What Literary Agents Expect from Conferences

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 08 2016

I’ve done a lot of posts over the years on how authors can make the most of their conference experience. I’ve talked about everything from how to talk to agents in elevators, what shoes to wear, to suggestions on pitching. What I don’t think I’ve ever talked about is what agents hope to gain from conferences. In talking to authors I think reality is quite different from perception.

First and foremost agents are looking for new talent, or old talent in search of a new agent. We’re looking for something exciting to add to our client lists. Part of the fun of being an agent is the hunt and I think for most of us, no matter how successful our authors get, we always love the discovery of something new, or someone new to work with. The truth of the matter though is that most of us go into conferences knowing how rare that find really is.

So what we’re really going to conferences for is networking. Agents want to network with potential new clients. Even if you don’t have something I’m interested right then and there, networking and connecting might mean we find something to work on later. Authors should be doing the same thing. We’re also networking with other agents and editors. Publishing is a surprisingly small business and yet, it’s amazing how long we can all go between seeing each other. Getting together, reconnecting and talking about the business is a key part of conferences for business professionals.

Promotion. Just as it’s important for authors to be constantly promoting their author brand and books, it’s important for agents to do the same. We need to remind authors we’re here, we’re hungry and we can sell their books and build their careers. Just sitting in an office all day will rarely do that for us. Well, with Twitter, Facebook and other social media I guess we can, but face time is good for everyone.

Lastly, we go because we like to help authors. Agents and editors love books and we love authors. Going to conferences to share our knowledge of the industry, to talk with others about a job we love and to help an author get one step closer to her dreams is really the whole point. In the end, that’s the only guarantee of a conference.

4 responses to “What Literary Agents Expect from Conferences”

  1. Avatar Elissa says:

    This post actually makes me more interested in attending a conference than has any “why writers need to go to conferences” post I’ve read before. Thinking that agents are worried about building their brand and keeping up on things makes them sound almost…human. 😉

  2. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Jessica, would that be the same reason agents and editors travel overseas to conferences? Or would the chance to meet their international clients or even just be a tourist play more of a part?

    Curious because I’ve always wondered what tempts international agents and editors to come to conference here in Oz. Whatever it is, though, I’m very glad they come!

    • Jessica Faust Jessica Faust says:

      Certainly there’s a big appeal in traveling anywhere, but yes, if agents/editors have heard repeatedly about a good conference they’ll want to attend. No matter how far away.