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Meeting an Agent at a Conference

This question came through on a blog post I did about preparing a nonfiction manuscript:

I have a meeting with a publisher at a conference at the end of the month. I will be presenting them several chapters and a proposal. Do you have any recommendations on how I should present it to them (bound, in a folder, loose, etc.)?

Please do NOT present a written proposal. I definitely recommend having your material with you, especially electronically, on the off chance an agent does want to see it while she’s traveling, but I do not recommend showing up at a conference, proposal in hand, thinking you’re simply going to hand it over to an agent. A pitch appointment is not an opportunity to hand-deliver your material. A pitch appointment is about verbally pitching your book and getting to know the agent and a little more about the industry. It’s also the agent’s chance to get to know you and to see if you’re the kind of person she would like to work with. Honestly, I’ve had pitch appointments in which I’ve passed on material only because I found the author so abrasive I knew it wasn’t someone I wanted to work with.

When you do prepare your proposal, never bind it. A folder is fine, but typically, if the agent is still accepting paper submissions, it’s loose.

Jessica

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10 comments

  1. I'm a little confused since there's a publisher in the question while the answer applies for agents.
    Does this mean that pitching to a publisher is the same as pitching to an agent, or is this an oversight?

  2. I'm an author, not a publisher/agent, but I've spoken at a number of conferences. Editors are also not typically wanting to take the proposal with them at the conference. You can imagine 25-50 pages of a manuscript times 20-30 pitch apts (or more) is a whole lot of paper to be lugging around. If they are interested they will ask for the individual to send it on to them.

  3. I was a bit confused by the switch in identities too, but Eileen is right. Nobody at a conference wants to take home a stack of paper. Go there with a card and your ideas in your mind, and rehearse your 60-second pitch before you go in. Agents and publishers both will ask you to submit in writing later so they can smash your dreams without being face-to-face. 🙂

  4. I think the answer stays the same whether it's a publisher or an agent, but wow these things are so stressful. I know it's hard to have to take the extra paper, but I wish they just would.

  5. Great post, I think people always need clarification on these points.
    I have had things to give to agents/editors at pitch appointments — a business card/bookmark with my website (etc) on it. This hasn't failed me yet and I've noticed some agents/editors carry little containers to put these in.
    Otherwise, the best thing you can do for yourself is practicing the verbal pitch and try not to be too nervous.

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