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While you might think you’re more likely to stumble upon Bigfoot than an actual literary agent—the truth is, meeting a literary agent in person isn’t that difficult. Join an active writing group with a large membership, and there will probably be a monthly meeting at which a featured literary agent will speak. Or you can attend a writers conference “literary speed dating” session, where writers sign up for ten-minute pitch meetings with literary agents. Here’s a great list of writing organizations near you.
Whether the literary agent you met in person specifically requested a sample of your writing, or if you simply want to touch base by sending a sample on your own, there are some special considerations you must think through when writing your cover letter or query.
After The Handshake: How To Send Book Materials To A Literary Agent You Met In Person
Start your letter with a reminder of your meeting. Spell out the logistics of where/when you met: I attended a speed-dating pitch session with you at the 2017 Name Of Writers Conference in [City Here]. OR We met while taking the elevator up to the tenth floor of the [Really Big Hotel] in Reno last month at the [Name Of Writers Conference].
If possible, mention something unique to remind the agent of who you are. Did you and the literary agent talk about your shared interest in border collies? Did the agent make a comment about the gemstones in your earrings (you have the same birth month!)? If you can use a small, concrete detail to jog the literary agent’s memory of who you are, include it in your first lines.
Be sure you mention any special guidelines. Sometimes, literary agents offer to look at more materials from writers they meet in person than what they commonly request in their submission guidelines. You can remind the agent of this with a simple phrase, like, Per your request, I have attached XX pages of my book for your review, along with a X-page synopsis.
Include a book summary. Even if the literary agent remembers who you are, remind him or her about your project using a classic query-letter book summary. Learn more about how to write a summary for a book query letter.
Include your author bio. You and the agent may have talked about your prior publishing credits, but it’s best to include them in your query anyway. Learn more about how to write a great author bio.
Mention the competition. As long as you and the literary agent haven’t agreed to an exclusive, you might want to state that other literary agents are also currently considering the project. While it isn’t necessary to point out simultaneous submissions in a “cold call” query letter, mentioning that other agents are reviewing your book is good publishing industry etiquette if there were many agents at the event.
Warm up your letter with a bit of personal thanks in your closing lines. Along with offering to chat about your sample pages or send more upon request, it may help to offer the agent your well wishes: Everyone at [Name Of Writers Group] is still talking about how much we all enjoyed your presentation. I hope the rain didn’t turn out to be so much trouble that we can’t lure you back to speak with us again!
How To Follow Up With A Literary Agent Who Doesn’t Reply
Sometimes, a literary agent who seems so attentive during a face-to-face meeting can “disappear” when communication switches to letters and emails. If you feel that you’ve been waiting an excessively long time for a response, consider sending the literary agent a short follow-up letter.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s helpful to meet literary agents in person when pitching a book? Or can a query letter alone jump-start a meaningful partnership?