Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Writers' Conference Preparation

So you've registered to attend a writers' conference, and signed up for a private meeting with an agent or an editor...or both....

Having sat through a couple of each myself, I know it can be a knee-knockin' experience, especially if you go unprepared to 'the den' .

I sat through enough of 'em that I many have moved from my 'mere acquaintences' to my 'writing pals' list. So now, when we get together, it's to discuss the ways this wacky, ever-changing industry has affected us personally (well, and professionally, too, of course)...lately.

When I'm invited to lead conference workshops or give speeches for writers' organizations, question about these meetings often crop up. So I decided to add tidbits gathered from my own agent/editor sessions to direct questions I've asked them over the years. The result? A one-hour workshop entitled "Those Critical Ten Minutes".

Let me abbreviate that hour for you, here:

1. You need to decide whether a meeting with an agent, editor, or both will best advance your career, and schedule a session as quickly as possible so you won't be forced to decide "if your first choice isn't available, who else would you like to meet?"

2. Figure out long before the meeting what type book you'll pitch. If it's fiction, is it genre fiction or mainstream? Whether fiction or non-fiction, you need to be very comfortable with your THEME.

3. Who's your audience...or...who will read your book?

4. Is the book a one-time-only deal, or do you hope to write sequels or updated editions?

5. Can you describe the entire book in ONE SENTENCE?

6. What's your writing experience and/or what credentials make you the best person to write this particular book?

7. How is your book different from others like it?

8. How much do you know about the company 'your' agent or editor works for (or owns)?

9. Dress as though you're going to a job interview...because you are.

10. Bring a 3x5 card with you, and if you have one, a business card. On the 3x5 card, write:

a. your book's title
b. your book's THEME
c. a brief overview of your story (major characters only, conflicts, how you'll resolve them, and how the book ends)

Some direct quotes from my agent/editor pals:

Don't be intimidated. We belch after a hearty meal, same as you!

Understand your own story well enough to sell it. Don't meander around the theme. If you can't describe your plot in a sentence or two, you're doomed.

Don't tell us it's a viable story, show us!

Know what we're looking for, and for the luvva Pete, don't try to talk us into buying something we can't publish or represent.

Know what other books, similar to yours, are selling...and why.

Know how we prefer to receive submissions.

LISTEN! Everything we tell you during one of these meetings is free advice, so take advantage of it!

So there y'have it, boys and girls, from the experts, themselves. No reason not to sign up for a meeting with an agent or an that you know what's expected of you!

Here's hoping you'll sell whatever you pitch! Meanwhile, write on!