Monday, March 15, 2010

Agents And Editors Are People, Too (Sort Of)

Do you recall the scene in The Wizard Of Oz where Dorothy and her companions find out that the Wizard is merely a product of a man behind the curtain? Some of you are preparing to attend a writer's conference, where you'll encounter agents and editors. Most of you hope to interest them in your work, either to represent you or to consider a proposal or (oh, happy day!) a full manuscript of your book. But, if you're like me at my first such conference, you'll be fighting to string appropriate words together and produce cogent sentences. It's as though you were standing in front of the Wizard, with knees knocking and voice quavering.

So, here's a word of advice. These people may hold the keys for your future in publication, but in the final analysis, they're not the Mighty Oz. They're the man or woman behind the curtain. They're ordinary people who should be treated with respect, but not reverence. There's no reason to fear them.

So how do you pitch to an agent or editor? First, do your homework. If an agent doesn't represent fantasy, don't try to interest them something of that genre. If an editor's publishing house specializes in Amish romances, don't waste their time and yours pitching a novel about space exploration. You get the picture. Most writer's conferences have a list of agents and editors attending, along with notes about what they are (and sometimes, what they're not) looking for. Pay attention and make your presentations accordingly.

Second, be considerate of their time. Be on time for your appointment. Make your presentation clearly, having practiced and polished it until it shines. Allow them the opportunity to react and respond. Ask if they want your card (they may) and if they'd like you to send them a proposal (they may or may not). And when your time is up, thank them and leave.

Don't pitch to them in the lunch line (it happens all too often), in the rest room (yes, that happens, too), or by cutting into a conversation they're having. That's a good way to get them to remember your name, but not in a positive fashion.

And don't spend all your time at the conference trying to impress agents and editors. Make friends with other writers. You'll enjoy the experience. Oh, and don't forget to attend some classes. No matter where you are on your road to publication, you're never too far along to stop learning.

2 comments:

Carol J. Garvin said...

Excellent advice, Richard. I'm one of the nerve-wracked ones, but I keep trying to remember to see the person not the persona.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Excellent advice, Richard. I'm one of the nerve-wracked ones, but I keep trying to remember to see the person not the persona.