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BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS VOL. I

Tuesday

8-3 Purposeful Pitching - How To Get The Most Out Of Writers Conferences

(c) 2009, Mona Leeson Vanek

Going to a writer's conference? Looking for the perfect person to advance your book (career)? Next to writing the manuscript, researching agents and editors is an author's most important task.
  • Gather brochures well in advance.
  • Check where and when editors and/or agents will be available.
  • Check how many interviews each offers.
  • Gauge your odds of snagging one.
Publisher's Weekly (in libraries and online) prides itself on being the 'bible' of the industry.

Tip PublishersWeekly.com, http://www.publishersweekly.com/ is one site every writer should bookmark and visit often, and explore thoroughly. You can keep up with industry news by subscribing to PW Daily for Booksellers from Publishers Weekly. Another source is: Editor and Publisher: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/index.jsp

Also, search in the book jackets at bookstores. Ask store managers if they can tell you what agent represented which books. Network with other writers in writers groups, especially online where you can reach a wide variety of writers and tap their vast pool of information.

Create a folder for each publisher's representative and agent you'll see at the conference. Create a file about the agent's:
  • Career or professional goals.
  • How their career is progressing.
  • Where they fit into the publishing house's hierarchy.
Tip: Study photos. It's always easier meeting someone whose face is familiar.

Write to the agency and ask:
  • Which authors the agency has represented.
  • What genres the agency handles.
  • Which genres the agent specializes in.
  • Which authors the agent has represented.
  • The number of titles represented a year.
  • Ask for a sample of their standard contract.
Request a copy of their submission guidelines, and follow it to the letter.

Write to the publishing house and ask the same questions, substituting "publisher" in place of "agency" and "editor" in place of "agent." Also ask:
  • For the publisher's press releases or media packet.
  • For current and back booklists.
  • For catalogues.
  • Get a copy of the publishing house's guidelines (study every detail.)
Be courteous and thank them for their time. Enclose an SASE.

When you've zeroed in on a good possibility, and feel that your book is a perfect fit, a. with a publishing house ­and with their editor's interests; b. with an agency and with their agent, apply for a meeting.

Your professionalism sells you as much as your words. Your personality, appearance and your courtesy are important factors in this unique interview process. The confidence you demonstrate in your work, yourself and your abilities, shines through your enthusiasm for your manuscript.

Tip: Ask the conference chairman or publicist for the correct pronunciation of the editor or agent's name if you're in doubt.

Your interview will be a business meeting. Dress appropriately, but don't be afraid to be yourself. Publicity tours are always foremost in editors and agents' minds. They're looking for good writers who are public-oriented and memorable. Always be sure that you don't smell as though you've been marinated in your perfume or aftershave lotion.

Arrive ten minutes early. Wait quietly outside until the writer before you exits, then walk in, introduce yourself and shake hands. Wait for the editor\agent to ask you to be seated. In a friendly, professional voice, begin your sales pitch by giving information about yourself. Don't spend more than four minutes recounting your writing background and accomplishments. Remember to smile.

Be enthusiastic, positive, and informative as you quickly move on to the description of the book you're pitching. Show the editor:
  • That you know your story.
  • That you know what s/he wants.
  • That you have the story s/he is going to want.
  • That you can deliver a manuscript s/he'll be happy with.
It's crucial to project the impression that you'll be cooperative to work with, through all the changes that you'll be asked to complete.

Carrying an index card to refer to is useful and can boost your confidence (if you feel more comfortable reading from it, do so). Beforehand, jot these pertinent things you should mention:
  • Working title of your book.
  • One or two sentences that tell the plot summary
    • a.) conflict
    • b.) type of novel (i.e. romance, historical, mystery, etc.)
    • c.) the word count.
Two minutes should be plenty of time to cover this information.

Tip: When you're trying to figure out how to write that succinct "grabber" for an agent or editor visit a bookstores and study blurbs on best-seller book jackets. Make a habit of studying the one-line descriptions of this year's published titles.

Mastering this step of concisely stating your novel's focus may help you create the one-liner that excites the right agent for you.

Leave time to discuss what makes your book different from other books. Example:
  • Your theme.
  • The defining characteristics and occupations of your main characters.
  • Internal and external conflicts.
Editors and agents often ask for more information, and ask that you query by letter. They'll tell you if they're interested, or that your material is not suited for their house (or agency.)

Before leaving when time's up, say thanks and offer your business card. No matter what the outcome of your interview, you've had the opportunity to discuss something you love with a kindred soul.

That's the essence of purposeful pitching.
End

Next, 8-4, PR is PR: http://tinyurl.com/2dv2g39

Chapter 16 - Education and Reference: http://tinyurl.com/36maz9e

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