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Barbara Poelle, Guest Column at Writer's Digest

Posted on April 7, 2013 at 3:02 AM
Barbara Poelle with the Irene Goodman Agency did a guest column at Writer's Digest on April 4, 2013.

The column titled:


is possibly the funniest agent interview ever.  I've re-posted a portion of the column, and you can read the entire article here.

Once you've read all of it, you can check out my comments here.

Trust me, you're going to love this.

Dear Agent:  What do you really think of speed-pitching events at conferences? Do you secretly hate them? And how many of your new authors do you find at writing conferences, versus the slush pile, versus other methods?

Well, let’s see. Here are some things that have happened to me at speed-dating-style pitch sessions:

• After I said I would not be interested in looking at a man’s poetry collection, he said he would kill himself—and the police had to be called.

•  An octogenarian and his wife pitched his mystery and she mouthed his memorized pitch next to him the whole time he talked, and then clapped and cried when he was done—and I had to sit there knowing from the start that a 42,000-word World War II mystery (which is far too short to be viable, for starters) was something I was for sure about to say no to. To this octogenarian’s life dream. In front of his lifelong soul mate. Thank goodness the bar was within sprinting distance.

• A woman sat down across from me and opened with, “Jesus already told me you would be my agent, so I’m not nervous at all.” I said, “That’s weird, when we had coffee the other day, he didn’t mention you.” And then I chuckled. She did not. And then my bladder loosened a bit in fear.

In the end, I very much like talking to authors at conferences, but I wouldn’t buy a car from a guy who just tells me about it; I need to see how she rides. So these days, when I’m invited to participate in pitch sessions at writing events I attend, I decline, but instead offer to take a look, in advance, at 10 pages of the manuscript from each author who wished to pitch me, and to leave a detailed critique for each one at the registration desk. I realize not every agent (maybe not any other agent) favors this approach, but in my case, I feel that this is more helpful for the writers, and better suited for my evaluation style, too. If I want to meet with someone, I leave a note and we connect.

Other than that, I am totally fine with someone coming up to me anywhere, anytime, and telling me about his book, but not in organized pitch sessions. It’s just too much pressure on the authors. And my bladder.

Oh: And as for my own stats, before adopting this policy, I signed five clients (and sold four of their books to publishers) in five years’ worth of pitch sessions. So, while connecting at those events does happen, that’s not a huge percentage of my list. Again, that’s not the case for every agent, but for me, the majority of my clients still find me through the regular query inbox.

Categories: Books in General, Everyday Writing, Fun Stuff, Newsworthy Notes, Recommended Reading, Words of Wisdom

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