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Making the Most of Pitch Appointments

I LOVE questions from readers (hint, hint) and am thankful for this comment on an earlier post. I wanted to make it a blog post since I think it’s valuable information.

I’ll be attending a writer’s conference in December, and I’ll likely be participating in a one-on-one pitch session. Rather than pitch my manuscript, I thought I might spend that time picking the brain of the agent. I think you’ve touched on this topic in a previous post, and I’m wondering if this is a good tact to take? It’s not often that a writer is able to have ten minutes with an agent, and I want to make the most of it. What questions would be most useful for an unpublished author to ask? How do I make the most of my limited time?

First off, if you have a manuscript to pitch be prepared to pitch it. Not all agents will know what to do with an author who won’t pitch. Also, for me, one of the most valuable ways to spend pitch time is to actually discuss the manuscript. You could start the conversation by saying, “while I hope you want to read this further, I am also interested in hearing your take on my pitch and any feedback or thoughts you might have on the idea/manuscript itself.” I think that gives an agent some breathing room and lets her know that you’re interested in actually hearing her thoughts.

If you still have time, or the agent is not as forthcoming as you would like about your work or your pitch, definitely have some questions ready to ask, but make sure the answers aren’t simply something that could be found on the agent’s website. For example, you might ask something along the lines of, “I see that you represent a lot of cozy mysteries, but your recent #MSWL tweets imply you’re looking for something darker. Are you still looking for cozies.” This shows that you’ve done your research, but also lets you see if this agent is still right for your work (assuming you’re a cozy writer in this case).

Other thoughtful questions could be market-related, or personal (getting to know the agent), or craft related. Some ideas:
1. Is there anything that you see the market is hungry for right now or tired of right now?
2. How do you see the market for my idea? If it’s not marketable do you have ideas for things to consider with my next book or ways I could make this one more marketable?
3. How hands-on are you editorially with your clients?
4. What’s your submission process like?
5. In general are there things successful authors do or think that you think all authors should look to do or think?
6. When an author gets that call with an offer of representation how would you suggest she best suss out the best agent for her? What questions should she ask? How should she know she’s making the right choice (assuming she gets multiple offers)?
7. Any suggestions for better honing my pitch?
8. Any networking suggestions for the rest of my time at the conference?
9. Are there other conferences you would suggest I look into?
10. What are the submission policies of your agency? Can I submit to others if you pass?

These are just suggestions of course, but they might get your mind working toward what questions and conversations you would really like to have when choosing an agent you can connect with.

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4 comments

  1. I’ve also asked agents to read my query letter for their comment, what advice they give all their authors (or if there’s a book they recommend their authors read) and what book they’ve read recently themselves.

  2. Thank you, Jessica, for this blog. I try to write my questions before a conference because I tend to go blank. With the time pressure, the noise, and hectic running around, I just find it easier to do it ahead of time. I particularly like the 10 questions that you suggested we ask.
    Such a helpful website.

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