So at SFWC they have an event called “Speed Dating with Agents.” It costs extra, but it gives you one-on-one face time with the agents at the conference so you can pitch your book(s) to them. Or, if you’re not ready for that, you can also just ask some questions.
If you sign up for SDwA, they put a colored sticker on your conference badge. There are four colors = four groups, and each group has a specific 45-minute period for their pitch session. Mine was 11:00 to 11:45. There’s no limit on how many agents you can talk to, aside from picking short lines, else you’ll spend all your time standing in line to chat with one agent. Some people see as many as seven, the average is probably around five, and I saw three—not because I ran out of time but because I ran out of people I wanted to speak to.
That may sound ludicrous, but two of the agents who supposedly cover my book’s genre had already rejected me via e-mail, so I assumed they wouldn’t want to hear the pitch in person.
Anyway. I’m not going to give names, but I’ll say the first agent I spoke to I did really like. And she flattered me by remembering she’d seen some pages from my book as part of a writing contest. “It won, didn’t it?” she asked. No . . . But I’m flattered she remembered it as “winning” or “a winner.” She was open to me sending her the first 10 pages and a synopsis. I hope she doesn’t revise her thinking about it being a winner when she reads them!
The second agent I also liked, but felt less connection with in a way. Like, I felt like her eyes might be glazing over when I gave her the quick version of my book’s story. After asking the word count, her concern was that the manuscript is too short. If it’s fantasy, she’d want it to be at least 75k words (it’s not nearly); if it’s a romance, it being on the short side might be fine. Thing is, if I were to market it as a romance, I’m not convinced romance readers wouldn’t be a little disappointed. There are many romantic elements, but nothing steamy. It might be what some would call a “sweet” romance? All about the attraction between two characters, not about any sex. And it’s second to the plot, I think, anyway. But this agent was also open to me sending her something, though it sounded as if she wanted to see it only once I’d decided which market and tailored the manuscript as such.
That leaves the third agent. I didn’t pitch him my book. Instead, I wanted to pick his brain about the situation with my screenwriting. (This agent is known for his book-to-film work.) He was extremely helpful in outlining my rights as writer, and what’s more he told me to e-mail him when the screenplay I’m working on is done.
After that, I’ll admit I hesitated and considered trying those two agents who’d rejected me. But I try to make it a rule not to go where I’m not wanted. I know they say persistence pays off, but I don’t want to be a pest—pests get swatted.
Still and all, a useful experience. Though I worry that any pages I send will be turned down and I’ll be back where I started. But . . . Gotta try. Right?