Who’s afraid of the big bad editor? Every writer with the dream of having their stories read by the masses must first play joker to royalty’s throne. In this case, royalty is the elusive editors and agents we try to impress with our ideas.
Earlier this month I attended a local writers’ conference, where I sat in luncheons, dinners and mixers with published and wanna-be published writers. In that creative crowd lurked the editors and agents from popular publishing houses and literary agencies looking to discover the next literary money-maker.
Having already sold my first work, Mismatched, I only had a rough outline and pitch for my next novel. Much advice was given that weekend. Tips such as:
-Don’t stalk your dream editor or agent during the conference.
– Don’t waste their time if you don’t have a finished work to pitch.
– Don’t corner them in the restroom with a copy of your manuscript.
-Don’t be nervous even though these demi-gods hold the future of your literary career in their grasp.
– Do expect editors and agents to find any reason to say no, because they are busy people.
– Do your research and be professional.
While I admit, I did hold fast to most of these rules, I must note that this list is not all inclusive of the rhetoric that was flowing that weekend.
I half-heartily prepared my pitch while I watched other writers fret over their upcoming appointments. Since it was my first conference, I attended workshops and just set out to enjoy the experience. I went to an editor/agent panel where I was finally able to put an editor’s name with her face. It was another hour of writer do’s and don’ts in prep for the upcoming appointments.
After another series of workshops it was time for lunch, where the nearly 250 attendees were seated according to their interests in various genres.
I joined the table for Women’s Fiction which only had two seats left and began to stuff myself with resort quality food. Once my plate was clean, I turned my chair around to listen to the keynote speaker, romance novelist Carly Phillips. A short time later, I felt a presence fill the seat next to me. It was one of the editors, not just any editor, but the editor I was to meet later in the day.
I sat back and watched the other table mates bombard her with questions while her lunch just sat there barely eaten. I waited while the lady who sat on the other side of the editor went on and on about how smart she was for drinking from a reusable water bottle instead of the disposable water bottle I was using. I wasn’t sure if that was the most marketable trait for a writer, I let her babble without interruption. When it was time for her to leave, I was the last one sitting with the editor. Instead of bowling her over with the premise of my story I asked her questions about herself. Then I informed her that I had an appointment with her later but for that moment I would leave her to finish her lunch in peace. She seemed surprised and grateful for the chance at a little solitude.
At a writers’ conference, it is the editors, agents and renowned published authors who are the celebrities, because they are where we dream to be or they are the ticket to get us there .
Having the opportunity to practice my networking skills and chat with the editor ahead of time really took the edge off when it was time for my appointment.
Twenty minutes before, I fine-tuned my pitch and watched while the others studied their notes and paced. When it was time, we entered the meeting room which was set-up like a speed-dating session.
I had ten minutes to sell my idea and find out what the editor was looking for. I talked so fast, I had time left and that gave the editor a chance to ask questions. We had a good exchange and by the time the bell signaled that the appointment was over, I had a request for a sample.
Later that night, I found out many who had appointments received valuable feedback and/or requests for writing samples. The proof of how successful these appointments were will be in how many actually follow-up and send the requests and how many of those will be offered a publishing contract if any.
The one thing I’ve learned in this experience that can be useful in any endeavor is the importance of increasing the opportunities that support your dreams.
In the end, it’s not one single shot that can make or break your dreams, but the culmination of chances and how we use them that help us transform our dreams into reality.