What to expect from an agent 1-2-1
Read WriteMentor’s advice for preparation, expectations, and handling feedback
What is an agent 1-2-1?
Anywhere between 5 mins to around 30 minutes*, virtually or face-to-face, agent 1-2-1s are usually a paid opportunity to meet an agent and discuss a writing sample. See it as a verbal cover letter – this is an opportunity to pitch yourself and your writing while receiving feedback and insights. 1-2-1s give you more direct access to an agent than email submissions and can help give you practice in discussing your novel in a professional setting, something you will have to do throughout your writing career.
Be sure to enter the 1-2-1 with a realistic attitude. Many writers believe agent 1-2-1s are their way to get a full request or somehow get ahead in some way. Yes, they are useful to network and get to know agents, but you should not be doing them simply to get a request or similar. 1-2-1s are primarily about you getting feedback on your work from the people who see hundreds of submissions a week and are best placed to advise you.
*Usually WriteMentor offers 15 minute 1-2-1s, but other organisations/festivals may vary so be sure to check in advance.
How to prepare
Before booking the 1-2-1, choose an agent best suited to the project you’re pitching, as you would with a traditional submission, particularly checking their Manuscript Wish List. Check the deadline for sending the writing sample (usually the opening chapters, a cover letter, and synopsis), which will be done ahead of time, to make sure you can meet it. Format the writing sample like a traditional submission, personalising it to the agent, and send your best possible work.
In the lead up to the 1-2-1, do some research around the agent and their agency. Don’t spend hours on this but it ensures you ask the right questions whose answers can’t just be found online.
Practice your pitch! The agent might ask you to describe your book and, with little time, aim to be succinct. Again, make full use of the time in the 1-2-1 by jotting down questions beforehand, and any details you might want to share about your writing background and ambitions.
Be sure to know why YOU are the person to write this story! This is so important and agents need to know this, as it will help them when they come to pitch it. And why is your story different, but still similar, to what’s out there right now. What is your USP?
Just before the 1-2-1, check your internet connection and sound/video quality if you’re doing one virtually.
During the 121
The agent usually takes the lead but expect the 1-2-1 to usually start with a quick introduction about yourself, your writing background, interests, and ambitions. Together, you’ll then discuss the writing sample, and finish with general questions.
Like any formal meeting, be on time and polite to the agent. A 1-2-1 goes very quickly, so make use of the time. Be proactive – ask the agent questions, or prompt them into discussion, particularly if you have time left at the end.
Most importantly, relax and have fun so your personality shines. Agents want to connect not only with your writing, but you as a person, as they’ll potentially have to work with you for your whole writing career. So, if you and the agent click during the 1-2-1 – that’s a good sign!
During 1-2-1s, WriteMentor is not responsible for the content of the feedback, and this is solely down to the agent themselves and their own personal, subjective thoughts. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide if the feedback you receive is something you wish to act upon.
How to process feedback
Knowing how to process the agent’s feedback during and after the 1-2-1 is important. In a one-to-one, face-to-face environment, it will be just as hard for the agent to give critical feedback as it will be for you to receive it. If there’s feedback you disagree on, don’t argue with the agent – if appropriate, you can better explain yourself, but always be polite and professional.
Even if the agent doesn’t want to take things further, end the 1-2-1 on a positive note, and thank them for their time and their feedback. You might want to submit to the agent or their agency in the future, so don’t give a bad impression, even if you’re feeling deflated or disappointed at the end.
Read our blog post for more advice on receiving and processing feedback.
Some questions to ask the agent
What do you particularly like about my chapter samples?
Any specific areas of improvement?
Does the opening grab your attention?
Is the voice was strong?
Are the characters vivid and authentic?
Does my cover letter make you want to read the chapters?
Can you understand the plot from my synopsis?
Am I ready to submit this project to agents?
What types of books are agents currently looking for (genres, themes, age groups etc.)?
Can I resubmit to you in the future with either a different project or a rewrite of the current one?
Where do you think my story might sit in the current market? Is it an oversaturated area or one that has space?
Want a published author to check your sample chapters, cover letter and synopsis?