Speed Dating with Agents

Barbara Vey -- July 9th, 2010
Stacey Farish and Laura Lubrano

Stacey Farish and Laura Lubrano

Thursday morning after finishing my blog, I quick threw on some clothes and ran across the street for breakfast.  It was one of those incognito days…no make-up, hair clip, t-shirt.  You know, when you really don’t want to run into anyone you know.  But I should know better because when I got back to the hotel, I started to meet up with a ton of people.  The good news is that after I showered, changed, put make-up on and went back, people really appreciated me more.

While I was cruising around CraftFest, I met up with Stacey Farish and Laura Lubrano of the LA Times.  We were talking about the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studies because Stacey’s husband (who works for NBC) has already had a sneak peak and says it’s amazing.  Then Lauren got a text from her sister,  saying that she (the sister) just got nominated for an Emmy.  How cool is that!   Her sister is Christine Lubrano, executive producer at IFC (Independent Film Channel).  Good Luck Christine!  I’ll be rooting for you at the Emmy’s.

It was also AgentFest day here at Thrillerfest.  There were 45 agents set up in 3 rooms.  Writers lined up to pitch their books and were given 3 minutes before they were scooted off and the next person took the hot seat.  It was like speed dating with agents.  The air was thick with anxiety and anticipation.

Douglas Clegg and M.J. Rose

Douglas Clegg and M.J. Rose

Next I stopped in my favorite workshop here at Thrillerfest, Buzz Your Book, with authors M.J. Rose and Douglas Clegg.  This is always a standing room only event where they pick someone from the audience to describe their book in one sentence.  Then M.J. and Doug go on to give them tips on how to best promote themselves and their book.  It’s always highly entertaining and informative.  They also let everyone know that they will have an e-book out in September offering advice and help.

Alan Jacobson with his shirt advertising himself and his book

Alan Jacobson with his shirt advertising himself and his book

On to the cocktail party hosted by Writers House and Random House books.  I always enjoy chatting it up with food and wine, but I’ve got to tell you that noise level really gets to me.  It’s so hard to hear and sometimes I’m not sure if it’s the room or my old ears.  But I did manage to visit with Rick Molina who’s always a delight and lots of aspiring authors who were pounding down the liquor, relieved that AgentFest was over.  I still haven’t run into Ken Follett or Lisa Scottoline yet, but they’re set to speak on Saturday, so I’ll soon have them in my clutches.

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.

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Sheila Clover English and Eddie

Sheila Clover English and Eddie

I had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant  and over the past week I’ve gotten to know the waiter, Eddie, quite well.  They have a sweet potato mash that they only serve at lunch, but wonderful Eddie managed to save some for us to have at dinner.  Even though we passed on dessert, Eddie brought over a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.  Who doesn’t love a man who brings them chocolate covered anything?

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Cub reporter Nancy Naigle is again offering up her view of CraftFest from an aspiring author point of view.

CraftFest continued this morning, and I was ready for more after yesterday’s bounty of knowledge. I attended a session on CREATING AUTHENTIC, TOUGH, SMART FEMALE PROTAGNISTS (Lipstick Optional) by Alex Kava, JT Ellison and Erica Spindler.  Then, joined Michael Palmer’s session about crafting a thriller – SOUP TO NUTS. Michael Palmer is a practicing physician and author of fifteen medical suspense novels. The last session I attended was the best session I’ve ever been to on editing. Robert Dugoni was the speaker. It was appropriately titled POWER EDITING and I came away not only with a handout, but two pages of notes. I’ll be putting those notes to work as soon as I get home.

Lunch was not your standard rubber chicken … but rather chicken in a wonderful cumin, cinnamon, and a little something-something that was delightful with lots of veggies and risotto to keep us going through the afternoon. We nibbled on dessert as our keynote speaker took the stage -  the dynamic Gina Centrello, President and Publisher of Random House Publishing. She gave us the inside scoop on the publishing biz and what’s in store for the future.

CraftFest is my investment in the craft. It’s my commitment to learning and being the best I can be. CraftFest delivered.

Then … the Rocky theme music started playing in my head, because next on the agenda…. AGENTFEST. For me, that’s the real moment of truth this week. It wouldn’t be long before hundreds of AGENTFEST attendees, including me, would flood three rooms to pitch their stories to agents.

This was a much different experience than pitches I’ve done in the past where you have a scheduled 5-8 minute appointment with Mr. or Ms. DreamAgent. That’s just not how it’s done at ThrillerFest – and no surprise there ! – it’s ThrillerFest, after all, so wouldn’t you expect a thrilling twist?

Here’s how it worked and my personal experience with the process. Join me for a replay.

Miriam Kriss and Nancy Naigle

Miriam Kriss and Nancy Naigle

With over 45 agents to choose from, homework was a must. I visited every agents website weeks ago, checked out their interests, took a look at their client list and recent sales. From there, I ranked the ones that would be interested in the type of book I write. That whittled things down a bit.

With my list of target agents in hand, I took the stairs down to the Conference floor where the AgentFest pitches were to take place. I was ten minutes early. The hall was already PACKED. I began to worry. Would I be standing in long lines for the better part of the three hours? Would I have time to pitch all the Mr. and Ms. DreamAgents on my well-researched list?

There weren’t any rules, except no cutting. This event was very well organized with plenty of volunteers on hand to keep things moving and keep nerves at bay if needed. Agents were in alphabetical order across three rooms. You could stand in any line and pitch whoever and as many as you desired in the three and a half hour pitching window.

Lines at AgentFest

Lines at AgentFest

I maneuvered through the group to room three. I had four agents targeted on my list in that room. Some people clung to sweaty notes, others mumbled memorized pitches. Nervous excitement mingled with confidence and that made for a tingle of excitement as we all waited to rush those rooms.

The surprise was on me, in a really good way. The lines were swift –and although a few agents stayed about 6-8 people deep — for the most part, I found the wait not to be more than about 6 minutes.

Each pitch lasted three minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but it turns out it was plenty of time if you’ve boiled your story down to a couple of strong sentences – which I had done. There was even time for a question back and forth and plenty of grip and grinning. I wasn’t nervous. I find that just being myself and sharing my genuine excitement about my story and characters seems to really work for me. (If you have trouble pitching … relax and give it a try … you may just be surprised how well this works)

I was lucky enough to pitch every agent on my list. I ended up with 2 requests for the full manuscript, 1 for fifty pages, 5 for three chapters and 1 for ten pages, and one referral to a fellow agent. Ten for ten.  Yipppeeee!

From chatting with others, most folks seemed to pitch 8-20 agents. Not a bad days work. I give this process an A+.  I’ll be sure to send Barbara a note with the final results on all these submissions.

Hugs and High 5s~

Nancy Naigle

Nancy, I have my fingers crossed for you, but I’m sure you’ll have a book deal by year’s end.

Bottom Line: I promise to be fully made up when I leave my room today…well, maybe after breakfast.

84 thoughts on “Speed Dating with Agents

  1. Marjorie Pagel

    . . .NO T SHIRT???. . . your readers will have fun picturing that!

    And yes, I know what you meant, but it COULD be read 2 ways. My way is more fun.

  2. Dianna Love

    MJ Rose and Doug Clegg’s workshop was very informative and a lot of fun. I plan to attend Alan Jacobson’s workshop today where he interviews a FBI profiler. Great coverage of Agentfest by Nancy – I spoke to a lot of writers who had huge success at this event.

    You and Sheila Clover English should have had champagne with your strawberries. Looking forward to Sheila’s panel tonight on marketing.

  3. Sheila

    Barbara I had the best time, thank you! Those strawberries were amazing and the company was even better. That’s right, you ladies are better than chocolate in my book!!!! LOL

  4. Laura Lubrano

    Barbara, it was wonderful meeting you at Thrillerfest and thank you so much for giving us (and the LA Times) a shout out on your blog! The LA Times is so happy to support Thrillerfest and many other literary ventures across the country (like your blog!). I’m a huge fan and read your blog all the time…I feel like a celebrity being posted on here :)

    Hope to see you again soon and please be sure to come out to Festival of Books in Los Angeles next April!

    Thanks again!

    Laura Lubrano
    Manager of Book Publishing
    Los Angeles Times

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  7. Robert Barrows

    If you enjoyed reading about Speed Dating with Agents, you might also enjoy reading an article I wrote called “Literary agents in Love – or – 22 ways to say No to a date like a literary agent says no.” You can see it online in the May 2010 issue of a magazine called The Blotter at http://www.blotterrag.com. The article is on pages 8 and 9. If you would like any more information, please call Robert Barrows at 650-344-1951, http://www.barrows.com.

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