What to Keep in Mind When Meeting Agents

My blog posts for this week will concern the 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. For more information about the Conference, click here.

Some of you who are reading this blog may have attended the Conference before, perhaps even multiple times.

However, many of you, like me, have probably never attended a writing conference. I’ve been to plenty of church conferences, and even a conference about teaching university-level composition, but never a writing conference.

My goal is that this blog will provide you will useful information whether you’re attending the ACFW Conference for the first time or the fifth.

If you are attending the Conference for the first time, you probably have plenty of questions about what to expect. The question at the top of my list was how to appropriately interact with agents and editors.

I learned it’s never a good idea to verbally tackle agents and editors in a bathroom or hallway. Good thing to learn before getting dubbed the bathroom pitch girl.

It is, however, acceptable to pitch in an elevator, thus the term “elevator pitch.” I wonder which category the Starbucks waiting line falls into?

Since I’m clearly not an expert on the subject, I asked Etta Wilson from Books & Such Literary Agency if she would contribute her expertise, as she has vast experience as an agent, editor, and even an author. Thank you, Etta, for your contribution to this blog.

What is the biggest mistake authors make when meeting agents for the first time?

This is tough to answer with only one point because so much depends on the author's basic personality and whether or not they feel confident about themselves and their work. It's nearly always obvious when an author has a canned comment ready or is a bit pushy. Agents, like authors, are simply human, and some will work well together and some will need to look more.

If an author attending the ACFW Conference wants to approach an agent outside of an official appointment setting, for instance, at an agent table during meals, what is an appropriate way for the author to do so? What kind of information about his or her book, including how much information, should the author give in this kind of informal setting?

Assuming the author knows something about the agent's preferences (fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or historical), he/she should have a couple of enticing summary sentences in mind about the work and their background. Occasionally an author can make a strong impression by noting a personal connection with either the agent or another client of the agent, but it should be legitimate.

What are some important things for authors to remember when forming a pitch?

While a pitch should be memorable, short, and honest, authors should not be crestfallen if an agent declines to see the work. There are many reasons why an agent may be unable to pursue a particular novel, and it could be for the author's best interests in the long run.

What kinds of materials should authors bring with them to agent appointments?

I like to see a proposal, 3 or 4 sample chapters, a brief synopsis, and a bio. That may seem like a lot for a brief appointment, but it can save a lot of time later if I'm interested.

If you could give first-time conference attendees any advice about meeting with agents and pitching their work, what would it be?

Believe in your work and be kind. We're all in this together, and the writing and publishing of wonderful reading is a high calling for all of us.

Questions for Comment: If you have attended the ACFW Conference before, do you have any advice for first-time attendees, especially regarding appointments with agents and editors? If this will be your first time attending the Conference, what questions do you have about it?


  1. Great advice on approaching agents & editors. I remember my knees knocking together during my first appt. at an RWA conference. But the editor was so nice to me, I immediately relaxed. (sort of...) This will be my first ACFW conference! I am so looking forward to it.
    Mary Ellis

  2. Good job, Ashley. Very informative.
    Maybe I'll bump into you in a Starbucks line in Indy and we can practice our pitches on each other. :D

  3. Thank you both. I'll definitely be in the Starbucks line, April, so be sure to look for me. :)