by Wendy Lawton
Books & Such Literary Agency
When it Comes to Getting an Agent. . .
A Pitch May Not Result in a Catch
More writers attend pitching workshops than ever before. They hone their hooks and polish their pitches. You’ve heard it: you need to be able to communicate your book to an agent in the time it takes to get from the first to the tenth floor in an elevator. It’s even called the “elevator pitch.”
Don’t you hate the thought of pitching your book? Relax. All is not lost if you can’t wow the agent in 150 words or less. This pitch frenzy is born of a publishing myth– that the best way to catch an agent is to pitch him. It’s time to debunk that myth.
I’m not saying it’s not important to be able to give a great summary of your book. It is. I’m saying that the traditional fifteen minute pitching sessions at conferences and the quick one-on-ones in elevators and hallways are highly overrated. So much pitch-tutoring has taken place in writing groups and at conferences that we hear nothing but stunning pitches these days- one after another. When every writer has perfect pitch, how does that help the agent? There’s no doubt writers can pitch. The harder question is: Can they write?
The obvious thing for an agent would be to request a partial from every writer who presents an interesting project. Unfortunately, it’s simply not feasible.
So if pitching doesn’t work, what is the best way to find an agent?
1. Write a Stunning Book– This almost goes without saying. If your book is anything less than remarkable, don’t expend the energy yet to connect with an agent.
2. Meet the Agent in Person– A perfect way to get out of the gruesome realities of the slush pile is to meet the agent at an event or at a writer’s conference.
3. Meet the Agent Repeatedly-I find that I take note of writers who interest me. If I eat with them once or twice and meet them in the lobby or watch them onstage at a conference, I start paying attention.
4. Become Memorable-In an over-saturated market, the key is for a writer to become memorable to his target agent. This needs to be done in a winsome, often humorous way. The I-have-chocolate-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-use-it approach.
5. Connect with the Agent Online-I admire several writers who do this with great finesse. I noticed when our agency began blogging that there were several writers who left regular comments. Brilliant. Don’t you think we take note of those writers who are doing the hard work to find out who we are and what we’re thinking?
6. Connect with Friends/Clients of the Agent-One of the best ways to come to an agent is with the recommendation of one of his clients.
Your turn. What do you think of pitch sessions? What makes you crazy about this process? What works for you?
Wendy Lawton feels equally comfortable on a computer, at a writer’s conference or with a cool lump of clay in her hand. She’s been an artist, a writer and a literary agent.
She enjoys helping her clients develop their ideas and chart their careers. She’s adept at working with authors to discover the core of their writing style, leading to a brand recognition for each author in the marketplace of books.
Wendy is Vice-President of Books & Such Literary Agency and acquires Adult Fiction & Nonfiction books.