Many of our attendees have gone on to publish their work because of the agents they met during the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. If you are determined to see your project find publication, it makes sense to begin building in-person relationships with agents.
Even if an agent you meet with turns out not to be the agent who represents your work, you will find that agents tend to be a friendly helpful bunch…if you approach them in a friendly open manner seeking their professional opinions.
Literary agents are not the primary gatekeepers in the publishing industry. They are experts full of information that can help you find a publisher.
If you have a viable project, and if you can make a personal connection with an interested agent, that person will be your ally in approaching publishers.
Meeting with an agent at SBWC is your chance to separate yourself from the thousands of emailed queries agents receive each year. The “no thank you” responses that come back might make it seem as if agents are not particularly friendly or helpful.
In reality agents tend to be very nice people who are genuinely looking for clients. Literary agents have valuable industry knowledge, and they will share that with you, if you ask.
The question most writers want to ask an agent is:
“Will you represent my manuscript?”
Better questions might be:
“Are you or any of your colleagues interested in a project like mine?”
“What would it take for you to be interested in taking me on as a client?”
Think in terms of what the agent might be looking for, rather than just what you are hoping for, and the answer you receive will be more valuable to you and will improve your chances of eventual publication.
If your manuscript is complete and polished, and you think you are ready for an agent to represent your work, consider registering for agent appointments with agents who are interested in your genre or already represent clients whose work you think is similar to your own.
If your manuscript is not yet complete, or it needs a lot of polishing, you might still want to speak with an agent. Agents tend to build relationships with their clients. Almost every manuscript that is accepted by an agent goes through a vetting process prior to acceptance. And usually there is at least some work needed before an agent approaches publishers on your behalf.
Even if your manuscript is 100% and ready to go, it can pay off to approach talking to an agent with an open mind and a sense that you understand that you will be on the same team during the time of finding a publisher for your work.
Although SBWC has had many success stories in the past, we make no promises that an agent appointment will immediately result in representation.
We do, however, hope your agent appointments will a rewarding and enlightening experience and that it will be a positive step toward building strong personal connections with experts in the industry.