Should You Research Agents Before a Conference?

My phone alarm sounded as I sat in a workshop at a conference. Time to head down to the main level for my appointment with an agent. My hands shook, palms sweating. I turned to my friend to give her the knowing look. Yes, the one that says, “I’m going to the slaughter house, a.k.a the appointment room. Pray for me.”

I was in a hurry. Two things had to happen before I ‘hovered’ near the agent’s table to wait my turn. First, I had to make sure my dress was straight and there was nothing in my teeth. Then, I needed to read over the quick cheat sheet I’d made on each agent I had an appointment with.

I only had three minutes left before I must be in the room. When I whipped out the paper, I glanced over it. Funny how my mind didn’t want to take in the bit of information. My nerves eroded that part of my brain. I read over the list twice. Still nothing solid stayed in my head. Shoving the paper back in my bag, I hurried to the line.

The agent’s previous appointment stood and gave me a hopeful smile before leaving. When I sat, questions raced through my mind. What genre do they deal with? What company are they working for? Where did they work in the past? What didn’t was the answers to all those questions. I froze. I couldn’t even remember my pitch I’d worked on tirelessly.

My voice caught in my throat before a shaky remark came out. “You work with Young Adult, mid-grade level, but I saw that you’re interested in some adult fiction?”

Her answer, “Actually, I work with non-fiction. But yes, I am looking for some adult fiction.”

That was it. I’d done it. Now she’d think I didn’t know a thing about her, which meant I didn’t care enough to research, which meant she didn’t care enough to give me a contract.

Don’t let this happen to you. All the research you’ve done has a good chance of fleeing from your mind the moment you stand face to face with the agents you dream of working with.

Our brain can do amazing things when we’re at ease. It’s the times we’re stressed, over tired, or very nervous that it poops out on us. When that fight or flight reaction kicks in, have the ground work so cemented in, you won’t have to think too hard to say the precise words you meant to say.

Here’s 3 things to remember:

  • Research: Check out the agent’s website, their agency’s website, and the bio page the conference puts on their site. Knowing the genres they work with is of utmost importance. 
  • Memorize: Break out your old school days thinking cap and memorize, memorize, memorize.
  • Plan: Keep a cheat sheet with you and check it before you meet the agent or editor in case you’re too nervous to remember all the things you need to know about them.

In the end, what agents will remember about you, other than your amazing pitch, is the time you invested in them.

0 thoughts on “Should You Research Agents Before a Conference?”

  1. You hit the nail on the head. I went to the same conference, but didn't do any of that prep work. The agents were kind, and a couple of them even took my unfinished work to look at, but I didn't get nearly as much out of the meetings as I could have.
    I had read their bio's and checked their websites, but it had been more than a month earlier and by the time I got there, I had forgotten almost all of it.
    the one thing you did forget to mention is to relax. As you said on your last post, we are Writing for Him and He will give us what we need as we need it. It is good to prepare and do our homework, but in the end, He is in charge.

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