Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lean Into The Wind

The winds of publishing are constantly changing. It’s the nature of this business.  Editors move around to new publishing houses and take new responsibilities. Some times an editor will become a literary agent. Other times an agent will move to inside a publishing house. There are infinite combinations of these types of switches.

Last week when I was traveling, I had many opportunities to talk with writers, editors and agents. I met a number of new editors during the trip.  For example, one benefit from membership in the American Society of Journalists and Authors is the ability to attend our member day meeting. It was held on April 15th or the day before the public session on April 16th—and only open to members of the Society.

One element in the member day has been extremely popular the last two years—called Pitch Sessions. Literary agents, book editors and magazine editors meet with various ASJA members. Each of us in the Society are published and professional writers (see this link for membership requirements). The agents and editors know they are meeting with professional writers who can easily fulfill their needs. The sessions run for ten minutes—and are strictly monitored. It’s basically time to meet, exchange business cards and a tiny bit about what you do—plus hear what the editor or agent needs. It’s a time to establish a connection. Several of the magazine editors brought guidelines and samples of their publication.

For example, I met the editor of the American Lawyer, which is a slick trade magazine for lawyers. It gave her a chance to meet new writers and also the writer a chance to learn about a new publication.  It opens another door of possibilities for my writing and story ideas.  Another editor I met was starting a new publication from Guideposts called Positive Thinking. This publication will launch this summer and they are actively looking for new articles and new writers. These are two ten-minute meetings from a marathon type session of meeting editors and agents.

What happens from these sessions? It’s up to the writer to follow-up, keep the connection alive and pitch some appropriate ideas for these publications.  The sessions were terrific—because they opened up a world of possibilities and initiated a face-to-face relationship. It’s often true in publishing that it is who you know as much as what you know.  These contacts expanded my connections last week.

I’ll be the first person to admit this type of effort (initial contact, then follow-up), takes a lot of effort and work. From my experience and perspective, it is well worth it in the long run. My encouragement to you is to attend a conference and make these types of personal connections. And even if you can’t get to a conference, then keep moving. As the winds of change continue to blow in publishing, my advice is to lean into the wind and keep moving ahead.

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