I’m back from Shreveport, Louisiana – my first writers’ conference and my first opportunity to pitch to an editor.
I’ll confess that I’m an organization nerd. I took nicely arranged folders containing synopses and chapters for each manuscript. I thought I would visit, tell them briefly about my work, and leave a file behind. Yeah . . . no. In the first fifteen minutes of the conference I learned none of my pretty folders were useful and that I was woefully unprepared. The synopses helped; but for each manuscript I had to summarize 80,000 of my favorite words into two sentences. It’s called an elevator pitch — it’s more like a roller-coaster.
Appointments are short. These were 12 minutes each. Editors don’t want to read while you’re staring at them, and they don’t want to carry your pages around. They want to talk to you, get a feel for why you’re passionate about writing, and whether the two of you can work together. It’s a combination of a job interview and speed dating.
Einstein is credited with a quote: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” That’s something else editors want to learn. Do you understand your story well enough to explain it to them simply? Know your story details and be specific when you’re discussing them.
You will not be a match for every appointment, and you have limited time. Spend it wisely. Do your research before you go. Know which editors/agents will be there, what they publish, who they represent, and (if possible) what they like to do for fun. If you have an editor who likes to snow ski, and you have written a story about love on the slopes, start with that story when you meet that editor.
Go to the editor/agent panel. You will learn more by listening to how they and their companies approach the business of writing and what they’re hoping to find. Plus, you get a feel for whether you can work with them. Who shares your sense of humor? Who seems the most approachable?
My new challenge: submissions. I have six requests to satisfy. Now it’s time for the business of selling my stories: revising synopses (because my first attempts were awful), streamlining concepts, proofreading pages, and completing character sketches. It’s another step forward in my journey.