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What I’m bringing…Ashley Clark

As a first time ACFW Conference attendee, one of my initial questions about the Conference was what I should bring to be prepared for meetings with editors and agents. I’ve done some research to answer this question, and I hope you will find it helpful as a checklist, especially if this is your first conference as well.

  • Bring a one sheet. I might just have an abnormal interest in them, but I actually think one sheets are fun to make. Get creative with these and use them to catch the attention of agents and editors. They should include the title of your work, its genre, a brief summary of your story, a brief bio of you, and preferably a headshot. Try to come up with a cute tag line to put under the title like, “When summer comes to an end, will autumn’s cool chill their love?” Okay, so that wasn’t cute at all, but you get the idea. You might even want to use a quote from your book under the title. Whatever you do, do not forget to include your contact information.
  • Bring a proposal. Do your research before the conference and look at the agent or publishing house’s requirements for proposals, then tailor yours accordingly. I’m clearly not an agent, but I can imagine they get a lot of ill-formatted proposals, and as an instructor, I can understand the frustration that must accompany that. Do your homework and pay attention to what the editor or agent wants. You are trying to impress him or her, after all.
  • Bring a synopsis. The synopsis will probably be the hardest thing on this checklist to write. It’s difficult to summarize something you’ve worked so hard for so long on. However, it’s important that you take the time to make your summary strong. Research blogs and books for tips on making your synopsis shine.
  • Bring your first 2 to 3 chapters, depending on how long they are. Agents and editors will want to take a look at your actual writing, and will be particularly interested in your hook/beginning.
  • Bring questions. In her May 21, 2009 blog, Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary Agency suggests that you bring a list of questions with you to conference appointments that are long, lasting between 10-15 minutes. The reason? If you know within the first few minutes that the editor or agent is not interested in your book, you can still learn valuable information through the appointment and get some of your questions answered. Rachelle’s blog is full of valuable information, especially for first-time ACFW Conference attendees, so make sure you check it out if you haven’t already. The link is http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com <http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/> /. Rachelle is a very well-respected agent, and you can find more detailed information about all of the points on my checklist, not just this one, in her blog.
  • Prepare a verbal pitch. Yes, I realize this is the only point that isn’t parallel with the others. It is also the only point that doesn’t regard some sort of physical material you should bring with you. However, it stands out for a good reason. The verbal pitch is one of the best ways to capture the interest of an editor or agent. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but you also want to make sure what you have to say is polished. You’ll want to have a short version of your verbal pitch as well as a longer version that will be appropriate for agent and editor appointments. Make sure you introduce yourself before diving into your pitch, and don’t try to tell your whole story. Give the agent or editor enough information that he or she can easily will be intrigued, but not so much information that he or she will be confused. The editor or agent does not need to know the life history of all of your background characters. Think about what’s most important to your story, and use that to your advantage.

Questions for Comment: What questions do you have about meeting with editors and agents? Is there anything about the idea of appointments that makes you particularly nervous?

About the Author: As a young child, Ashley sat transfixed in the library as she listened to the children’s story-time reading, thumbprint cookies and punch in her hand. Now an adult, she has cultivated that same passion for literature into a career— and she still loves thumbprint cookies. She teaches English Composition and Introduction to Literature at the university level, and will complete her master’s degree in creative writing in fall 2010. Currently, Ashley is working on a humorous women’s fiction story about a stress-ridden travel agent named Grace.

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