Thanks to Becky McCoy for requesting advice for conference meetings with agents and editors at conferences. You can find a lot of counsel for meeting with agents on the different agency blogs, but I thought I’d supplement those posts with advice from some of the in-house editors you’ll find at this years’ conferences. So I emailed said editors and asked them to share their wishes with you. Here are their responses. (Some of which are uncredited, to protect the honest—er, innocent. <smile>) Thanks to all the editors who shared!
It’s important for authors to remember that we are all individuals, with our own preferences, skills, and unique set of experiences. There is not a one-size-fits-all formula for these meetings. Some editors want to read a piece of writing on the spot; some—like me—can’t read while someone is watching and would prefer to see the writing later. Some want a one sheet, some—like me—don’t really want to carry away even that single sheet of paper (though I’ll still accept it). It’s probably best to give the short pitch, and then ask questions, “Would you like my one sheet?” “Would you like me to go into more detail or would you like to see a writing sample?”
Dawn Anderson, Kregel Publishing
I think the most important thing is to BREATHE. Agents and Editors do not bite (except Steve Laube) and we are truly interested in what they have to say. But preparation and knowing what you want to say ahead of time will ease the jitters. Take a deep breath and just start… “Hi, I’m xxx and I have written an 80,000-word contemporary romance set in xxxx. “
Susan Brower, Gilead Publishing
First, start with the idea that the person across the table might become a friend, a contact in the industry. Even if he or she isn’t a candidate for your idea…who knows what might come up in the future.
Second, I don’t wish to sit and read your proposal or your one sheet. Tell me about it. This is my best chance to hear your enthusiasm, your passion…and start to see how you’d communicate about your book if we were your publisher.
Third, frame your pitch. “I’m writing a three-book historical romance series set in (fill in the blank). The heroine needs/loses/must….so the hero must…..” Or “I’m writing a Christian living book for women (ages, if it’s more specific) who feel/need/want…” I’ve been ten minutes into an author’s pitch before I figured out that what I thought was a novel was, in fact, self-help.
And finally, who started the infestation of one sheets?
A veteran editor
The one thing I wish writers knew when walking into a 15-minute appointment is that editors love to help. We’d rather brainstorm with someone who wants to learn and improve than listen to someone who’s memorized an elevator pitch.
Alice Crider, David C. Cook
Remember that these few minutes are not the culmination of your writing career. In fact, they are actually building blocks of that career. Come to these meetings prepared to share but also (and maybe more so) prepared to learn. You will receive valuable input on writing style, audience reach, ways to improve, broaden, etc. Each piece of advice and wisdom will add so much to that specific piece you are sharing, but also to your career. Make a decision before you sit down for your first appointment to not walk away disappointed. Glean all you can from the time and trust the Lord to do the rest.
Kim Bangs, Baker Book Group, Chosen
Know what the publisher publishes. It doesn’t matter how good your proposal is, you can’t talk them into what they never publish.
Lonnie Hull DuPont, Baker Publishing Group, Revell
Come prepared. Make sure your story has a strong marketable hook. Be prepared to share the hook of the story, not a 15-minute synopsis, with me. Try your hook out on friends or other attendees to see if what you have is truly unique and marketable. See if the hook of your story grabs their attention and makes them want to know more. If it doesn’t, brainstorm ways to communicate it more effectively.
Use your time at the conference with other storytellers to brainstorm ways to strengthen your story.
Do your research on the publisher so you’ll know if your genre or story might be a fit. If you discover your story isn’t a fit, be prepared with questions you might have about that publisher or the industry as a whole. Take advantage of that editor’s 15 minutes of undivided attention.
Senior Acquisitions editor
Try to relax. I know it’s sometimes hard, but that person in front of you is there for you! They came to the conference so they could meet with you and hear what you have to say. Just be yourself. That will make the experience more enjoyable for both of you.
Kim Moore, Harvest House Publishers
There you go. Hope that helps you not only prepare for conferences, but enjoy them like never before.