Readers, I would love to get your feedback on this one: What do you think is the most productive format for one-on-one meetings at a writer’s conference? I ask, of course, because I attended a conference this past weekend, where I spent most of my time in one-on-one meetings with authors.

Over the years, I’ve done all sorts of configurations: one-on-ones and roundtables; 5-minute slots, 10, 15, and so on; MSS in advance, no prep, 10 pages, and so on again. This time out, the meetings were half an hour, and we were sent 40 pages in advance. And as much as I hate to say it, on the whole I don’t think they were particularly productive.

40 pages is a funny length–much longer than what an author would probably send on submission, yet not really enough to give a full snapshot of a MS–while half an hour is a ton of time to talk. And with that, it seemed like the chattier authors got bogged down in a lot of details and small points, with not enough time to discuss the big picture, while at the same time, the sessions for those who sat back and listened tended to run way short, even with some question time at the end.

So, unfortunately, it was a bit of a frustrating day, and I worry that I didn’t give the authors the help they were looking for. However, the organizers are asking for feedback for next year, so I’d love to hear what works best for you and try to change things up–any thoughts?

2 Responses to One-on-ones

  1. Kellie says:

    So I don’t know how much help I can be, but I can give my opinion with the best of them. :) I agree with you that a 30 minute one-on-one with a 40 page entry doesn’t add up just right. A 10-15 minute session for 10-20 pages seems to be more of the standard. However, the time and pages may have been a reoccurring suggestion they saw in feedback last year so they decided to try something different.

    In a one-on-one I would expect to talk to an agent as if I had queried them. First off, I would like to know if it had been an actual query would you have wanted to see more. I would also like a couple of examples of what I did right and what I might want to work on. If you can give me an idea of what caught your eye and what I might need to change in the first 10 pages I can fix it throughout because now I know what to look for. That can easily take up 10-15 minutes productively.

    As far as giving overall feedback, I am a big fan of the Pro/Con list. I always make sure to mention at two things I especially enjoyed and one thing that seemed to fall short but is very fixable. Oh, as a side note, when giving all kinds of feedback/critiques always end on a positive. It makes the critique feel more productive and the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

    But like I said, just my opinion. Good luck!

  2. I think that asking you to read 40 pages is unreasonable. I believe that a fifteen-minute pitch is enough time to tell whether the agent and author will be a good fit.

    I have pitched at several conferences, and each time I have come away with a request to send an agent my packet. One time I was turned down by an agent who obviously did not understand the children’s picture book market, but I politely asked another agent if I could pitch her my book in a casual setting (not the restroom–I know better)and she told me to send her my stuff. In all these cases, it took less than fifteen minutes for us both to realize whether we would be a good fit.

    At the end of one conference, there was a gong show for queries. One person’s query was gonged, but another agent at the head table said, “He did a much better job of pitching his work in our fifteen-minute session. I have already requested his packet.”

    Agents are incredibly busy, and I think fifteen minutes is sufficient.

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