Hungry to publish your writing?
Go about it in the right way and you won’t get stuck!
I couldn’t resist sharing these two pictures. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
But Donna Brennan’s words below on how to prepare for appointments at a writers conference are worth a great deal and will help you not get stuck in an awkward situation because you’re unprepared.
Father, thank You for the editors and agents who are taking time from busy schedules to meet with conferees. May the appointments be fruitful for them and for our conferees.
How to Prepare for That Editor or Agent Appointment
by Donna Brennan
When you go to a conference you often have the opportunity to meet with an agent or editor and pitch your work. Depending on the conference, you may get one appointment or may get several. And the duration of the appointment varies too, typically ranging from five to fifteen minutes.
(Note: The Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference both give you four 15-minute long appointment opportunities if you attend for all three days!)
But how do you select which agent or editor would be the best one(s) for you to meet with? And how do you prepare for that meeting? And what if you don’t get an appointment with your first choice? Here’s some advice addressing those questions.
How to Select Which Agent or Editor to Meet With
The longer the list of available agents and editors, the more daunting the task may appear. But look at it as an opportunity to find the best fit for you and your work.
First, read the bios listed on the conference website, paying special attention to what their current needs are. Don’t pitch a fantasy to someone who is only interested in contemporary romance. Then, go to their websites (usually listed in the bio) for more information about them and their agency or publishing house, including titles of books they represent or publish. Read reviews and summaries of those books online. If you can, read the first few pages online, too.
Do they have a blog? Read that, too. That often helps you to get a feel for what kind of person they are.
Next, pray. Always pray. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to pray while reading their bios or visiting their websites or blogs.
Pick your top choices, but also have some back-up choices. Appointment slots usually fill up quickly, with folks who register for the conference early getting first dibs on who they meet with. So register as soon as you’re sure you’ll be attending.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment
If pitching an article or short story, you should bring that with you. If you’re pitching a longer length article that isn’t written yet, bring a summary and outline of the article along with any other articles you have already written (to provide a sample of how you write).
For pitching a fiction book you typically want to have a one-sheet (described below) and the first chapter (in case the person you’re meeting with wants to look that over while you talk). It’s a good idea to bring along a one-page synopsis and a bullet list of critical points in your story. For pitching a nonfiction book you should bring a one-sheet, a synopsis, and an outline. A chapter by chapter summary is a good thing to have with you, as well as a bullet-list of important topics covered in your book. Your book does not have to be finished, but it does have to have a solid outline and be well thought out.
A one-sheet can be thought of as an at-a-glance overview of your story and you. Different people like to put different things into their one-sheets. (Be sure to check the agent or editor’s website to see if they have certain expectations as to what belongs in a one-sheet.) Basically it contains both an elevator pitch and a one-paragraph summary, along with your story’s genre, target audience, and word count. It also contains your bio, told in the third person. There are lots of examples of one-sheets online you can look at before creating your own including Marlene Bagnull’s sample one sheet (click here).
An elevator pitch is one or two sentences that sum up your story. It needs to be short enough that you can share it quickly if you happen to find yourself riding on an elevator with an agent or editor who represents your type of writing.
Sometimes it’s hard to condense your book into a one-page synopsis, let alone a one-paragraph summary or two-sentence elevator pitch. Here’s one way to get that done.
First, write the synopsis in however many words you need to tell what you feel is important about your book. And then you start cutting out all the non-crucial elements and all those extra words we writers like to sneak into our prose. Keep cutting until you get it down to one single-spaced page.
Once you have your synopsis done, start cutting some more until you can get down to a single paragraph. Then cut some more until you get it down to two sentences.
To put together a bullet list, go back to your synopsis and pull out any items crucial to what happens in your story or any main items you want to mention about your nonfiction book. Put them in the order you want to talk about them.
This list is for you while you’re talking so you don’t forget important points. Therefore, keep the descriptions of each item brief so you can glance down at your paper and remember the topic, but let it make enough sense so the agent or editor can understand if they ask to look at the paper.
If you’re having multiple appointments, bring several copies of the one-sheet, outline, and first chapter. Agents and editors don’t usually ask for hard copies of things at conferences (because they’re seeing lots of folks and that’s a lot of stuff to carry back home). But sometimes they do. And if you give away your only copy at your first appointment, you’ll have nothing to show at your other appointments.
When it’s time for your appointment, review your synopsis and bullet list before you walk in. Relax and know that the agent you’re meeting with wants to find clients to represent and the editors want to find work to publish.
What to Do if You Don’t Get an Appointment with Your First Choice(s)
If you don’t get the appointment you wanted, don’t despair. Sometimes God gives us what we need instead of what we ask for. You may learn something at the conference to let you know your manuscript is not ready yet. Or you may wind up in a chance meeting with this person at the conference that works out better than an appointment would have. Or you might have a surprise elevator ride with an agent or editor who wasn’t even on your radar.
So first pray, then prepare. Have your elevator pitch memorized and have your one-page with you all during the conference. If you’re already carrying a bag or notebook, stick your synopsis and first chapter in there-just in case. If you run into an agent or editor you were interested in but didn’t get an appointment with, ask if you can give them your elevator pitch (but please, don’t be pushy). If they say yes and they like it, ask if you can show them your one-page or send them a query letter. If you send a query, be sure to mention that you met them at the conference.
After the conference, if you didn’t get an opportunity to talk with a particular agent or editor, you can still send them a query letter. Say in your letter that you were at the conference but didn’t get a chance to meet with them. But . . . if you learned at the conference that your manuscript wasn’t quite ready, be sure to make those changes before sending out that query letter.
And did I mention pray? Always pray. If God put the desire to write in your heart, He will provide a way for your writing to be read by His intended audience.