Pub Rants

1 Hour With An Agent

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STATUS: The blizzard indeed hit. Although I live within walking distance of my office, Chutney took one look at the 30 mile an hour winds and blowing snow and lifted her nose in disdain. I could do what I wanted but SHE was not going out there. We are working from home today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONG HOT SUMMER by Style Council

Well, a long hot summer is what I’m dreaming of right now. All I can see is a wall of white snowflakes out my window.

Just recently I was having a discussion with a conference organizer about pitch appointments. As an agent, I think it’s pretty much a waste of time to have a writer pitch a fiction project that is either only in idea-form or only partially written.

After all, we attend conferences not only to connect with writers but to find clients. Shocking I know! If a novel isn’t written, there’s nothing I can do with it.

From her perspective, she thought the value of pitching for their attendees (even those with unfinished novels) was to allow the writer to have a networking opportunity with an agent.

So I started to think about that. For me, a pitch appointment is not a successful networking moment. For the most part, if a project is not ready, that’s all I really remember. Not the writer or the story.

But I do see the value in networking. After all, I just took on a new client a couple of weeks ago who I met and remembered from a conference I attended 4 or 5 years ago.

I’m serious. That’s exactly what happened. I actually don’t remember if she had pitched me at the conference. She might have. The pitch I have no recollection of. What I do remember is the variety of social moments orchestrated by the conference that gave her an opportunity to mingle with me. We had some fun chats which weren’t necessarily related to her project. She reminded me of that when she queried me all these years later.

Then she submitted the most wonderful novel I’ve read in a while….

As an agent though, I don’t take on clients because they’ve networked with me; I take on clients whose writing I love. If they also happened to have networked with me, so much the better I guess!

But I understand where this conference organizer is coming from. Conferences often need the revenue generated by pitch appointments to keep the conference going.

So I thought of an alternative and I wonder what you folks think about it. I suggested that instead of one-on-one pitch appts (which I think should only be reserved for finished manuscripts), what about a networking hour with an agent for writers who have works in progress but aren’t ready for pitch time? Limit the size to let’s say 6 people so that it’s small, intimate, and not intimidating.

I even suggested that the hour be held somewhere social—like at the bar or at the restaurant so all participants could have a beverage or snacks while the talk unfolds. Then it feels like fun rather than work. For the agent and the participants! Conferences could charge for the session if revenue is a necessary evil.

6 people, 1 agent or editor, and 1 hour to ask about your project, its viability, the process, publishing, what have you.

I’d love it I think. The expectation is not that I’m going to request sample pages because the project isn’t ready. Then I don’t feel bad about gently telling them in a pitch appt. they’ve paid for that they can’t pitch a project that isn’t complete. I’m off the hook but the writers still get quality networking time to get questions answered.

Interesting or no?

And if you had 1 hour with an agent, what would you ask?

62 Responses

  1. Tracy said:

    I think that’s a really great idea, and not necessarily just for asking questions about the industry (although that would be awesome too). As a writer who is just beginning to seek representation, I would love to find someone that I connect with on a personal level, and an hour with an agent would be a great opportunity to get a feel for their personality. The unfortunate reality is that when querying, we are often going into it blindly, and could easily end up working with someone we don’t like very much! This is why I so appreciate agent blogs. It gives a peek into who they are, and I know that I’ve crossed a few off my list because I could tell that we wouldn’t be a good match. Nothing major, but just little things that make me think I would be better off with someone else.

  2. Horserider said:

    That would be cool. If I had 1 hour with an agent, would I ask? I don’t think all the questions I have about queries, my works, and publishing and agents in general can be answered in an hour.

    Though queries and pitches are very useful. It’s a quick overview of your work.

    An hour is a long time and even with 6 people, that’s 6 hours. There are only 24 hours in a day and there’s only 18 hours left then. Take out 8 more hours for sleeping (though I don’t know about everyone else, but I wish I could get 8 hours) that only leaves 10 hours left.

    I also agree with what Tracy said about blogs up there. So many of my questions have already been answered by blogs like yours. 🙂

  3. Dana said:

    I think an hour with an agent at a bar (or some other social food bearing place) would be wonderful. It’s a great way to get to know someone personally, give a slightly longer pitch or explanation of your novel and really find out if it’s worth anything. But I think the personal and “fun” connection of the meeting would almost be more valuable than telling someone about my unfinished book.

  4. TheWriterStuff said:

    Assuming the agent in question wouldn’t mind providing some insight into whether a particular project is worth pursuing, I think 1 hour with an agent would be very valuable. An opportunity to pick the brain of someone with an inside track to the publishing industry would be very worthwhile, not to mention the possibility for stimulating conversation on literature in general.

  5. DebraLSchubert said:

    Kristin, I think this idea is positively brilliant. For me personally, since I have a finished ms, I would prefer a one-on-one. However, for people not at that point, to be able to pick the brain, so to speak, of a reputable agent would be a dream come true and the best possible use of everyone’s time. And, like you said, they wouldn’t be pitching, per se, so that would eliminate the awkwardness of that situation.

    If I had one hour with an agent I would ask the following:

    Is it strictly the writing that has you offer someone representation, or does the writer’s personality play into the equation at all? (i.e., whether they seem flexible, open-minded, hard-working, funny, etc.)

    What type of book that you have not yet represented would you most like to represent?

    How can I increase my chances of getting “full” requests?

  6. Hayley E. Lavik said:

    I think that’s a fabulous idea. At the Surrey Writers Conference, participants can book a 10 minute (I think) slot with an agent, theoretically to pitch their work, but I’ve also read you can take it as an opportunity to just sit and ask questions with someone who knows the business.

    To have more time, and with a few more people who may think of questions I might not have, would be incredibly helpful. Plus, the prospect of just being able to connect is very appealing. I’d love to hear feedback on my project, if it’s viable and the like, but I think it’s great also just to have a chance to interact and get to know someone. If I hit it off with an agent, then I’ll know if they’re the one I want in my corner, and how well we’ll work together. Plus, from the agent’s standpoint, it’s a great opportunity to remind future query-ers that agents are people, and are not just rejecting your query out of malevolence or amusement.

  7. Cass said:

    Are you suggesting 6 people with the 1 agent/editor for the same 1 hour? (So each person would get roughly 10 minutes each) or are you talking 1 on 1 for an hour and the agent/editor does that six times that day (or conference?)

    It think it would be nice sit in on a small group of 6 for an hour as long as each person got an even amount of time.

    If it was 1 hour 1 on 1 – I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking up that much time unless my work was complete.

    Since my work is a WIP, I’d ask the agent/editor if they felt my storyline was one that would interest them, if they thought it was salable. Of course I know they can’t commit on an idea, but even if they could see the first page and see if it grabs…

    I am going to my very first conference 50 days from now and looking forward to it. (yep I’ve been doing a countdown)

  8. Tara Maya said:

    It sounds like a very good idea. Some sort of food or drink should definitely be involved so shy writers who can’t think of something to say can pretend to chew.

  9. Louise said:

    I think this is a wonderful idea and wish they would offer this as a session at the RWA in DC this year.
    I would sign up as soon as it became available.

    Like many other writers, I have a completed manuscript and plan to book a pitch appointment, but I am also working on a manuscript (related to my first one)that I would love input on.

    A group dynamic like the one you have proposed would be the perfect way to discuss it with an expert in the field and my peers.

    You are on to something here!

    Louise Fury

  10. Christine Fletcher said:

    Fabulous idea. I was in something similar at a conference some years ago; the organizers set up a small group of writers with Donald Maass for a Q&A. I asked him what we should ask an agent if/when we got offers of representation. His answer was so helpful I actually used it two years later when the offer came! I think this would be much more useful than a traditional pitch appt. for writers whose work is still in progress. Plus not nearly so nerve-wracking!

  11. Carradee said:

    As neat as the idea sounds (6 people with 1 agent for 1 hour–I’m not sure where people are getting confused), I have my doubts about how its workability.

    Just ’cause in a group of 6 writers, you know there’s likely to be at least one chatterer in there who will eat into everyone else’s time, and at least one quiet person who will end up with no time at all because s/he tries to politely wait for everyone else to have their turns.

    Maybe if there were a moderator?

    • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

    Questions I’d ask an agent… hm…

    Chicago Manual of Style or AP Stylebook? XD

    Okay, so I’m probably not kidding with that one. What trends has he seen too much of lately, what are auto-refusals regardless of how they’re pulled off, (where) does he go to church…

    Other questions would probably depend on the agent and what that agent reps. I’d probably familiarize myself with at some of what the agent’s repped and ask for reading suggestions based in liking books X, Y, and B-negative. (And comment on any trends I noticed in the works.)


  12. The Writers Canvas said:

    Great idea, Kristin! I suppose the main question I would ask an agent in that hour is: Do you take on someone by the book, for something you think can sell, or for the writing because you believe it can sell along with other works by the author? I’ve heard some agents who represent authors because those agents love the writing voice. Other agents may love a writing voice but if they can’t viably see selling it in the near future, they don’t take on the client.

    Great idea, though. And I like the keep it social (in a bar or restaurant).


  13. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I think it’d be a great opportunity for the writers, but I fear for the agent even with the party limited to six! I could just imagine them competing with each other through that whole hour, whether they intend to or not. But if it’s just for networking, casual is good! Maybe it’d be good to even get a couple of agents in so that all the writers don’t focus on you at once, and then you get a little more time to talk to each individual in a more relaxing manner.

  14. Kathleen MacIver said:

    Oh man…I’d LOVE it! …even if the agent wasn’t interested in my book due to it’s style or content, or whatever. Assuming they at least knew something of the market, I’d love to just learn the things you learn through chit-chat. That’s why I like Twitter so much.

    I’d be curious about general market information that pertained directly to my stories. ie: what is the feel in the publishing industry toward time-travels in general? What about sweet romance? What’s unusual and what’s normal? Agents say highlight what’s unusual, and keep an eye on the market…but with so many books out there, it’s just not possible…unless you quit writing and only read. I mean… it takes 1000 agents just to keep up with the queries of all the stories out there and filter them for the publishers. How in the world is an aspiring author supposed to know what’s REALLY being done (and rejected) 100x/month?

    That’s the sort of stuff I’d just love to chit-chat about. If my novels are totally wrong, I’d like to know, since I do have other ideas festering in my brain. But if they’d be perfect with one subtle plot change…well, I’d love to know that, too!

    You’re fantastic, Kristin! (And Sara.)

  15. Stella said:

    You know, I have NO idea what I’d ask an agent/editor… but I do know that I would much prefer this to a pitch appointment. So much less pressure to “perform.” Plus, it’s a pleasant/social group environment, and it’s an opportunity to get your questions (as a writer) answered without feeling bad that you’re taking up an agent or editor’s time.

    My problem with “networking” sometimes is that I don’t like to “shmooze” and I feel uncomfortable talking about myself or my projects during a social time. (Not that I feel like it’s always “shmoozing”… but it does get awkward and tedious sometimes, you know?) So, an opportunity to meet with an agent or editor and other writers during a time where the point is to ask a ton of questions and chat about your projects… heaven!

    I hope this idea happens!

  16. Madison said:

    If I met an agent, I would ask if s/he minded if I pitched my completed project to them. I would not pitch an unfinished project because I would not query one. But actually I think the first words out of my mouth would be, “Do you accept middle grade novels?” If the answer is yes, then I’d pitch away! But if the answer is no, then I haven’t wasted said agent’s valuable time with a pitch they can’t use, but maybe we could have an interesting conversation about that wierd modern art piece in the middle of the room. 😉

  17. Just_Me said:

    That could be interesting.

    I admit, I’ve never made to a conference. I’d love to, but I’m no where near a major city that hosts a conference and the cost for travel and staying makes attendance prohibitive. So I don’t know exactly how these things go. But I like to get a feel for an agent’s personality, especially if I’m looking hard at querying them. I want to know if I’ll be able to work with them.

  18. LJCohen said:

    They do something like this at Boskone in Boston. You can sign up for literary beers/coffees (depending on the time of day, LOL) and have a small and intimate conversation with a writer/publisher/etc for an hour. I don’t know if they do this with agents as Boskone isn’t primarily a pitch kind of conference, but I can tell you it was great to have that time with folks like Jane Yolen and Tamora Pierce.

  19. Elissa M said:

    I like the idea. I agree that some writers will be pushy and do more talking than others, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I’m more likely to sit back and listen, so I wouldn’t mind someone doing the talking. That’s assuming the agent got time to speak too!

    Since the idea is NOT to pitch, but just socialize, it wouldn’t matter so much if not everybody got a “turn”. Still, a savvy agent would probably have no trouble making sure everyone got to ask at least one question.

    What I’m wondering is, would the writers pay for the privilege like a pitch session? How do you limit the demand otherwise?

  20. Tracey Devlyn said:

    Kristin, I think your idea has great potential. One could learn so much about the agent/editor and the business in general. It will be interesting to see how many conferences pick up your idea.

    BTW, congrats on your recent happy news – a Rita finalist and NYT rating. Awesome.

  21. Kim Kasch said:

    At the SCBWI conference in Oregon, we do something like this. At lunch about 6 people sit with an agent or editor.

    Sometimes, one person monopolizes the conversation-which is a shame but mostly it works out well.

    Everyone gets a few minutes between bites to bug…I mean talk with the agent/editor and there’s no extra expense.

  22. Vicky said:

    Believe me, it can be very beneficial to get feedback on a wip. About a year ago, I pitched a completed book to an editor. She asked about a follow-up. As it turned out, she’d read the 1st chapter of the book I pitched in a contest, and so when I told her the characters in the WIP were from the first book, her eyes lit up. She remembered the new hero from book one. I asked her advice about his goal & the plot, and she gave me some really great pointers & suggested an author to read.

    BTW, I met my agent at a conference dinner. She asked me about my book and I gave her a one-line elevator pitch. She requested a partial on the spot – scouts be prepared. 🙂

  23. Amy Sue Nathan said:

    I didn’t read the comments before mine – and while I like the idea in theory, I think the writers would be vying for the agents attention. How about something more akin to “speed dating” (just a bit slower) and each writer gets 10 minutes with the agent where the writer has specific questions etc. If I paid for some time with an agent and 5 other writers asked more than me or her story garnered more attention, I would not be pleased. Just being honest. Or, if it’s a round table discussion then you go around, everyone asks or bring up a topic in turn, and it’s allotted a certain amount of time. I’m usually not so anal – but I also think that works in progress are like babies – and to hear your idea stinks with people you don’t know around you, might not be great either.

    Writers network very well – but when an agent or editor is around (or a published author) I’ve seen the gloves come off.

  24. Myra said:

    1. I would love such an opportunity, but I’m an extrovert. Most “writer types” are not, and I think an agent would have to be very intentional about drawing out the introverts. Either that or set a time limit enforced by a time keeper (and a blunt instrument).

    2. Being able to talk process with an industry professional is priceless, especially if a writer is just starting out. Many of those with WIP’s could be new to the craft. How invaluable – to start out with encouragement and constructive feedback from someone in the know.

    Sign me up!

  25. Solvang Sherrie said:

    It sounds like a great idea. I’m going to the Pikes Peak conference next month and since my novel won 3rd I get priority with an editor and/or agent. And as exciting as it sounds, I’m terrified. A more casual setting sounds less intimidating and quite possibly more beneficial for everyone involved.

    Wow, my word for verification is “eating” — see, casual setting, food, it’s all good!

  26. ~Sia McKye~ said:

    It’s a great idea, actually–4 to 6 people is a good group. What you’re proposing would be like a small class discussion, or round table discussion in an informal setting, specific to the publishing field in relation to each writer present. We had things like that in college with various guest writers and a few editiors. Value–depends upon the agent or editor in front of the class. How comfortable they are with this format.

    FEEDBACK is always something a writer, particularaly a new writer, needs. Is the story line good, premise saleable, characters seem realistic, opening chapter marketable in so far as grabbing interest. How to present it to an agent or editor.

    If it was ME (having taught/chaired seminars) in front of 6 (honestly I’d prefer 4 each having twenty minutes) people, I’d ask for the first chapter of the WIP–or at least several pages of it, a short bio, and short backcover blurb, so I’d know what I’m dealing with as far as level of writing skills, premises, etc. I’m prepared for a discussion. This way I’ve cut the time each person needs on intros, because I’d know what I have in these people. My time would be better used to dicuss those writing samples and answer questions pertaining to them.

  27. Vacuum Queen said:

    I’d do it. I only need 10 minutes…we’d split the hour I’m sure. I would just ask about all the ideas floating in my head in order to get a quick “that idea sucks” or “hmmm, that sounds good enough to run with” type of comment. I mean, when you’ve got a bunch of ideas in your head, you hate to spend months working on the worst one! I’d like a little agent input as to what would have the best chance at working. 🙂

  28. bucketgirl said:

    In my hour, I would have the agent read two things: My current book (coming out in July), and the beginning of a larger manuscript I am working on. That would take about 40 minutes or less. (I’m assuming that agents are really fast readers, for some reason). Then, I would ask very specific questions about what s/he saw in the work, what the initial reactions were, and to comment on the quality of the work as specifically as possible. The goal used to be to have my book published. Now that I have reached that, I care about writing something fantastic. I am also morbidly curious about what the quality of most submissions looks like, so I’d ask the agent to bring me some of the “competition” to thumb through while she’s reading my work. It seems like a lot of dreck makes it to print and I want to know why.

  29. ames said:

    I think it’s a great idea. I know when I was at this stage I would have loved to have talked to an agent just to soak up some knowledge or ask some questions about the querying process that I’d need to know by the time it rolled around.

    Also food/drinks = never a bad idea.

  30. julesjones said:

    I’ve been to a session like this at a writer’s conference, done as “buy an agent pizza”. Four or five writers and an agent at a table during the hour scheduled for dinner, with dinner brought in and paid for by the writers. I found it a lot more useful than a pitch session would have been.

  31. Anonymous said:

    All I would ask is that the agent be ready to manage the participants – if one writer is aggressively monopolizing the hour to an absurd amount, please help the other writers by asking her to allow the others to speak. I’ve been on both sides of this (at other kinds of conferences). I for one, as a writer, would shove my way past the agressive hogger 🙂 but many people are too polite, or they think it might look bad.

    Otherwise, I think it’s a great idea!

  32. Evangeline said:

    An hour with an agent to just talk about writing, WIPs, the industry, et al would be extremely beneficial to me. Pitch sessions are fine, but I’m the sort of person who doesn’t believing in pushing at a door that isn’t ready to be opened, and I’d rather spend time with an agent just connecting in some manner, than trying to lob a MS or two at them in desperate hope they’ll like it.

  33. BookEnds, LLC said:

    I think it’s a good idea in theory, unfortunately, my fear with that is that it would turn into one giant group pitch appointment. I think I would rather have conferences focus less on organizing all of the agents time and instead give more opportunities for networking events–cocktail parties, breakfasts with no speakers, etc. Opportunities, these authors can use to sit with a new agent and network.

    –jessica faust

  34. Wendy said:

    Why is this all reminding me of something straight out of The Bachelor? I love the idea though and I know exactly what I’d want to ask. I’d ask the agent what constitutes a solid working relationship between agent and writer. I’d want to know specifically what the agent is looking for from an author. I’d also want to laugh a lot…I’m finally out of the house away from my three children and at a restaurant or bar…there better be laughter.

  35. brian_ohio said:

    I agree with anonymous, I’d worry that one or two writers would chatter the entire hour. And being a shy introvert… I’d only get out a few intelligent grunts.

    Then again, with a few drinks in me, I won’t shut up.

    Otherwise I think it could be fun.

  36. monder said:

    I think it’s a marvelous idea, not only would you have the benefit of meeting an agent that you might be hoping to query with your finished manuscript, but you’d have a chance to interact with and hear questions from other writers who were at a similar sort of stage in the process as well.

    If I were attending a conference I’d be much more likely to pay for an opportunity to interact like this than I would to pitch a certain agent or agents. I’d prefer to get a chance to meet an agent before pitching or querying them.

    If the opportunity was provided to book a pitch for later in the conference as well or have a way of referring back to those meetings later via query it would be an additional bonus.

  37. behlerblog said:

    As one who does a lot of pitch session, I like the idea.

    The agent or editor leading the group would have to monitor the group carefully, but we already do that when leading workshops,so it’s not unfamiliar territory.

    Conferences are such crazy, fast-paced happenings, and it’s hard to get any quality time with a few writers. I guess that’s why we always end up in the bar! Jessica is spot on; omit the guest speakers, and give us more time to talk to the authors in a relaxed setting.

  38. Jael said:

    I like it, but it could definitely be overwhelming — what about a slightly larger group with TWO agents? That way you can bounce things off each other as well as the participants, and the writers may get two different answers to the same question, which is always an important stage in the learning process. I went to a lunch at the Backspace Conference last year and it was really informative to have a couple of agents at the lunch table just chatting and networking
    and… being people, not targets. The upside and the downside of the lunch is that once you’re in your chairs you have to stay there, so a cocktail hour is a little better for making sure one person isn’t dominating and another just sitting there silent.

    Anyway, I think having another person from the industry sharing the load would make it a lot more fun for the agent, right?

  39. DebraLSchubert said:

    After reading through all of the follow-up comments, I think it’s important to reiterate Kristin’s statement: “what about a networking hour with an agent for writers who have works in progress but aren’t ready for pitch time?”

    Many of the comments have been about fear of the time being monopolized by one or two more outgoing personalities “pitching” their ideas. If the event is clearly set up NOT as a pitch opportunity but rather an information-gathering/networking opp, I think it would work well. The information a new writer could glean from a seasoned agent could prove invaluable.

    Kristin also said, “I suggested that instead of one-on-one pitch appts (which I think should only be reserved for finished manuscripts).” This is KEY to the success of this 6-1 idea. Again, the attendees would have to understand this is not a “pitch” situation and the agent-in-residence would need to have good command of the flow of the conversation. My guess is that most agents would be able to handle this and that the hour would be fun, informative, and ultimately useful for all.

  40. Katy said:

    I think it’s a fabulous idea. Not only would it be a great opportunity to talk with someone who knows the business (and get to know someone you might query in the future), but it’s also good for networking with other writers. If you’re all interested in talking with the same agent, chances are you all write in similar genres or on similar subjects, so the other five people at the table would be good to get to know and maybe even keep in touch with. Another thing, I wouldn’t worry so much about everyone getting equal time and such, as sometimes just listening in on these types of sessions can be just as valuable, if not more so, than making sure you get to ask “your” question. A lot of times I find that other people come up with some pretty insightful questions that I had not even considered and I end up finding the answers to those questions more valuable than what came from asking “my” question.

  41. Katrina Stonoff said:

    I’m with the others — it’s a fabulous idea.

    A year ago, I paid $75 for “Dinner with an Author” at a conference. Six or eight or 10 of us sat around a table at a restaurant and had a wonderful dinner. We did each share what we were working on, but we also had a wonderful, freewheeling conversation like you might have with anyone. The author/host was very careful to spend some time talking with each individual person. It was truly a magical evening.

    I imagine it would work as well with an agent. The agent would have to make sure no one dominated the conversation, but most of the agents I’ve met are more than capable of steering conversation.

    Let’s all talk up the idea!

  42. lynnrush said:

    Awesome idea. It would be a great chance to bounce ideas, talk about the industry, and just get to know each other.

    I hope you’re enjoying the snow! I lived in Colorado when the four feet of snow brought the city to a screeching, or slippery, halt for two days.

    Glad I’m in the desrt now. 🙂

  43. lisanneharris said:

    That’s an awesome idea! I’d ask the agent or editor how they feel about antique copper teapots. The one who loves them like I do is the agent or editor for me! 🙂 (Of course, I’m just joking.)


  44. Anonymous said:

    Let me be the lone dissenter.

    Agents aren’t rock stars. It’s annoying sometimes to see so many writers treat them like they are.

    It’s not going to increase your chances of actually getting a manuscript agented, because the agent is only going to take on what they can sell — that’s what, one percent of all the submissions they get? It seems like this is yet another way to get money out of desperate writers — I’m pretty sure they’d have to pay for the “privledge” of the hour. At one conference I attended, I was in the ladies room and overheard the agents from an agent panal laughing about how none of them were even looking for clients anyway — then why encourage people to pursue you by atttending pitch appointments?

    I’ve heard other advice about how you should ask an agent about their shoes or the last movie they saw, etc… The idea being that agents don’t want to be pitched to all the time. Well, how sad is it to think that an agent hates their own job so much that they go to conferences and DON’T want to talk about books?

    I sat at a “lunch” table with Kristin at the Pikes Peak Writer’s conference a few years back. One person hogged the conversation with basic (dumb) questions while the rest of us tried to shout across the table (it was loud). I’m thinking a paid gathering would be the same, a newbie monopolizing everone else’s time. No thanks.

  45. HeatherM said:

    That’s a fantastic idea. I’d probably ask how what I was writing was being percieved by publishers at the moment. Then I’d take the opportunity to get to know you better to see if we clicked. The relationship is as important as the work after all.

  46. pusnoba said:

    It sounds horrible, a social nightmare. I’d rather spend time with one agent or five other writers, not both. In the situation you describe there’s only one person anyone came to talk to, a belle of the ball, and I can’t imagine that competing for the belle’s attention would be fun or useful.

  47. Randy said:

    I like your idea, Kristin. If there were more opportunities for authors to get input from agents/editors toward the BEGINNING of the writing process instead of the END, we might all benefit. For me personally, I hate having put a year’s worth of time into a manuscript, only to discover that while the writing is good, the premise isn’t grabby enough (or high concept enough). I’ve never pitched an uncompleted manuscript, but I’ve begun to see advantages to doing so.

  48. Renee Sweet said:

    I worry that (as others have alluded to) it would still become a pitch session.

    Kristin: Hi everyone! What great weather we’re having, huh?

    Writer #1: Yes! And speaking of weather, in my novel RAINY DAYS…

    It’s a great idea in theory, though. I wonder how we could avoid the subtle (or not as the case may be) pitches in order to remain true to the intent of the experience.

  49. Jen said:

    I think it would be a great idea, as long as it stayed informal and it wasn’t turned into a pitch session, with each writer taking ten minutes to pitch their own work, or worse, one person doing all the talking.

    But drinks, maybe some chow, and some conversation about the industry? I’d do that before I’d do a pitch session, no question in my mind.

  50. Lila said:

    The problem with approaching an agent with a completed novel is that if the agent doesn’t like it, you’ve not only wasted the pitch time, but the months/years spent working on it. So, as an author, you’re left to query the next on your list of ‘dream agents’, rework the book to the agent’s taste and try again — hard to do if you can’t even get past the querying stage, or start a new project.

    It’s a completely different matter with non fiction where you’re allowed to write out a book proposal and some sample chapters and then submit. You will have wasted far less of your time if no one wants the book and you have the benefit of more professional guidance if you do sign with an agent. Who can blame an author for not wanting to waste their time writing a novel that won’t appeal to agents?

    Spending an hour with writers who haven’t finished their novels will allow an agent to guide and influence them, give them some direction so that when they do query the book is more to the agent’s taste. However, that again leaves out the author who (foolishly?) completed their novel and then tried to submit. One of the many flaws in the process, I’m sure.

    In this post you say it’s a waste of time for a writer to pitch an incomplete project, then go on to suggest the best solution is to give these people something all unsigned authors would like to have — time with an agent to learn more about what they can do to get published.

  51. jimnduncan said:

    Well, that’s a no-brainer if I’ve ever heard one. Of course we’d love that. Personally, I have a hard time just striking up conversations with strangers in a strange setting, even though often that’s what you need to do in a conference setting. To have this sort of arrangement planned for? Awesome. Realy, REALLY awesome. I hope you start a trend with this, Kristen. Pitch appointments are nice and all, but really all that does for me is get my query read perhaps a bit faster than it would have normally. An hour of socializing with an agent is priceless in comparison.

  52. Lisa Iriarte said:

    I think it’s a great idea. I’ve seen this done similarly with the “kaffeeklatsch” sp? concept at Readercon and Worldcon. One or two authors, or an editor and an assistant sit at a round table with about 6-8 writers and answer their questions. It didn’t cost anything, but you had to get there early to snag one of the slots. I sat down with an editor from Tor and learned a lot. I also got to sit with Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff and Elizabeth Bear on three other occasions and ask all sorts of questions.

    At a different one, though, with Debra Doyle and James MacDonald, there were several individuals who hogged the questions, and I didn’t get to say anything at all. However, the authors made a point of seeking me out in the bar later that evening and answering all the questions I hadn’t gotten to ask. They were awesome.

  53. Prest0 said:

    I have to agree with those who say that it would be socially awkward mess. Half a dozen writers competing for the attention of an agent or editor? Inevitably, one or two people would dominate the conversation and the others would feel short changed. The strength of the one-on-one sessions is that each person actually gets some amount of feedback.

  54. Deb said:

    At the important conference I attend, we don’t pay for editor or agent appointments. Even so, I think this idea could work as long as it’s limited to those 6 people. It would of necessity be held in a private room, not a bar…can you imagine someone like me going, “Squee! There’s Kristin Nelson and a margarita! Let’s go see what’s up?”

    And your six person conflab becomes twenty. (G)

  55. Joseph L. Selby said:

    I agree with other comments above. I’m not so worried about the people that are interrupting each other as the people that don’t want to add to the problem and simply stop talking. They might not necessarily be introverted. They may just be polite. While I agree with you that query sessions should be with finished mss only, I would not be as interested in a convention that could not guarantee me time with an agent (meaning I would be with five others vying for attention).

  56. Anonymous said:

    Anon 8:53-You could not pay me to spend an hour fawning over a rock star, but Kristen’s idea is different.

    This is networking; this is business. Like every other business, who you know opens doors for you.

    If the agent meets with you and likes your personality, she is more likely to request your manuscript when you query. It is harder to say no to a person once he/she has a face.

    I say leave the WIP at the door unless the agent asks about it. This is about getting to know the agent not about pitching.

  57. Panerai said:

    That would be cool. If I had 1 hour with an agent, would I ask? I don’t think all the questions I have about queries, my works, and publishing and agents in general can be answered in an hour.

  58. Anonymous said:

    Christine, so tell us what Don Maass said to ask an agent!?

    Meeting an agent is great but I doubt they can tell much about our writing by our sparkling personality…

    Sadly, lots of writers are great in person, but their books, not so much–and the other way around.
    As they say, can’t judge a book by its cover!

  59. Donna Tobin said:

    Hi Kristen: I think its a good idea. I love getting input from agents. I think it might be better if you would critique at least a few sample pages from each of the six, prior to the get together so you were familiar with that persons writing. I think your input would be more valuable then. I would enjoy this type of gathering. Of course I’m in New York so probably won’t be able to come along if you do have one. 🙁
    Enjoy the weekend.