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Eight tips for impressing the agent, acquisitions editor, publisher, or mentor of your choice at this year’s conference

June 10, 2012

by Chris Coward, marketing chairperson

During last year’s Florida Writers Conference, a new attendee approached me in the lobby. She was toting her conference program, her finger stabbing the photo of literary agent Mary Sue Seymour. “It says I can see her by special appointment. Can I really talk to her, like, formally?”

Maybe,” I said, hoping Mary Sue had an opening.

And she’ll look at my work?”

Maybe,” I repeated. “If you can get an appointment.”

Then I explained the process.

The interview process

First, review the faculty roster on the FWA website or in the conference program.

Second, choose the agent, acquisition editor, publisher, or other industry professional that suits your needs and genre.

Finally, pay the designated fee online or by check and reserve your time.

The entire conference faculty is available for consultation, and you may make as many appointments as you wish. Because my new friend and I were already at the conference, she could not make her appointment online but at the Registration Desk. (Recommendation: register and reserve your appointment times early—months in advance, if possible. Faculty schedules fill quickly!)

Interviews are comfortable and relaxed.

Interviews are limited to ten minutes, and there’s a timer at each interview table. We suggest you practice presenting your pitch concisely. Being able to pitch in the allotted timeframe reflects well on you as a professional. You can send additional information with your thank-you letter and whatever materials the agent may request you to send after the conference.

Eight useful tips

  1. Prepare to talk about your work for about three minutes, allowing the remainder of the time for questions and exchange of contact information. Include a greeting and such basic information as your name, genre, book title, intended audience, and about a minute’s worth of plot.
  2. Assemble your materials: your business cards and maybe a one-page information sheet with your book title, genre, word count, written “elevator pitch,” contact information, one-sentence bio or summary of your qualifications, and maybe an image. You may also want to bring a copy of your story or first chapter of your book.
  3. Check your interviewer’s website to see what he or she usually requests (query letter? synopsis? proposal? resume?) and bring those, too. Most likely, your interviewer won’t take these materials (luggage space can get tight), but be ready, just in case. And for goodness sake, practice your pitch until you can present it naturally and conversationally.
  4. On the day of your interview, arrive at the Interview Desk ten minutes early to check in and relax.
  5. Plan questions so you can learn more about your interviewer’s area of expertise.
  6. Keep a notepad handy.
  7. At the end of your pitch, remember your call to action: “Do you think this is something you might be interested in?”
  8. Be courteous. At the conference, please don’t solicit faculty during mealtimes and social events, which are their break times. Only if an agent or publisher asks about your work is it okay to pitch outside of formal appointment times. Then be ready to pitch for about a minute, being sure to include your name, genre, publishing history (if any), title of book, and fifteen to thirty seconds’ worth of plot.

“I’m ready,” my friend said. She patted her goodie bag, which bulged with materials on her book. “I’m always ready,” she added, laughing. We made our way to the Registration Desk. There had been a last-minute cancellation, and Mary Sue had an immediate opening.

Within minutes we arrived at the interview area just as a woman burst from one of the rooms.

“She wanted to see the full manuscript!” the woman exclaimed. “The full manuscript!”

My friend and I exchanged grins. Then her name was called, and I wished her luck.

The Eleventh Annual Florida Writers Conference will be held October 19-21, 2012, at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary. Register early and reserve your time with the faculty of your choice.

Useful Links

Which faculty members would you want to talk to?

  1. June 10, 2012 6:19 pm

    I thought agents were just for celebrities, and are not interested in first-time authors.

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink
    June 11, 2012 6:41 am

    Walter, these agents are looking for authors to represent. It’s their job to match authors to publishing houses. They have the relationships required to get your books in front of the right people. Agented works can stand a better chance of success than cold submissions or unagented queries.

  3. Kathryn Taromina permalink
    June 25, 2012 6:21 pm

    This is such an important subject I wish it could have been more readable (the black screen makes it difficult for mature eyes even with special glasses for computer purposes).Kathy T.

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