Yesterday, I wrote that it’s so important to have confidence if you’re going to attend a writers’ conference. This is particularly true “if you’re planning on speaking to literary agents” there about how awesome your manuscript is.
Today, Writing Rule #43 explains why:
If you’re going to go to a writers’ conference and talk to a literary agent, practice your pitch first. Repeatedly.
This isn’t to make you nervous. It’s to make you prepared. These guys have heard it all and read it all. At least that’s how they feel. So you need to come across as knowledgeable, engaging and confident in order to make them pay any real attention to you.
“Easier said than done,” I can just imagine my fellow introverted writers muttering. And I’m not going to disagree.
Despite my writing skills, my 10 published novels, the Novel Writing classes I've taught, the how-to-write presentations that I give, and the editorial insights I provide as a one-one-one writing coach, I freeze up like a deranged refrigerator when somebody asks me to talk about my own books.
Chances are that you can relate. But even if you’re awesome at promoting yourself, Writing Rule #43 is still important for you to consider if you’re going to talk to literary agents at a writers’ conference.
Practice and preparation do make stronger. I mean, you wouldn’t give a best man or maid of honor speech on the fly, right? And before you go into a job interview, you do some additional research on the company in question, right?
In the same way, you want to get your spiel down pat before go-time. Before it matters, write it out. Practice it to yourself. Practice it in front of other people. Practice it while recording yourself.
And while you’re preparing and practicing, here are two other tips, these one from The Best Selling Author over at literary-agents.com. Yes, I do know this article is from 2011, practically an eon ago. But some information holds true over the years, even in this ever-changing digital age, and studies on human nature often fall into that category.
So here are two of this site’s suggestions coupled with Innovative Editing’s editorial opinion:
“Writers Conference Literary Agent Pick-Up Tip #1: Be Yourself” This goes right along with my previous statement about how studies in human nature don’t reveal much new bottom-line data. That’s because human nature doesn’t change. We may like to think we’re so advanced compared to our ancestors. But then why are we getting into the same stupid scrapes with the same stupid vices we always have? Anyone who makes a living reading people – which is exactly what literary agents do at writers’ conferences – is therefore going to be capable of spotting a fake pretty quickly. And fakes aren’t worth as much as the real thing. So don’t be fake. Be yourself. Just the best possible version of yourself you can be.
“Writers Conference Literary Agent Pick-Up Tip #2: Flirt” Just because literary agents make a practice of reading other people doesn’t mean they’re superior themselves. They still have the same desires as we do, including the desire to be appreciated. So let them know that your meeting isn’t just about you. Make it a little about them as well. Keep their time restrictions in mind, thank them for listening and express admiration for their past successes. That last part means you know what books they’ve helped along in the publishing process, and you tell them how spot on you think they were.
I can’t say these tips will definitely get you a literary agent at a writers’ conference. But they will get you closer to that goal than you otherwise would be.