Meeting editors and agents at conference
The best place to meet editors and agents is at a scheduled appointment. Some conferences will schedule these for you, other times you must approach an editor or agent and request an appointment time. (If they don’t have time, don’t puddle into the floor weeping, just smile, thank them, and walk away.)
Because you have several minutes, the purpose of an agent/editor appointment at a conference is more than just pitching. It’s a chance for you to learn about the agent/editor’s personality, and if they’re someone you want to work with. This is very important. A business relationship is more than just professionalism—it’s how personalities work with each other, kind of like a marriage.
It’s also a chance for you to present yourself in the best possible light. First impressions are very important.
Therefore, use your time wisely.
I’m going to break this down into writer experience level, because I agree with Randy Ingermanson when he talks about Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior level writers. (If you haven’t read his article yet, please do so before continuing with this one, since I’ll be referring to it.)
For Freshmen, Sophomores, early Juniors:
My suggestion is not to officially pitch your story at all. I’ve heard Randy Ingermanson suggest this, as well (so actually, I’m borrowing parts of this idea from him).
The reason is that for a writer at Freshman, Sophomore, and even early Junior stage, it’s more beneficial to the writer to make a positive personal impression on the editor/agent than it is to pitch a story idea. Editors and agents remember writers, just like they remember story ideas, even if it’s only subconscious and a vague “liked it” or “didn’t like it” feeling.
You want them to have a vague “I liked this person the last time we met” feeling. It improves your chances of them being interested in your story idea the next time you see them and officially pitch.
So what do you do when you meet them? Randy suggests you tell them, “I’m not going to pitch to you, but I’d like you to look at my proposal and let me know what you think. I’d really like feedback on it.”
This accomplishes several things.
a) The editor/agent will give you more detailed feedback on your story and the layout of your proposal than if you’d pitched. They’ll highlight your strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes give you suggestions for improving the story or proposal.
b) The feedback not only helps you improve your story idea, but it also gives you insight into the agent/editor—what they like, what they don’t like, what they expect from new authors.
c) It takes the pressure off of you to present a perfect, professional pitch. Because really, unless you can do a perfect, professional pitch, you’re not going to give a very good first impression.
d) If the agent/editor reads the proposal—with the intent to give feedback, not to hear your story idea—but likes the story idea anyway, they might ask you to send the manuscript to them.
e) If the agent/editor only gives feedback and doesn’t ask you to send your manuscript to them, it softens the emotional blow of this form of face-to-face “rejection.” If you’d pitched to them and they hadn’t asked you to send your manuscript, let’s face it—that just hurts more. With this method, you wanted feedback, and you got it.
f) If the agent/editor doesn’t ask you to send your manuscript, you at least have good feedback about why they didn’t ask you to send it. If you’d pitched to them, they wouldn’t have given you as much detail about why they didn’t want to see more. In asking for feedback, you definitely get it.
g) In asking for feedback rather than pitching, it shows the editor/agent that you’re teachable. This is key in giving them a good impression of you both professionally and personally.
This feedback session might take up the entire time you have. If it doesn’t, then engage in small talk with the editor/agent. (For tips on this type of conversation at conferences, check out my article “How to Network at Conferences, part two: Questions to Ask”)
Come back on Saturday to see what Camy suggets for Seniors!
Camy Tang is the loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick lit. Her debut novel, Sushi for One?, releases in September 2007, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own…), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/.