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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pitching to agents and editors at conferences

I'm not a natural extrovert, but I force myself to be one at conferences in order to meet writers, editors and agents. I want to present a professional demeanor and make a good impression.

That's kind of hard to do when my mouth has suddenly become the Mojave desert and my legs have rooted through my Nine Wests into the floor.

These are tips for when you’re at a group meet-and-greet, or standing in the hallway, or waiting in line—any informal setting when you spot an editor/agent you’d like to talk to.

Smile

Go on, force your mouth to stretch out and up. From my psychology classes, I know that just the action will make you feel better and help you relax.

Buddy up

There's nothing wrong with asking a friend to walk with you as you approach Agent X. Agents and editors are not monsters, nor do they bite. Many of them are not extroverts, either. They understand the nervousness of meeting someone new, especially if it's someone you WANT to meet. Your buddy doesn't have to do much more than stand there and smile. If the agent or editor asks, they can mention they're there for "moral support" and most people will understand.

Keep it simple

"Hi, my name is Betty Bestseller. Do you have a moment? Could I tell you about my book?"
Until you become more comfortable meeting editors and agents, you don't need to try to go with the very professional-sounding rehearsed speech you agonized over in front of the mirror. Be polite and to the point.

Use props

One-sheets are tastefully laid-out single pages with short 30-second blurbs (that usually translates into two paragraphs) about your work(s) in progress. They also tend to have a digital headshot and a one-paragraph bio of you. Not all agents and editors will accept them--they have different views about taking home anything more than business cards from writers--but you can use one to pitch your WIP. Agents and editors don't mind if you read off your one-sheet. They'd prefer that over you stuttering, backtracking, and confusing them with a memorized blurb.

If you'd like an example of a one-sheet:
http://dineenmiller.com/DineenMiller/D.G.Graphics.html (Dineen’s having hosting problems so her website might take some time to load. She used to work in corporate as a professional graphic designer, and now she designs writers’ one-sheets for very reasonable prices—like 1/10 what she’d charge in corporate. Her design work is fabulously striking and has garnered editor and agent attention at conferences.)
http://www.marydavisbooks.com/onesheet.php
http://www.ambermiller.com/promosheet.html

Be polite

When you finish and ask, "Is this something that might interest you?", if they say "No," then for heaven's sake don't sprinkle onto the floor like a crumbled scone or throw a hissy fit. Smile, say, "Thank you for your time," and leave it at that.

On the flip side, if they say, "Yes, please send me your proposal," don't let loose your prize-winning hog-call from the last county fair. Smile, say, "Thank you for your time!" and hand them your business card. They will probably hand you theirs.

Debrief

Right after you walk away from the editor/agent, write the title of your WIP (if you have more than one) on the back of their card so you know what you pitched, and any other pertinent information the agent/editor might have given so you don't forget.

On a side note, don't lose that card. It's extremely unprofessional to be asking on writers loops, "Does anyone have So-n-so's information? I lost their business card..."

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