Monday, April 13, 2009

Does it help to meet agents in person?

How much does meeting an agent in person really help? Should you spend thousands of dollars and travel long distances to meet one?

I don't think so. That's been my experience, and that's what I've read on agent blogs.

I've met a number of agents in person at writer's conferences and I've always found them to be very charming, and interested to listen to what you have to say. They really are looking for the next J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King. It is a business in which they are trying to make money after all.

And there's the rub. If they were just doing it for fun, or just publishing books for people that they liked, then getting to know them personally would probably have a lot more impact. But it doesn't, because at the end of the day they evaluate every work with a filter that asks, how much money will this book make?

It's a hard truth, and probably not one that most of us want to hear, but it's a fact of the business.

Does that mean that you shouldn't go to writing conferences? Absolutely not. I think they are a great place to meet other writers and attend useful sessions.

Does that mean that you shouldn't spend a lot of time and money to make special trips to meet agents? Yes, that's my point. If it's close to you and doesn't cost much, by all means go, but if not, concentrate on making the writing great. It will have more influence on getting published.

So what do you do if you meet an agent at a writing conference? Become a sponge and suck up everything you can. You won't believe the types of information that you can pick up just interacting with agents.

Learn what genres they like, but also learn about their hobbies and other interests outside of their job. You never know when that might make a connection. But you see the problem with that last statement, right? You never know. The chances are slim. It has happened, but it's almost like winning the lottery.

So while I'm not going to spend a lot of money, or a lot of time to travel to meet agents, especially ones that don't represent my genre, when I have one within reach I'm going to suck out every bit of knowledge that I can.


  1. Great post! Thank you for answering this question. It is one I've often wondered about, and I think you've done a great job at giving us some helpful thoughts. :D

  2. Thanks for you thoughts on this topic. I have never been to a writer's conference, mostly because they scare me to death. But I have wondered plenty of times if I would make more of an impact if I could speak with an agent in person. It's becoming more apparent to me that I will make the most impact if I write a solid, interesting story and a killer query.

  3. Cindy, If you have never been to a writer's conference, you should make the time to do so. There really is nothing to be afraid of. No one is going to ask you to read aloud, unless it's something you want. No one is going to critique your work, unless you ask them to do so.

    What's absolutely great about writer's conferences is that you get to meet hundreds of other interesting people like yourself who live and breath writing, and it really is a breath of fresh air.

    You will learn tips and tricks in a few days that might take you years of writing by yourself in your office.

  4. Good topic, Douglas. I've visited large conferences like the BookExpo and waited in line behind 20 other writers for the chance to speak to a specific agent about my book. The organizers gave everyone around 5 minutes, until a bell rang (no joke) and either get a business card from her and request for a partial (which she did for everyone) or, for some, she simply said no thanks and the next writer went up to sit. It was truly agonizing, but like you said, talking to the writers behind you and in front of you, sharing in the same angst, was actually quite refreshing.

    As far as those gigantic national conferences, I don't believe I'll attend one of those again, but I definitely agree with you about the local ones. If they are close, and a reputable agent is involved, it's a great thing.

  5. Douglas, I love the comments about what you can get out of a conference. Also, I like that you point out that you shouldn't spend the big bucks just to have a quick visit with an agent.

    However, I like to provide a counter point when I can. Does it help to meet an agent in person? In my experience, I would have to say yes. Now there have been a handful of agents that I did not get much out of, but there have been some that have been very encouraging, more encouraging and informative than if I had just emailed them.

    The cattle-call and the bell that Patrick described is degrading, but an honest smile and enthusiasm from an agent, combined with a request for a full manuscript, is something that can keep you going. That's been my experience at any rate.


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