Tag s | Pitching

What Editors Wish You Knew about Meeting with Them at Conferences

Thanks to Becky McCoy for requesting advice for conference meetings with agents and editors at conferences. You can find a lot of counsel for meeting with agents on the different agency blogs, but I thought I’d supplement those posts with advice from some of the in-house editors you’ll find at this years’ conferences. So I emailed said editors and asked them to share their wishes with you. Here are their responses. (Some of which are uncredited, to protect the honest—er, innocent. <smile>) Thanks to all the editors who shared!


It’s important for authors to remember that we are all individuals, with our own preferences, skills, and unique set of experiences. There is not a one-size-fits-all formula for these meetings. Some editors want to read a piece of writing on the spot; some—like me—can’t read while someone is watching and would prefer to see the writing later. Some want a one sheet, some—like me—don’t really want to carry away even that single sheet of paper (though I’ll still accept it). It’s probably best to give the short pitch, and then ask questions, “Would you like my one sheet?” “Would you like me to go into more detail or would you like to see a writing sample?”

Dawn Anderson, Kregel Publishing


I think the most important thing is to BREATHE. Agents and Editors do not bite (except Steve Laube) and we are truly interested in what they have to say. But preparation and knowing what you want to say ahead of time will ease the jitters. Take a deep breath and just start… “Hi, I’m xxx and I have written an 80,000-word contemporary romance set in xxxx. “

Susan Brower, Gilead Publishing


First, start with the idea that the person across the table might become a friend, a contact in the industry. Even if he or she isn’t a candidate for your idea…who knows what might come up in the future.

Second, I don’t wish to sit and read your proposal or your one sheet. Tell me about it. This is my best chance to hear your enthusiasm, your passion…and start to see how you’d communicate about your book if we were your publisher.

Third, frame your pitch. “I’m writing a three-book historical romance series set in (fill in the blank). The heroine needs/loses/must….so the hero must…..”  Or “I’m writing a Christian living book for women (ages, if it’s more specific) who feel/need/want…”  I’ve been ten minutes into an author’s pitch before I figured out that what I thought was a novel was, in fact, self-help.

And finally, who started the infestation of one sheets?

A veteran editor


The one thing I wish writers knew when walking into a 15-minute  appointment is that editors love to help. We’d rather brainstorm with someone who wants to learn and improve than listen to someone who’s memorized an elevator pitch.

Alice Crider, David C. Cook


Remember that these few minutes are not the culmination of your writing career. In fact, they are actually building blocks of that career. Come to these meetings prepared to share but also (and maybe more so) prepared to learn. You will receive valuable input on writing style, audience reach, ways to improve, broaden, etc. Each piece of advice and wisdom will add so much to that specific piece you are sharing, but also to your career. Make a decision before you sit down for your first appointment to not walk away disappointed. Glean all you can from the time and trust the Lord to do the rest.

Kim Bangs, Baker Book Group, Chosen


Know what the publisher publishes.  It doesn’t matter how good your proposal is, you can’t talk them into what they never publish.

Lonnie Hull DuPont, Baker Publishing Group, Revell


Come prepared. Make sure your story has a strong marketable hook. Be prepared to share the hook of the story, not a 15-minute synopsis, with me. Try your hook out on friends or other attendees to see if what you have is truly unique and marketable. See if the hook of your story grabs their attention and makes them want to know more. If it doesn’t, brainstorm ways to communicate it more effectively.

Use your time at the conference with other storytellers to brainstorm ways to strengthen your story.

Do your research on the publisher so you’ll know if your genre or story might be a fit. If you discover your story isn’t a fit, be prepared with questions you might have about that publisher or the industry as a whole. Take advantage of that editor’s 15 minutes of undivided attention.

Senior Acquisitions editor


Try to relax. I know it’s sometimes hard, but that person in front of you is there for you! They came to the conference so they could meet with you and hear what you have to say. Just be yourself. That will make the experience more enjoyable for both of you.

Kim Moore, Harvest House Publishers


There you go. Hope that helps you not only prepare for conferences, but enjoy them like never before.


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Who Decides to Publish Your Book?

The editor you met with at a writers’ conference liked your proposal and asked you to send it to her after the conference. She was already talking about format and promotion ideas. Or you submitted a proposal through the mail and received an enthusiastic response from the acquisitions editor. Four (or maybe six to eight) months later, a rejection letter showed up in your inbox or mailbox.

What happened?

No matter how much editors like potential books, they don’t have final say in sending contracts A lot of other people are involved in the decision of whether to issue a contract or a rejection letter.

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Unsolicited Proposals: aka “The Slush Pile”

All literary agents receive dozens of proposal each week. Some in the mail and some via email. Last week was a slow week, only 30 unsolicited proposals arrived. (Unsolicited means proposals that are not from our existing clients. We get a number of those each week too.)  The variety can …

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News You Can Use – June 25, 2013

Elevator Pitches: If You Build it, They Will Come. – Excellent post from Susan Spann! Do the exercise on your own pitch.

Christian Stores See 8.5% Overall Gain in 2012 – Looks like the growth came from non-book items. That is good news in that it means traffic in the stores has increased and reversed recent trends.

101 Things to Do to Build Your Writing Platform –  My advice? Don’t try all of them at once, your blood pressure can’t handle it. But pick ten and see what you can do with them by the end of Summer.

Helen Keller on Optimism – Amazing. If she could feel this way (she was deaf, dumb, and blind), why are you complaining?

Helen Keller on Optimism – Amazing. If she could feel this way (she was deaf, dumb, and blind), why are you complaining?

“Writing and the Brain” infographic. – You tell me. Does this help you understand how you think as a writer?

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News You Can Use – June 18, 2013

Self-Published eBooks Account for 12% of the Entire Digital Market – Watch the stats for trends.

How People Read Online – Does this mean I have to shorten my blog posts? And if I do will you still skip the last 2/3rds of what I write anyway?

Three Scriptural Cautions Against Self-Publishing – Do you agree or disagree? (and then read the next link below)

Three Reasons to Support Self-Publishing – A rebuttal to the previous link. I appreciate careful discourse and debate that does not devolve into chaos. This point-counterpoint is a wonderful example of how to conduct this type of conversation.

Did You Forget to Pay Royalties for Singing “Happy Birthday”? – A fascinating article which tells of a company who is suing to get “Happy Birthday” declared public domain. Ever wonder why restaurants all have their own song for celebrating birthdays? They don’t want to receive an invoice from the copyright holder who makes $5,000,000 a year in royalties.

3 mistakes to avoid when following up on a pitch – This article can be applied to pitching editors and agents too.

10 Blogging Tactics To Maximize Long-Term Results – Excellent advice from Heidi Cohen. I get this kind of question a lot from authors trying to use their blog to market their books.

The Overwhelming Force of “Gradual” – Seth Godin talks about building low and slow for maximum success.

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Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.

Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

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News You Can Use – April 10, 2012

Pew Research Findings on E-Reading – If you want a sense of what’s happening, read this article. Then once you’ve digested it, read Mike Shatzkin’s evaluation of the data. Together the articles may take an hour to absorb.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch for a New Job – Interesting article with applications for a writer creating the perfect pitch for their book idea

Five Best Bluetooth Headsets – A link for you techies out there. If you have a favorite vote in the comment section.

Judging a Book by its Cover – A 17 minute lecture from the TED conference by a book cover designer (Chip Kidd has been a designer at Alfred A. Knopf since 1986). At turns amusing and enlightening. If you are an author and want to get inside the head of a designer in an entertaining way, consider watching.

Five Great Movies about Writing – Have to admit never seeing any of these. Am I an uncultured sloth? Don’t answer that question. Instead add your two cents in the comments below.

Infographic on how the Internet is ruining our brain:

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The Wild Pitch

In honor of the upcoming baseball season I thought it would be fun to explore the art of pitching.

A couple years ago I was watching a Major League baseball game and the pitcher unleashed a horrific throw that sailed about eight feet behind the batter. It floated to the backstop without a bounce and everyone in the stadium wonder what had just happened. It looked like the pitcher lost his grip and could not stop his delivery. In baseball terms this is classified as a wild pitch.

Unfortunately many writers unleash a pitch on an agent or an editor before it is ready to deliver. Let me list a few actual letters I have received.

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Why Do I Have to Jump Through Your Hoops?

Recently, my assistant had a conversation with an author who did not send a complete proposal. The author was referred to our guidelines and gently reminded that we needed more material in order to make an evaluation. But instead of saying “thank you” for the guidance, the author declared they did not have to jump through any hoops, and took the opportunity to aggressively express their complaints about our review process.

What made this all the more frustrating to us is that it happens more often than you’d think.

Why All The Work?

Have you ever worked in an office where you could swear one of your coworkers could find something — anything — wrong with your work so they could get it off their desk and back onto you? Well, that’s not what we are doing when we ask for a proposal. We are not giving you busywork so we can get back to our soap operas and coffee.

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Charmed, I’m Sure

Dear Editor:

You really should meet this author! He knows all the best places to dine. I couldn’t believe the fabulous meal we were served at a hole-in-the-wall place I’d never heard of until I made his acquaintance. He has also been quite generous and charming to my family. My husband and my kids have nothing but great things to say about this wonderful author!

In our meetings both in person and on the telephone, he has convinced me that his book will sell millions! And because of his extroverted manner and considerable verve, I believe it really doesn’t matter if his book is any good or not. His platform isn’t anything great yet, but it will be — as soon as he gets paid your hefty advance so he can travel the country, taking meetings. In fact, he wants to meet with you at your early convenience. Can you fly out to meet him in Charlotte on Tuesday morning? 



Of course I would never send this letter like it to any editor, but on more than one occasion, I have found that this is how authors seem to think marketing to editors works.

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