How To Meet Editors
I was stirred to write something about this aspect of the writing life from two different incidents. One author who called me last week and wanted to meet me. I was unavailable—since the meeting didn’t seem necessary to me. It’s your first lesson—make sure you select a time to meet the editor—that they are available to meet. And make sure you are meeting to satisfy a need of the editor. For example, if you call me and want to give me a manuscript, I’m a bit hesitant. During 2004, as a fiction Acquisitions Editor, I received over 350 submissions from literary agents (representing a number of published authors) and individual submissions. If we’ve never met or contacted each other, tell me what a meeting tell me about your writing? Your meeting has to the editor’s need—not your need. Your pitch has to be focused at the need and the audience.
On one of the writing lists where I occasionally participate, a writer planned to attend the Christian Bookseller Association Event called Advance 2005 at the end of the month in Nashville. Her strategy was to sell her book idea through meeting with different acquisitions editors. She wondered if her plan would work and asked my opinion. There are two key trade shows in the CBA. Advance is the smaller winter meeting (I’m not attending this year). The larger trade show is in the summer. These events are closed to the public so you have to have a purpose to get a badge from a publisher or a retail store. You can meet editors inside the trade show—if you plan it right. Advance is about the only possibility of the two shows for unpublished authors because it is less intense for the editor and possible to get on their schedule. Or you have Book Expo America for the general market (another closed trade show).
OK, for a minute, you be the acquisitions editor. Why do I want to meet with you? When you call for a meeting, you have to be able to tell me a compelling reason in about a minute or less--because my first inclination is going to be to say no. Seriously. As an editor, I attend Advance and CBA International to meet with authors who have already been published. There is a list of authors who will be doing signings at Advance--and I would have that list--and be calling different "much published" authors to take them to lunch, to meet with them, etc. Also I'm walking the floor, looking over the competition, learning about the market, talking with retailers, etc. Before I begin getting email and calls, this year I’m not going to Advance.
My first bit of advice is don't ask the editor for much time. Ask for a 10-15 minute meeting. That's a reasonable amount of time to meet the editor and give your much polished five-minute elevator pitch about your proposal and why it's perfect for me to take it and read it. You want to make a personal connection with the editor, listen to what they are looking for--then show your research on that particular company and why your idea is right for them. I hate to burst your plan but that's my straight advise to you and others.
Often a large writer's conference is a better place to meet the editors (if they attend the particular conference). See my article about why a writer’s conference is important. Because at a writer's conference--that's why the editors are there--to meet new writers. At CBA Advance or CBA International, the editors are not there for the writers--we have a different agenda from our publisher. So if you get to meet there, it's pure grace. You are better off meeting the editors at a conference where they are there to meet new writers. If you can’t meet face to face, then you can always form a relationship via email.
Remember, your writing is your greatest calling card so craft your email. First impressions some times make lasting impressions.