If you’re preparing to go to a writers conference, here are a few tips based on questions authors have asked over the years about agent and editor appointments:
1. What do I wear?
Each conference has its own personality. Visit the conference website to glean information concerning accommodations and weather. Comfortable, flattering clothes that show polish are available at different price points. But first, look in your closet. You probably already own enough great outfits to see you through.
2. How do I use my one-sheets?
Many writers like to present their story, photo, bio, and contact information on one page. Editors and agents often take these home, but few accept chapters and full proposals. Imagine toting fifty submissions on a plane! However, be prepared with a few pages of the manuscript and proposal if the agent asks.
3. What contact information should I take with me?
For an appointment with an editor, include your agent’s contact information on the one-sheets and sample chapters. Talk to your agent to stay on the same page with what projects you’re pitching to editors, and decide which editors you should see.
Make sure you bring business cards to keep up with your new industry friends. Steve Laube says that each night he gathers the one-sheets and business cards he collected. Along with that day’s schedule, he notes in his Moleskine notebook to reconstruct the items that need follow-up and the people he met. This process could be one way for you to recap and retain the day’s events.
4. What should I strive to achieve during my appointments?
Get to know an industry professional. The one-sheet is not your do-or-die document. A one-sheet will give you talking points and something to present to the editor; but, really, you are demonstrating a bit of who you are. You want to convey your business style and show the editor or agent that you are easy to work with, professional, and willing to do as the Lord leads to be a successful, published author.
5. What about after the conference?
Because making a firm decision about an author’s work during a brief appointment is difficult for most editors and agents, you are likely to receive several requests to submit a proposal or manuscript after the conference. Take the time you need to polish your work, but do be prepared to follow up after you return.
I wish you great conference success, fellowship, and fun!
I don’t know if you remember me, but once upon a time we worked on an anthology together for Barbour: City Dreams?
Thanks for the tips. I’m headed to Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in a couple of weeks and can use all the advice I can get.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Of course I remember you, Linda! That was such a fun collection! Enjoy the conference!
If I’ve an appointment got,
know this is what I’ll look like:
a surfer dude who plumb forgot
exactly where he parked his bike.
I’ll greet you with a big high-five,
and with a smile of cheer,
set out to make the meeting thrive
by opening a beer.
Of course, I’ll offer you one, too
(chug-a-lug it, don’t be shy!),
and then do what I came to do,
give you the reasons why
you will have a mint in hand
with “Why God Is A Longboard Man”.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Too funny, Andrew! Thanks for being so faithful in sharing your talent with us!
Tamela, thank YOU.
Kristen Joy Wilks
I’m just so excited to be preparing one sheets and gathering up conference clothes again! Our last in person conference was in February of 2020 so no matter what actually happens, I’m just so excited to get to go!
NANCY B. KENNEDY
Hi Kristen! I just happened to see your comment. If you remember, you contributed to one of my Miracles & Moments of Grace anthologies. Glad to see you’re still writing!
Odd question. If a conference doesn’t have appointments available with editors acquiring your genre, would you recommend still requesting meetings just to make connections and have a nice chat, or does that waste everyone’s time?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Megan, that’s actually a wonderful question! There is no easy answer. I could advise you best if I knew the details. However, I wouldn’t ask that those details be shared here.
Since the editor selection isn’t obvious, the next question is, “Does the editor work for a house looking for my genre?” If so, perhaps that editor can give you general tips on the house, and mention the appropriate editor taking your type of submission.
Unless the editor has said, “Don’t meet with me unless you have a complete book written in the genres I’m seeking,” you might meet simply to ask their thoughts on the industry, and for general advice.
Or, perhaps the best solution is to meet with agents instead of editors at the conference. Once you work with an agent, you can get specific advice.
Regardless as to what you decide, I hope you have a great conference!
Thank you! That’s very helpful.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Your interesting advice to Megan triggered more questions. I’m confused on the difference between what an agent does and an editor does at a conference. For the only conference I’ve attended so far, I did my homework and pitched my historical fiction to agents who were looking for my genre and pitched my 12-week Bible study on Paul to an editor from a publisher that publishes Bible studies. At conferences, are there typically publishers’ editors who will initiate the process of buying fiction manuscripts directly from authors who don’t have an agent? Are there agents who will represent authors who have no platform? Thanks!
Tamela Hancock Murray
Linda, thanks for asking. I’ll give you the best answer I can, based on my knowledge and experience.
Agents and editors do the same things at a conference that they do back at the office. That is, they are agents and editors. Agents should be looking to work with authors with marketable projects. Editors are representing the publishing houses where they work. Editors from smaller houses that don’t always work through literary agents will sometimes contract directly with an author. Editors from major houses at conferences will often advise authors to secure representation and then the agent can submit the work to the editor. As for what is typical, an author should do as you did, by researching ahead of time which editors will be present and plan accordingly.
As for agents, each of us is unique and we have our own expectations, requirements, and ideas about the type of authors we seek. Many agents are happy to work with authors who don’t have a platform. The best advice I can offer is for authors to research and submit to find the perfect match.
That said, congratulations on doing your homework and pitching your projects to the industry insiders who made sense for you. I can tell you that everyone involved appreciated your due diligence. I hope you find the perfect partner for your work soon!
I often use conference appointments to see if what I have might be marketable. Appointments don’t always have to be about pitching an idea or a project.
A lot of valuable information here, Tamela. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for this series on conferences. I’m getting prepared for my first conference this fall, and I’m unbelievably excited, but also nervous. It helps to feel like I know what to expect.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Thanks for the valuable information, Tamela. I had the chance to meet Steve at my first conference via a meeting but I also met you- in the ladies’ room (No, I didn’t hand you my manuscript under the stall door!)
Thank you kindly for this insight! As I continue to prepare for my first time at BRMCWC, I appreciate this more than you know.