Thursday, September 20, 2012

Conference Appointments

Since so many you will either be attending the ACFW conference or another conference this year, today I want to talk about what you can expect when meeting with agents and editors for those one-on-one appointments, and also some things to remember.

The Practical

I remember my first one-on-one meeting. It was with Ami McConnell, and I was terrified because I adore her. I had no idea what to expect or how nervous I would feel waiting for that appointment with all the other people waiting for their own appointments. The impending doom was palpable! Just kidding. But in all seriousness, conference appointments can sometimes feel like a meeting with the principal, but they don't have to be that way. If you've never been to an appointment with an editor or agent before, essentially what happens is you'll find the appointment waiting area, and then your name will be called whenever the editor or agent is finished with their last appointment. Someone will usher you to the editor or agent's table, where you'll sit down and just talk about your book. It's that simple. Yes, nerves can really build up in that waiting time... like waiting at the doctor's office! But something I recommend is that you look around to the others who are waiting and see if you can offer encouragement to them. I guarantee someone will be more nervous than you, and shifting your focus away from yourself will not only help another person, it will also help you.

The Deeper Level

What an editor or agent is looking for during an appointment, essentially, is a spark and a connection with the author. So it doesn't really matter if you miss a word of your perfectly-rehearsed pitch. This isn't an oral book report. They are much more concerned with whether or not you are someone they would like to work with (i.e.-did you show up on time, is your one sheet well-written, do you have a positive attitude and demonstrate professionalism, etc.). They also want to see some kind of spark or hook in you or your work that inspires them to want to invest (and buying your book IS an investment for them) in your work. So be enthusiastic when talking about your story. Get them excited without being too cheesy. Wouldn't you want to see the same thing if you were an editor or agent?

The Heart

Something I would encourage you to remember is that editors and agents are not mean people. They love books just as much as you do. Probably more than you do, actually, because their whole job is to promote the selling of stories and to make stories better. They are not waiting for you to fail. I think it's so important to go into your appointment with a heart that is at peace with the fact that you are looking for a partner in this business, someone you can trust with your story. Yes, you will probably be nervous. Everyone feels that way. But beyond the nerves, realize and remember that the person you are going to speak with wants to see you succeed. They want you to be the next bestseller, and to have discovered you themselves. If you get a "no," don't take that personally. Smile and thank them for their consideration and time. If you make a good impression, you never know what opportunities may await you the next go around.

Do you have any stories to share about conference appointments? What advice would you add to this list?

*Photo from www.freedigitalphotos.com

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Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook,Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

5 comments:

Sherrinda said...

Ashley, this is some great stuff here. Never having been to an "appointment" before, I always wondered exactly what happened. Thanks for spelling it out for me!

Debra E. Marvin said...

When I walked in to the waiting area for my first editor/agent appt, the fear and tension was so apparent, I laughed.

No one can discount the importance of the OPPORTUNITY when you've put so much time and effort into a story. But RELAX a bit. Believe in your story and be yourself. Great post Ashley.

Ruth Douthitt said...

My first pitch was cheesy. I thought I would be so theatrical and unique. Didn't work.

But the agent was very kind, read my first chapter, then asked me a lot of questions about my story. He then told me to send him the MS which I did but it ended up not being a good fit for his agency.

Oh well. It was a GREAT learning experience. That's what matters!

Ashley Clark said...

Sherrinda, I can't believe you've never pitched before!

Debra! I know what you mean! It's almost like you can feel the tension in the air! What a great point you make about relaxing and believing in your story. I think a passion for the story is what editors and agents most want to see.

Ruth, sounds like the appointment went better than you give yourself credit for if they asked for the full manuscript! I know what you mean, though... I've had those situations before where you think something is going to be so unique and great, then t totally falls flat. Happens to me when I'm teaching all the time... sometimes I make a joke and my students just stare at me. Ha!

Thanks for sharing, everyone!

Ashley Clark said...

Sherrinda, I can't believe you've never pitched before!

Debra! I know what you mean! It's almost like you can feel the tension in the air! What a great point you make about relaxing and believing in your story. I think a passion for the story is what editors and agents most want to see.

Ruth, sounds like the appointment went better than you give yourself credit for if they asked for the full manuscript! I know what you mean, though... I've had those situations before where you think something is going to be so unique and great, then t totally falls flat. Happens to me when I'm teaching all the time... sometimes I make a joke and my students just stare at me. Ha!

Thanks for sharing, everyone!