering why my agent isn’t asking about and pitching my work at conference.

And as an agent, I can tell you why I rarely, if ever, ask for a status or pitch a book at conference.

I don’t ask for a status of a manuscript because the editor won’t have her logbook or spreadsheet with her – or at least, not convenient at the time. She’ll be seeing lots of other agents and authors. No one can expect any editor to answer status questions from memory. But as your agent, I can contact editors any time, when they ARE near their records, and receive an accurate answer.

Of course, if an editor volunteers information about a pending submission, I’m happy to listen, learn, and share any information with the author.

But no editor needs a spreadsheet to hear a pitch, right? Well, no. But pitching manuscripts is not the purpose of most editor and agent meetings at conferences. Rather, we are strengthening relationships. We talk business, but will listen to editors rather than throw them pitches, no matter how excited we are or how much we love the author.

Might we mention a manuscript or author? Yes, but to pique interest. Then we can follow up with a dynamite proposal. This proposal will be expected by the editor and will contain all the information the editor needs, not just the highlights we might cram in at a conference. Or we might not mention you or your manuscript, but make a note to present that particular editor with your fabulous proposal that will speak directly to the publishing needs and wants of that editor. This allows you to look your best at all times.

So while you’re at home, wondering why your agent isn’t working hard for you at a conference, relax and take this time to write or chill, or both. Your agent is working hard for you. Maybe just not the way you think.


Your turn:

What do you think agents should accomplish at a conference?

What is your favorite part of a conference?

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