Why the chances of you meeting your future agent at a conference are slim–but you should try anyway

researchAs you know agents get hundreds of queries per month, thousands per year and out of those thousands we maybe sign a couple.

Now drill down to things at a conference level and think about the sample size: agents perhaps get 30 pitches at a busy weekend conference and do we sign many writers? Unfortunately, no. Even though we’re at a conference and open to building our client list the numbers don’t change. It’s a wonderful chance for writers to pitch in person. And I rather like meeting people in person I might work with in the future. However, agents don’t sign someone at every conference.

This is why you should relax and pitch anyway:

  • You might be that rare case where we do sign someone! Never say never. It’s a subjective business and you never know where things will lead.
  • If the pitch is longer than 5 minutes, use that extra time to pick our brains. I love it when people bring questions. It can brighten up an often repetitive afternoon and shows true interest.
  • If you’re relaxed you can see our reaction in real time. I know it’s nerve wracking, but if you take a deep breath and look at our faces while you pitch you’ll see how intrigued we are. When you send queries you don’t get that opportunity for immediate feedback. I recommend welcoming it.
  • Your idea of success at a pitch session should be a request of material, not an offer. If you got an agent to request material you are well on your way. We don’t hand out offers at the one-on-one pitch sessions, but we do hand out business cards with ways to contact us. That’s leaving with more than you arrived.

Decide what your idea of success is and make it work for you. Are conferences for meeting a critique partner? Connecting with writers you met online? Attending workshops and seminars and gleaning useful information? The pitches are just part of the conference and the more relaxed and open-minded you are the better you’ll fare.

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

7 thoughts on “Why the chances of you meeting your future agent at a conference are slim–but you should try anyway

  1. I just recently went to my first conference, and I was a nervous wreck. But oh man did I learn a lot! And afterwards, I was so glad that I pitched live. Even if the agents who requested my stuff don’t say yes, I still think it was a great experience and possible fuel for next time. That’s my version of success. Thanks for the reminder!


    1. We see the full gamut. Good pitches, bad pitches, okay pitches. So if we are asked about what agents like to see in pitch sessions, questions about the industry etc. then I’m more than happy to answer them.


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