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One of the many perks of attending a writing conference is the opportunity to network with literary agents and editors. Sometimes, these connections are made through a “speed dating” process that’s similar to events hosted for people seeking a romantic partner. In a writing conference speed dating-style event, you’ll have ten minutes or so to chat with one literary agent before moving on to speak with the next agent, and so on— all in an effort to maximize the possibility of partnerships. But how can you make a potential match with a literary agent in only a few minutes? The publishing matchmakers at Writer’s Relief have some tips and strategies that can help!
Strategies To Help You Successfully Connect With A Literary Agent
Pro Strategy #1: Do Your Literary Agent Homework
Unlike the mystery found in speed dating for romance, at a writing conference event, you’ll know ahead of time exactly whom you’ll be talking to. Make sure you peruse the list of agents you’ll be meeting and then get down to work.
- Research which genres and authors the agents represent and which books they’ve sold.
- If you have time, read at least one of the books each agent represents.
- Check out their social media accounts for up-to-date information on what they’re looking for.
- Review your query letter and synopsis to see if you will make a good match.
Pro Strategy #2: Prepare Your Pitch
At the center of every writer/literary agent session is your book’s “elevator pitch.” Hone your pitch into a cupid’s arrow that shoots straight to the literary agent’s heart!
- Describe the premise of your story in terms of the genre, tone, main characters, and central conflict in an exciting and engaging way.
- Your pitch shouldn’t last more than a minute or two; be prepared to go into more detail later.
- Memorize! Don’t read from a piece of paper. Speak with conviction and enthusiasm.
- Practice in public with family, friends, neighbors, maybe even people in the grocery store checkout line, and amend accordingly until your pitch has the best impact.
- Leave dull but important information about word count and sequel/series information for the post-pitch chat.
Pro Strategy #3: Prepare A Backup Pitch
Alas, only your mother will adore everything you ever say. What makes one literary agent’s heart skip a beat may not intrigue another, so always have a backup plan. If your first pitch falls flat, don’t waste the remaining eight minutes of your speed dating session trying to convince the agent otherwise. Instead, have a second—or a third—pitch ready.
Pro Strategy #4: Practice Your Speed Dating Bio
Can you describe yourself in sixty seconds? For literary agent speed dating events, make sure you’ve got a concise, quick bio on the tip of your tongue.
What makes you uniquely qualified to write this book? Nonfiction authors know that professional qualifications are vital, but your agent may also perk up if you’re a working physician writing a medical mystery. What writing credentials do you have? Have you had excerpts or other writing published in literary journals, won any writing contests, or are you a member of professional writing organizations? These are all important facts that can convince agents to consider your book.
Pro Strategy #5: Bring Handouts
You want the literary agent to remember you, so the first thing you should do is hand them a business card that provides contact information and a sense of your genre and brand as a writer.
You could also offer literary agents a bound excerpt from your book that they can peruse on the plane ride back home.
Pro Strategy #6: Have Questions Ready
It’s always good to have a few questions prepared in case you and your speed date finish with business quickly and there’s still time left over for chatting. Use this extra time to network! What you learn may help you, or a colleague, in the future. For instance, you might ask:
- What specific types of projects are you looking for now?
- Where do you see this genre heading?
- What have you read recently just for pleasure?
Pro Strategy #7: Be Calm And Polite
Eek! You’re going to be talking to actual literary agents about your book! Speed dating events can be a bit scary, and since your time is limited, it’s best not to waste it by hyperventilating and fainting. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and remember to shake hands, say hello, look your “date” in the eye, and, when your time is up, politely say good-bye. Rejection is inevitable, so accept it with grace. It’s your book being rejected, not you, and your next interview just might lead to success.
Do speed dating-style events really work to connect writers with literary agents? The jury is still out. But networking with industry professionals is always a great opportunity to make connections while improving your knowledge and understanding of the business. Maximize that possibility, and the time you spend at the table won’t go to waste—you may even make a match!
Question: If you’ve ever attended a speed dating event with publishing professionals, how did it work out and what did you learn?