Thursday, March 26, 2009

1 Hour With An Agent

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?