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July 2011

Editor and Agent Appointments: We’re On The Same Team

“Editor and agent appointments are like speed dating. Your job is to intrigue them enough for a second date.”—Angela Breidenbach, author of Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life.

At the ACFW conference last September in Indianapolis, Ind., as I waited in the reception area for my appointment with Allen Arnold from Thomas Nelson publishing, my stomach revolted and my brain turned to sludge. The angst-filled faces all around me didn’t help.

Teenage angst filled girlThe moment I stepped off the escalator leading to the appointment area, I warped back to seventh grade speech class, zit on my forehead and all.

The moment I stepped off the escalator … I warped back to seventh grade speech class, zit on my forehead and all.

Unfortunately, I carried my angst to my appointments, creating less than optimal results. Six months later I tried it again, with a bit more knowledge and confidence under my belt, and left with submission requests from everyone I met with. Since then, I’ve evaluated the two vastly different encounters in an effort to nail down a few keys to success.

With only 10- to 15-minutes to make a lasting impression, authors must find a way to rise above the other five hundred or so writers clamoring for an editor or agent’s attention. They need to demonstrate why they are different and what makes their writing marketable and unique.

Resist the urge to copy-cat

Chip MacGregor“The fact is, we don’t see all that much great voice in writing. We see a lot of me-too writing,” said Chip MacGregor, president of MacGregor Literary. “Some of it is very competent—it just doesn’t stand out in a crowd. That’s why I’ll always want to talk with an author who has great voice in his or her work.”

When we see others succeed, we tend to mimic them. Vannetta Chapman launched her career with an Amish fiction novel, so we need to write Amish fiction, right? Wrong. Editors and agents aren’t looking for clones. What they want is strong, marketable plots based on original concepts.

Is it marketable?

Jan Stob“When I meet with new authors, I want to hear if they have a strong marketable hook,” said Jan Stob, senior acquisitions editor for Tyndale House. “Is it unique? Is it something that will resonate with our core market? When I present this concept to our sales and marketing teams, will they understand it, and more important, will they have an instant reaction that causes them to want to know more?”

Sell it with confidence and enthusiasm, zeroing in on that well-rehearsed pitch.

This is where it gets a bit hazy. How do you know if your hook and concept are strong and marketable? You sell it with confidence and enthusiasm, zeroing in on that well-rehearsed pitch that conveys the essence of your story.

Focus on the relationship

Terry Burns“An interview is too short to sell your story,” said Terry Burns from Hartline Literary. “The most to shoot for in regards to the writing is interesting the interviewer in the storyline and conveying that it might be appropriate for them.”

Burns suggests authors are really there to sell themselves. “Most people do just the opposite and try to sell their book. An interview is not enough time to do that. Sell yourself. Try to bond with the editor or agent.”

Think long term

Most authors attend numerous conferences and appointments before making their first sale, but that doesn’t mean those meetings aren’t productive. Think back to the date analogy Breidenbach provided and resist the urge to formulate a “get-published-quick” mentality.

Editor and agent appointments provide a unique and invaluable opportunity to get to know industry professionals personally and to learn from the absolute best.

Take time to listen

We’re all on the same team, working toward the same goal: to bring glory to the Father.

Last September, when I left my editor appointment with Allen Arnold without a submission invitation, I felt our meeting had been a waste of time. But as I chewed on the appointment later, reviewing the invaluable information he provided during our meeting, I realized the time spent being rejected was worthwhile too.

It’s easy to get caught up in our dreams and aspirations. It’s easy to become angry when an agent or editor rejects our work. But, we need to remember we’re all on the same team, working toward the same goal: to bring glory to the Father.

It’s important to remember editors and agents are people doing their best to fulfill their God-given roles in this industry. When meeting with them, keep that in mind and show them the love and consideration due a fellow sister or brother in Christ.

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