Cara here: We’ve all been there. Staring at the incredible list of editors and agents coming to the ACFW conference and wondering how on earth we pick. What can we do to maximize that fifteen minutes for us and the editor or agent. Here are Chip MacGregor’s thoughts. If you haven’t discovered it yet, be sure to check out his blog for all kinds of additional thoughts and advice!
When someone asked, “Is there a place on the ACFW site that teaches us what questions we should ask during an interview with an agent or editor/publisher?,” I felt I should offer a couple thoughts…
1. Do some research before you sign up. If you write westerns, for example, you don’t want to meet with an editor who is going to open with the words, “Um… we don’t do westerns.”
2. Think carefully about your expectations before you sit down to the meeting. If you’re expecting an editor is going to hear your idea and announce, “You’re the most brilliant writer since Tom Pynchon! Sign this contract immediately!”, you may be setting the bar too high.
3. Remember that it’s perfectly all right to have a meeting and just ask the editor/agent, “What do you think of my idea?” or “What suggestions do you have for me improving my work?” I never mind having people set up appointments just to talk through ideas, career stuff, etc.
4. If you’re hoping to get an editor to pay serious attention to your novel, make sure what you show them is 100% done. Most of the things we reject just aren’t ready to be shown yet — the author has brought in something that’s 80% done, or maybe 50% done… but it’s not 100% ready. It should be so strong that I have no reason to turn it down.
5. Don’t insist I take your proposal, your manuscript, your speaker’s packet, or even your business card (I travel light — if I want your proposal, I’ll ask you to email it to me later).
6. Don’t burst into tears if I decline the opportunity to represent your proposal. There are a million reasons I could be declining — maybe I represent an author who is writing something similar; or it’s a genre I’m currently overloaded with; or it’s a project I feel would be best served by someone else; or…). Just smile, say thanks, move on…and later you can tell everyone what I stinker I am. They’ll probably feel sorry for you and offer to buy you a glass of wine.
7. Don’t be so pushy that you creep me out. A little enthusiasm is a good thing. Handing your proposal to me while I’m standing at the urinal might be a bit over the top. (This happened to be at the SPU conference two years ago. No, I’m not kidding.)
8. If you’re going to the conference and shopping for an agent, think carefully about the questions you want to ask. Again, it’s probably a bit much to expect an agent will agree to sign you after a 15-minute appointment.We all do business with people we like and trust — people we’re comfortable with. View your 15-minute appointment as an introduction — YOU are evaluating THE AGENT, it’s not just the agent evaluating you. If the two of you hit it off, you’ll both find another chance to sit and talk somewhere and get to know each other better.
9. I’ve posted on my blog a couple times some potential questions you could ask agents, but certainly some basic ones (Who do you represent? Which publishers have you done deals with in the past six months? How many deals have you done? What are your strengths as an agent?) could be asked if the time was right and you both seemed interested in the relationship.
10. Presentation matters.Being able to talk about your basic idea in a very few words is nice. Being able to offer a couple quick notes on your platform (if you have one) can also be helpful. If you want me to evaluate your writing, you really ought to have a few pages of writing for me to look at.
Hope this helps.