from the mixed up files of Agent Manners – conference etiquette

Dear Agent Manners:

I hear that going to conferences is a great way to meet agents and other authors, but I’m a little confused about how I should approach an agent. Should I tap dance my way to them and declare myself the new Stephen King of J.K. Rowling material, dazzle them with slideshows from my laptop, throw queries and synopses in their faces, babble while pretending to be timid and sweaty?


Befuddled Arkansan (with no shoes or shirt, obviously)

Dear Befuddled:

Agent Manners’ first suggestion is to relax. Most agents of my acquaintance seem to be more comfortable with those attendees that act naturally. Instead of treating the agent as a target to be acquired and launching into a pitch, have an opening that will begin a conversation. Perhaps you might read Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent advice on that very topic: Schmoozing 101.

I suspect if you asked Agent Janet, she’d suggest that you offer to buy the agent a drink. That could work on Agent Manners too. But choose your moment carefully. Agents are often heavily-scheduled at conferences, so respect their commitments and offer to get together at their convenience — if their schedule has an opening. If it doesn’t, keep the moment graceful and wait for a different opportunity.

Keep it casual. Keep it low-key. Let the agent steer. Most of them will appreciate a few moments of low pressure in the hailstorm of workshops, pitches, and meetings.

5 responses to “from the mixed up files of Agent Manners – conference etiquette

  1. Thanks for responding with useful information. 🙂

  2. the buddy system
    Over on the “Alien Romances” blog, there is a discussion going on about approaching other authors started by romance/science fiction author Linnea Sinclair. The comments give suggestions on interacting with authors.

  3. Offer to buy a drink at 9am. Check.
    Ok, I’ll wait until 9:22.

  4. Julie Weathers has posted a multi-part report of the recent Surrey (BC) Writer’s Conference, in which she describes meeting numerous agents informally in just this sort of low-pressure way.
    See her blog; go to the archives (right-hand menu, a ways down on the page) for Nov. 2008 and look at the posts with “Surrey” in the title.
    I’ll tell ya, though: aside from actually getting to the conferences, I’d LOVE to have the sort of self-assurance and easy conversational style that apparently encourage such meetings to happen. My own after-conference report would be filled with a lot of frustrated self-recrimination, since I wouldn’t have stalked any agents or editors at one extreme, wouldn’t have simply talked to any in the bar or elevator at the other extreme, and would have generally tried to blend into the woodwork otherwise. (And the man wonders why he doesn’t have an agent…)

  5. Another great link… Thanks! I’m adding the Schmoozing 101 to my list of favs too!

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