Monday, May 24, 2010

A Date With An Editor or Agent - 10 Steps To Make You Look Beautiful

It is so exciting. You finally were able to get that coveted date with an editor or an agent at a conference. You have been dreaming about this for some time. You have pictures of that person on the wall. Sitting in meetings, you continually write his or her name over and over again...

O.K. Maybe not that bad, but you get the idea. Still, the idea of getting ready for an appointment with an editor or agent uses many of the same things you would have done getting ready for a big date. And yes, too often, I see writers that are far from ready for "that date" and guess what, they don't get a call for a second date.

Now obviously, many of these ideas seem like common sense, but taking the time to really think through the steps should put you in a better position. Please note though, in the end, it is still up to the manuscript being the right story at the right time with the right person.

1. Do Your Research You all know this is a big one with me. Before signing up for any appointment with any editor or agent, you darn well better be doing your research. Your story has to be right for that person. I always laugh when RWA opens up sign ups with editors and agents and everyone not in the Golden Heart or RITA group complains that there are no slots left with editors unless it is with Harlequin. Why is that? Those other writers haven't done their research. 9 times out of 10, those writers SHOULD be pitching to the Harlequin writers because their writing is simply not what the other editors are looking for. The same goes for agents. The majority of writers might do better meeting with another agent, and yes, it might be someone not going to nationals.

Simply put - Don't sign up for someone unless you know who that person is. You know how blind dates frequently end up!

2. Clean and Primp No this is not an issue of fixing your hair (although I will get to that later). This is a matter of making sure that manuscript is ready to go. As an agent, the one thing I get very irritated about during pitches is the writer that tells me, after I have asked for something, that they will want to "go over it one more time." Wait a minute! If you are pitching, that story better be darn well ready. Although we might not want it right there and right then, it should be that ready. I have, and other editors and agents have been so eager for a project we have told the writer to have it on our desk when we get back to the conference. Send it electronically, we want it. Why is that? We have a place for just a project. If you aren't ready to get it there, it means that slot goes to someone else.

3. Know What To Say I actually sat with a writer at a conference that didn't know the title or word count of one of their other projects. "BUZZ!" Strike one! When you go into that session, you should be prepped for anything we might ask you. That would be things about your story, characters, motivations, future projects, etc. Not knowing things that basic makes you look terrible. Take the time before going into that date to think through every potential question that person might ask. And if you don't know what questions those might be, that might be telling you something.

4. Don't Memorize I hate this one. I know other agents and editors say they don't but I am sorry to say, it does reflect on your professionalism. Writers that come to a pitch session reading note cards, or cranking off that memorized pitch simply show someone that is not speaking from the heart. I'm sorry but hey, you really don't know your story if you have to read it. And for those of you pitching with me, I will take your notes from you. If you try to give me that "memorized pitch" I will interrupt you frequently to get you to tell me the story from your heart.

5. Be Ready This is connected to some of the earlier questions, but come prepped. Stories need to be ready, future projects need to be thought out. You name it, be ready. But this also extends to having paper and pen to write down ideas, business cards if you feel it necessary (although for me, I don't want a card from a writer). Let me give you another thing to consider about being ready. One writer of mine was pitching to an editor and was 3/4 of the way through a project. She knew she could make it through it, but was expecting only to be asked for a partial (which is all this editor ever asked for in every pitch). Not only did this editor want a full, but she also wanted partials of the 2 follow up books (which she didn't have). Fortunately, this writer had thought things out, knew what she had to do and pitched the ideas anyway. Yes, she had a busy week ahead of her, but she got it done and yes, we sold all three books. She was ready!

6. Dress To Kill This is a big one with me. I know that I have gotten into knock-down, drag-out fights with people on this, but you have to dress professionally. This is a job interview and dang it, you have to be professional about it. I don't care if this is a working convention, return to your room, get that suit on and look good. Sweats, hair that is a mess, you name it - all of it shows you don't care enough.

7. Be Prepared To Go All The Way This is a mental game for yourself but you have to be ready to make the leap to professional writing. Have you thought out what it is going to do to your life? Do you have the backing of your family? Professional writing involves much more than having one story ready. It is a commitment! If you are pitching "just because an editor or agent is there" or "just because you have your story finished" or "just because your writing group pushed you to it" then cancel right now. You are not ready!

8. Know what You Want What do you want out of your writing career? These are goals not dreams. What you want out of an editor or agent is a very real thing and what you are shooting for has to be, not only believeable, but realistic. Really think this one through. If you are pitching to this person because you see them as simply a means to an end, you are not being fair to that person. I certainly don't want someone pitching to me because they don't want to be at Greyhaus. I know editors don't want someone signing on with them just for one book so they can move on to supposedly bigger houses. Know what you want and believe it!

9. Know How You Will Get There No this is not a marketing plan. This is however linked to that prior idea. Knowing what you want is one thing, but if you have no clue how to get there, it means your plan will fail. It also means that you are not ready to move on. Do you know how you will handle time management? Do you know how you will start thinking about publicity, future projects, dealing with revisions and so forth? It all needs to be part of your plan.

10. Be Professional Professional writing is more than simply getting paid to do your creative writing. Professionalism involves attitude and how you deal with people. If you don't act professional, you will not get that offer you wanted. Let me expain it this way. Sometimes I hear a pitch that doesn't work for me. I try to provide suggestions as to how a writer could make that story stronger. I am not someone that simply says "No - Next!" But when I give you suggestions, don't stare at me thinking "give me a break you loser, you are passing up the next best thing." First of all, I can see it in your eyes and yes, I have your name logged in my computer. Come back to pitch a new story with me, those notes are there. But secondly, remember that I am passing on your manuscript. The story simply wasn't right. And finally, maybe it simply wasn't right for me. Honestly, do you want me to take a project that I know is wrong, make you spend time and money sending it to me, just for me to tell you in a month I hated it all along and it was never going to work? I don't think so.

Now, start getting ready for your date!


1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Scott!
    Phew to number 4, I cannot memorise a thing lately. Something to do with being 49 and 24 months old I think. *grin*

    I wonder if I will ever get to do some of the things in your list. I do hope I get a date, I would hate to be left on the shelf. Wait! I want to be on the shelf...oh, you know what I mean. LOL

    Can I ask a question? I have read that hyphenated words, should not be hyphenated when a MS is submitted. Is this fact?