Dear Agent Manners,
I will be attending a conference soon where I have the opportunity to pitch my work to an agent. However, my manuscript is only in the second draft, so I don’t feel comfortable pitching it as I’ve heard agents want to hear about books that are more complete. I do have several questions I would like to ask an agent about this genre so that when the manuscript is ready, I will be properly prepared. Are most agents open to this, or is it viewed as a waste of their time?
Questioning in Texas
Agent Manners wishes to commend you on even thinking of this issue in the first place. Having been the recipient of pitch sessions in which the author not only did not have a draft version of their manuscript but was still in the idea stage, it’s good to know that some people think ahead. While one can certainly understand your desire to be able to discuss your questions with an agent, there are two things you should perhaps first consider.
(1) An agent may be amenable to answering these questions in some other venue of the conference. If there is a way to contact them beforehand, you may wish to attempt it. You can always offer to buy them a drink in the hotel bar or a coffee in the cafe and see if their schedule will allow for that. They aren’t necessarily under an obligation to comply but may be able to do so, which leaves the opportunity open for….
(2) Another writer at the conference to be able to make a pitch with a completed and ready-to-go manuscript. Agent Manners has often heard a lament at conferences that the available number of slots for pitch sessions go very quickly and there are many who do not get the opportunity afforded by them even though they are also attending the same conference.
Agent Manners does not personally view pitch sessions in which the author chooses to spend their time securing other valuable information which may help them in the pursuit of publication as a waste of time, but has heard other agents express dissatisfaction after meeting with those who are unprepared to send their work. Most agents of my acquaintance take pitch sessions at conferences because they are looking for new clients and, therefore, will request submissions from likely candidates. Since many agents’ lists have changing circumstances in terms of what they are seeking, it is in the best interest of the author to be able to follow up on such requests as soon as possible, while the agent may still recall their impassioned presentation clearly.