Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Conference Appointment: First Date?

by Rachael Phillips
My vacation just ended, the laundry is spilling out into my overgrown yard, and the ACFW conference is fast approaching--all reasons why I don't have time to write a brand-new blog and you probably don't have time to read one--at least, nothing complicated.
So I'm reviewing a few basics about editor/agent appointments that I shared in a workshop a few years ago. Some have likened these encounters to first dates--a prospect that causes many to lock themselves in the conference hotel bathrooms. Hopefully, these brief reminders will help coax us out of the stalls.
First, preparation can make a huge difference.
  • Prepare a logline: a super-short summary (one or two lines) designed to make the editor want to know more.
  • Practice saying your logline until it sounds and feels natural.
  • Make copies of your best clips (published works) to share. My initial pitch for my novel did little to connect me with my future agent at ACFW; my brief nonfiction piece grabbed her attention.
  • Complete a one sheet (see an example at http://bit.ly/ownogf).
  • Either make or buy business cards.
  • Prepare an outfit that makes you feel comfortable, confident and professional.
  • Gather materials to take with you (one sheet, clips and business card).
  • Take ideas/materials for a different project, should the opportunity present itself.
  • Role play with another writer if possible, taking turns being "editor" and "writer."
  • Arrive a minimum of ten minutes early, take a few deep breaths and pray beforehand.
Now's your chance: show your style!
  • Greet the editor/agent with a smile and present her with your one sheet and business card.
  • Be pleasant and professional. Take your cues from the editor/agent.
  • Be prepared to deliver your logline and answer questions about your book.
  • Be prepared to highlight positives about yourself and your writing career.
  • Ask if she would like to see your clip. If not, don't freak.
  • If she returns your materials, take them. If not, assume she wants them.
  • If she invites you to ask questions, ask a brief one that centers on her philosophy as an editor/agent or her expertise in publication trends. Otherwise, do not ask questions.
  • If she invites you to send your proposal, make sure you obtain the correct contact information. If she says no, do not argue.
  • Thank her. Positive or negative, don't extend the appointment past limits.
  • Positive or negative, send her a thank-you note.
Bottom line: make yourself and your book likable and memorable. If this book does not work for her and her company, perhaps another will in a year or two.
I know some of you are masters at pitching your work. What come-out-of-the-stall tips can you offer your fellow writers?


  1. I really like the one-sheet reference..

  2. This is terrific advice, Rachael. I wish someone had shared the same ideas with me before my first editor interview. Now, though, with quite a few under my belt, I would add one thing: try to relax. The editor or agent in front of you does NOT hold the key to your destiny; God does. If your book is ready, and if this is the best connection for your work, then He will make it happen. Remembering this will prevent unnecessary stress.

    Kudos to you, too, for reminding folks to keep one eye on the time. More than once I've had to step forward and say, "Ahem. My appointment was supposed to start five minutes ago." Please don't make us do that to you!

  3. Hi Rachael! Can't wait to see you again. Can you explain a bit more about what you mean by clips? Are you talking about excerpts/scenes from our published work? How long? Just copied from the manuscript or the published book? I'm such a newbie in this pitching business. Thanks for the link for the one-sheet example - I'm going there next. Blessings!

  4. Thanks, all. I wish I could say I knew all these without learning them the hard way!

    You are SO right, Rick. We can relax in this business, knowing God is in charge of our careers. Thanks, I needed that!

    JoAnn, can't wait to see you, too:-) "Clips" usually refer to short published works like magazine or newspaper articles, etc. You're blessed in pitching with book-length works to your credit! I don't take excerpts to an appt., but I bring copies of my longer published works in a briefcase or bag. Once I mistakenly found myself pitching fiction to a nonfiction editor. She would have thrown me out if I hadn't produced my biographies. Miraculously, the encounter resulted in a sale.

  5. This is a gold mine. Thank you so much.

  6. Rachael,

    These tips are so helpful! Thank you!


  7. Hope they help you all at conference!