Making Conversation with Agents at Conferences

What to say after you say hello:

1. What are you reading now that you love?

2. How did you get started agenting? Do you love it?

3. Is this your first time here (if it's not in NYC)
Do you have a place you like to tell everyone to see here in NYC?

4. What was your favorite book as a kid?

5. May I buy you a drink?

Things NOT to say:

1. What advice can you give me?
2. Are you having a good time?
3. You look tired.

4. Can I show you my manuscript/query letter/pages?
5. I know I'm not supposed to do/say this but....

6. Can I have lunch with you?
7. You rejected me but...

8. I sent you a query/email. Do you remember...
9. Remember me?


Anonymous said...

I feel like a nitwit...'cause I am.
Thank you so much for posting this. I know first hand not to say "You look tired" to editors. I meant it friendly and non-threatening and I got my face melted off.
I really do appreciate this advice. You would think that it would be easy to make nice converation...I just have one heckuva time doing it. Most of the time I try to hang on a wall and keep my talk-hole closed.
This helps!!! (I'm babbling, I know...sigh)

Anonymous said...

True Story. When I was at a conference I overheard (in an elevator) "So, what do you think of the literary market?" A certain agent who recently had a proctological run in on this blog responded like a true gentlement. "Ah, it's good." Ding. Fourth floor, lingerie, housewares, holes to crawl in and die.

Anonymous said...

I've done several of those, including "You look tired." Actually, she did look tired, and I knew she had come in on a very very early flight because I was the one who picked her up at the airport, and this was at the end of the reception.

I think she didn't recognize me.

Dave Fragments said...

When I did technical conferences for my research years ago, A POPULAR QUESTION was "What's a Good Restaurant?"

Don't pick any old good restaurant, pick a spectacularly good restaurant that is well known for high quality food, great service and opulent surroundings. Don't pick an Olive Garden, your local steak house, or a hotel lobby eatery.

In Pittsburgh, it's the Grand Concourse at Station Square. You can take the subway or walk from downtown. And I have no fear that you won't like the food. Ask for the River Room.

Figure out your answer in advance. We (my coworkers and I) had visitors come back and rave about the food and service.

That's the way to treat a guest in your city.

Anonymous said...

Others things to avoid asking:
- How much money can you get me for an advance?
- How about I follow you back to your room and give you the highlights of my 300k opus
- So who is Miss Snark?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of pitching to agents, what about this situation, if anyone cares to chime in:

I plan to attend an RWA chapter meeting where an agent who has had my full for a year is going to speak. My plan is to give the agent a thank you note for considering the manuscript whether I land a raffled pitch appointment or not. Should I be lucky enough to meet her face to face, though, I also plan on trying to excite her again about the story (I recently submitted a revised version with her permission, and she previously requested a revision).

So, is there anything I should avoid saying/doing so I don’t scare her away? How can I maximize this opportunity? Thanks!

amy said...

Please people, don't ever tell *anyone* they look tired, unless you are actually trying to be rude and insulting. Even if someone really is tired/ill/depressed/etc., how is it kind or helpful to remind them (not to mention inform them that everyone can tell)? Is that supposed to make them feel better?

If someone looks tired or unhappy or whatever, and you want to be kind and helpful, say "Can I get you some tea? A drink? Chocolate?" It will be much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is an actor, and when he goes to autograph shows, he gets overwhelmed by fans. They ask him questions about the shows and films he starred in, etc. It is practically a relief to him to talk with someone who will talk to him about NORMAL things (like the cats that were outside the window).

Because of my actor friend, that's how I treat meeting the agents. I was quite surprised when several of the agents remembered me at a second conference (it was a pity neither took my genre; I would have sent them a query at a later date).

Elektra said...

"I've done several of those, including "You look tired." Actually, she did look tired, and I knew she had come in on a very very early flight because I was the one who picked her up at the airport, and this was at the end of the reception."

But the reason this is a bad question is that you (in general, not just you specifically) already know the person is tired; now you're just telling them that they don't look their best either, which nobody in a room full of colleagues likes to hear.

Elektra said...


a) is it really okay to offer to an agent a drink?


b) do they serve alcohol at these things? I don't want to offer someone a drink and then find out I'm not legally able to get them a rum and coke.

benjamin royan saari said...

yeah, 'cause, "you rejected me but..." seems like a GREAT conversation starter!

Anonymous said...

Good, freakin' grief.

I'm a writer who is the wrong person for neos to consult and *I* get ALL of those EXACT same wrong questions all the time.

The "you look tired" always inspires an urge to strangle the twit. I was born with that look. Trust that I will always have enough energy to burn a memory of the speaker into my mental twit list with the date and time.

O clueless herd, that's a bad-mannered thing to say to anyone, so belt up and just offer chocolate minus the sympathy-gone-wrong comment!

Anonymous said...

yes, please, PLEASE don't say "you look tired" to anybody. it's especially insulting if the person you say this to is NOT tired, because you're telling them that looking tired is their natural look. it's painful to be the recipient of that comment.

Anonymous said...

So "you look horny want to come up to my room and see my etchings and manuscript" doesn't work?...damn must rethink this.

Anonymous said...

As bad as "you look tired" is, what's worse is what I was asked once: "Are you pregnant?" I wasn't.

Anonymous said...

So "you look horny, want to come up to my room and see my etchings and manuscript" doesn't work?...

You haven't met ME yet!

I wanna go to conferences with that kind of fun!