As a volunteer for the conference committee, over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet several agents. I’ve also queried my share of agents.
I found one interesting preference they all had in common when it comes to looking at manuscripts: they all were more likely to read a proposal if they had met the writer.
So what does that mean for writers? If means you must get away from your desk and out into the world so you can mingle and network! Where must you go? Workshops and conferences! You don’t have to go with the intent of pitching your story (although you should always have a 30-second pitch ready). I only pitched my Lawmen series to one agent and he wasn’t interested in signing me.
Your intent should be to learn from those who have been in the business for a while. Then when you send your query, you can open with a line that says “I met you ___________” or “I attended your workshop on ___________”. This immediately catches their eye. One agent told me he reads every query he gets that opens with a sentence like these and makes them his priority.
So why does meeting agents matter? Because it shows you’re willing to work hard and persevere. It also means you’re willing to learn by attending writing classes. Sometimes they remember you and sometimes they don’t. What they care about is that you’re making an effort to be a better writer.
Meeting them doesn’t mean they’ll decide to sign you; it means you have a much better chance of getting their attention, which is hard to do when they receive hundreds of requests in a week.
I met my agent at a writers conference. I never attended any of his classes, nor did I try to pitch my story to him. After ending up at his table by chance during lunch one day, we had a brief conversation about Alaska and that was that.
Until I finished my novel four months later and I decided maybe he’d be interested in hearing about it. I signed a contract with him a few days later.
So what’s the trick to finding an agent? Get out and meet some agents so that when you’re ready to pitch your story, you have a greater chance of getting noticed.