February 2, 2015
Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference
Making a Pitch to an Editor at a Writers Conference
This is the third post in a short series about writers conferences and why it’s so important for writers, both newbies and experienced, to attend. In this post, we’ll discuss how important it is for writers to meet editors and agents at conferences. Most conferences offer that opportunity either as a freebie perk or a paid private critique.
I can’t begin to express how advantageous it is to sit down privately at a writers conference with an editor/agent and discuss one of your projects. Four of my book contracts and the start of a wonderful relationship with an agent came to me this way. But there’s something that every writer needs to master before you ever get to the conference and meet these special folks.
“Make that pitch.” If you’re hoping and praying the editor/agent will offer you a contract, then you need to know how to “make a pitch” to that person. The scheduled private sessions usually last only 10 to 15 minutes, so a wise conferee will practice his/her pitch ahead of time, being careful to include all the pertinent information about the project in a very short time, maybe 30 seconds to a minute.
Tell your story. The key word in this is “story.” Don’t concentrate on your voice, theme, or anything other than your storyline. The editor/agent wants to hear what your story or your nonfiction work is about. Get right to the heart of the matter. Tell your listener the genre, word count, and whether the book is finished. Make sure he/she knows if you’ve submitted the manuscript to any publishing houses and if you’re waiting for a response.
Next, move into the story, something like this: LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN is a contemporary story set in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. It’s about a married Amish woman, who falls in love with a man for whom she cleans every Saturday. It’s also about her and her husband’s beliefs, which they question when they learn some truths of the Bible about salvation and eternity in heaven with God. My readers will have a thorough understanding of the Amish culture, including shunning and pow-wowing, when they finish this first book in THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES, which will have three volumes.
Be prepared to answer questions. After your “pitch,” I recommend you stop and wait for the editor/agent to ask questions. He/she will have to read through two or three pages of your manuscript if you didn’t submit a sample of your work ahead of time, which is usually done with a paid critique. The editor/agent might say something like this: “Well, it sounds interesting but we don’t do Amish. Do you have anything else?” Sometimes when authors attend conferences, it’s hard to tell exactly what the editors/agents are looking for, even though their blurbs in the brochure might give you an overview. However, if you’ve chosen to meet with someone who isn’t interested in your work, you have one of two choices to make. Thank the editor/agent for his/her time or discuss any other ongoing projects you have that might fill his/her needs. Be professional, but be polite and always be ready to learn.
But don’t bloviate! Just remember to be as brief as possible. Remember, you only have a ten or fifteen-minute appointment, so you want to be kind and not extend your time into someone else’s scheduled slot. And remember to smile, have a positive attitude, and have a willing attitude to learn. You just might walk away with an excellent lead that will land a contract in your lap just around the writers’ bend.