Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"What Do You Do When Potential Clients Approach You?” (Part 1 of 6)

(By Chip MacGregor, President, MacGregor Literary, Inc.)

The best place to connect with an agent is at a writing conference. Check to see which agents are attending, do some research to find out who might be a fit for your particular project, then ask to set up a formal meeting. If all the meeting slots are filled, try to sidle up to the agent during a meal or between sessions. Most of us are happy to meet interesting people in our industry. Be pleasant, introduce yourself, and get to the point.

If you approach an agent at a conference, I suggest thoughts to help make it successful.

1. Have a focus. Frequently people sit in front of me and do not give me any direction. It's your meeting. Know what you want to say.

2. Prepare your presentation or question ahead of time. Sometimes knowing how you want to start is all you need to get us rolling.

3. Be ready to talk about your writing. What’s your idea? How is it strong? How is it unique? What’s the market? Why are you the person writing this? If you can quickly hit the highlights, you’ll find the meeting more productive and satisfying.

4. Bring a sample of your writing. If we don’t get to it, that’s okay. At least you’re prepared if we do.

5. Remember to listen. If you’re talking to a professional, listen to what advice they have for you. Don’t argue.

6. Know what “success” is. It’s probably unrealistic to think an agent will sign you at a 15-minute meeting. Maybe what you need is direction for your story, or to hear you’re on the right track, or you want the agent to suggest whom to show it to. Don’t limit success to “an agent or nothing.”

7. Make sure it’s ready. Most of the projects handed to me are somewhere between 30 and 70 percent ready. The more ready your project, the more likely you are to land an agent.

8. Don’t come on too strong. We’ve all seen the super-confident buffoon who acts like everybody is going to love the project. Confidence in a writer is great; overconfidence is a turn-off. Strike a balance between “I know I can do this” and “I’d love to learn from someone who is farther down the path than I am.”

–Chip MacGregor, President, MacGregor Literary, Inc.


  1. Great pointers.

    How likely is it to interest an agent by going the traditional route - outside of a conference? Any extra pointers?

    Jodie Wolfe

  2. Cec, You are right on about the importance of meeting agents, and editors, at writers conferences. 10 of my 13 books are published because of contacts at conferences. Right now an agent, whom I met at our Susq. Valley Writers Wksp. last October, is waiting for me to finish an Amish fiction, which she and I discussed at that last conference. There's nothing like the "personal touch."
    Marsha Hubler

  3. Cec, thanks for sharing this helpful advice.

    Chip, I recognized the straight-forwardness that I always enjoyed on your blog. How are you? I hope you have found the balance in your work that you desired. We miss your blog, but admire you for making the hard decisions.

    I appreciate you both,
    Nan Jones


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