Agent Monday: Meeting Face to Face

MP900387533Happy Agent Monday!  Last week was just TOOOOO busy for posting.  The Book Expo America (BEA) conference was held in NYC last week, and I was there all day Wednesday. That meant prepping for the event (figuring out which booths to visit, which editors I wanted to meet up with, which clients’ books I was going to do some “market research” on, which events I wanted to attend, which other authors/agents were attending that I could say hi to, etc. etc. etc.)….  The day itself was awesome. There’s just something about seeing people…about meeting face to face.

At BEA I was able to talk with some fabulous editors who had only been a voice on the phone, or, in the case of one London editor, a “voice” in emails. Sitting with these people, relating our enthusiasm about their publishing line, about my clients, is energizing. As they say in one of my fav mindless programs The Bachelorette (new episode tonight – woot!), we had an awesome connection.

I also loved being able to talk at depth with various publishers’ head sales people. Where were their lines headed? What was their vision as a house? What did they hope to publish more of? These people were fabulous in giving me all the juicy details. I scoured the exhibit floor, pulling catalogs of smaller publishers, eyeballing the very best in literary presses, seeing who had the most innovative new approaches.

One of the supremely thrilling things about BEA is seeing so many people in one spot who are completely devoted to the written word. Hoards of readers and authors and editors and publishers and agents and booksellers, lugging bags filled with ARC’s and catalogs. The excitement was palpable.

Yes, all of this was fab. But I had one other face to face ahead of me at the end of the day – a dinner with one of my clients who I’d not met yet. And I couldn’t wait!

It may seem strange to think that I have clients I haven’t even met yet, but that’s the way it often goes. Of course I feel like I know that author the moment I fall in love with his or her writing. Their personalities are all over those pages – that’s what we mean by “voice.” But still, I wonder will that person be just like I’d imagined? Will I be like they imagine?

For those of you about to meet your own agent for the first time, whether it’s at a conference or for coffee or for dinner – I want to remind you of something: you are already their client!  This is a happy moment to connect face to face and deepen your relationship…or, as they say on The Bachelorette, “to take things to the next level.” So relax and be yourself. You don’t need to sell yourself. Phew, right?

It’s a great time to learn a little more about each other, to talk about your journey as an author, to share more of your dreams, but also just to hang out and see what else you have in common.

But also remember that it is still a business relationship you are forging here. So that means you arrive on time, dress appropriately, and try to keep things as positive as possible. If you need to share concerns, definitely do. If the agent asks you about your relationship with a past editor or agent, be honest, but don’t be a gossip or dig dirt for dirt diggin’s sake. And you don’t need the meet up to be all about business or even slightly about business if it isn’t needed.  A lunch or dinner that is 99% hanging out with just a few biz-related questions tossed in is just fine too.

In the end, you want to feel more connected to your agent, to understand them better, and to enjoy  their company. And visa versa.

So, after BEA, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and having dinner with my client Tracey Baptiste! She was on-time, and smiling, and we hugged immediately – she’s part of my agency family, after all. We had a lively dinner filled with laughter and experience-swapping, and talking about her future and both of our wacky paths to this moment. And we ended with some exquisite desserts and another hug.

I’ll soon be pitching Tracey’s exquisite middle grade novel THE JUMBIE SEED, about a girl who unwittingly draws out the jumbies, malicious monsters inhabiting her island’s woods, and soon discovers she has more in common with these creatures than she could have ever imagined. I can’t wait to send this one out to publishers…and now, after meeting Tracey face to face, I’m more excited than ever.

Here’s the thing: I always feel passionate about my clients and their work and I feel an almost mother-bear like protectiveness about them. I want them to thrive!  After I meet a client face-to-face, I have a face – voice – and fully formed person even more in my mind when I think of them. Mother bear to the max! After meeting Tracey in person, I know without a doubt that not only will a publisher be fortunate to have her manuscript, but that an editor will thoroughly enjoy working with this author. And that certainly will give me even greater conviction when I pitch.

So if you have a chance to meet your agent in person, grab it.  Perhaps she is coming to your area for a conference and you could drive up to meet her there (that’s how I got to see Stephanie Winkelhake), or perhaps you are flying into NY to meet your new publisher (that’s how I got to hang out with Carmella Van Vleet).

Meet up, make a connection. As they say in The Bachelorette, it’ll be “just awesome!”

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.

5 thoughts on “Agent Monday: Meeting Face to Face

  1. I am BLUSHING! It was so great meeting you as well, Marie. Admittedly, I was a tad nervous, since you never know how these things will go, but I felt like we already knew each other, which made things much more easy for (usually very socially) awkward ol’ me. Let me assure you, the energized feeling is mutual. I want to do right by you by working my behind off and delivering stellar manuscripts. (Not that I wouldn’t anyway, but now that I know how awesome you are? Yeah. More of that.) I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that the author/agent relationship is a relationship between two people first. If you’re going to be part of each others lives for a long time in a professional way, you want to make sure you strike the right chord from the get go. Fortunately we were in tune from first hug right through awesome dessert!

    • Aw! Back at you!!! And well said.

      Listen up, peeps – all the bits in the writing biz cog are about relationships first. That’s why no author, no matter how talented, can be a diva or treat people in a negative way. Authors that build great relationships with their agents have great communication with them. When they build great relationships with their editors – they get welcomed back with more contracts. When they build great relationships with their readers, they build a fan base. When they treat bookselling staff kindly, they are supported and recommended to readers. And when authors don’t hit a positive chord at any of these stages, it can definitely backfire.

      I look forward to meeting you again many times in the future, Tracey, and supporting your absolutely stellar writing. Plus, I just think you are awesome. I am so fortunate to have such talented and wonderful clients!

      This is what it’s all about! 🙂

  2. Hi Marie – I recently discovered your well-written blog while excavating in my back yard. The NYC Book Expo sounds like those great Mac Expo Conventions I used to attend in San Francisco – back in the 90’s.

    Quick question: I’ve completed writing & editing my first upper middle-grade novel for boys. I’ve had several beta readers critique it as well as members of my critique group. When I submit this MS to a literary agent, how polished do they expect it to be?

    At 55,000 words it would cost me ~$500 to get it professionally copy-edited but I know it would undergo even more story editing before it was submitted to an editor – if it was accepted by an agent.

    So what do you think . . . is it essential for this kind of fine editing before submitting a MS to an agent? Thanks. don

    • Hi Don,

      Yup, the manuscript should be as perfect as you can make it before you approach an agent. It’s very competitive and editors expect extremely tight and clean manuscripts from agents.

      • Hi Marie – thanks for your quick response. I’ll have to start saving my nickels & dimes till I can afford to get my manuscript pro-edited before I start submitting it to my five-tier list of MG literary agents. (Hey! Whoo-Hoo. You’re in tier one)

        I’ll also have to figure a way to keep from continuing to work on my novel while it’s being edited.
        (I guess that’s just an occupational hazard of being a writer along with getting those nasty paper cuts.)

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