Blogger: Mary Keeley
Two initial impressions you’ll leave with agents and editors you meet at a writers conference are your level of professionalism and the degree of your publishing knowledge. Whether or not you plan to attend a conference yet this summer or in the fall, a refresher and a few tips are always helpful for a successful experience.
Here on our blog we stress the importance of presenting yourself as a professional in your queries, proposals, and in-person interactions with agents and editors. As much as a writer would like to think his or her masterpiece should stand on its own, the reality is that publishing is a business. Presentation of your work—and of yourself—is key because publishers need the assurance that you will be poised and articulate in print, radio, and TV interviews their publicists work hard to arrange. They want to be confident you will be a gracious speaker in front of potential book buyers at book signings and on tours. Readers will expect this of you. If you don’t deliver, publishers know it will reflect negatively in sales of your book.
Agents and editors also look for writers who are committed to your career and have done your research to learn about the industry and what is expected of you, the author. This is the second key ingredient. One of the ways they may do this is by testing your understanding of key publishing terms.
In their conversation with you editors have been known to throw out a word or phrase that is specific to the publishing process. They do this to assess your degree of industry savvy. To lessen the chances of a deer-in-the-headlights reaction, here are descriptions of the two main stages of approval within a publishing house including specific terms to become familiar with:
EDITORIAL BOARD. Every publisher has its own structure, but generally when an acquiring editor talks about his editorial board, he means the team of editors and directors with whom he works. Depending on the size of the publisher, the teams usually are divided between fiction and nonfiction. There will be more than one stage of approval by this board. The first is gathering consensus for approval or rejection of your manuscript. If your manuscript gets a thumbs-up at this stage, the team brings in the marketing and sales teams to calculate sales projections based on their educated prediction of current reader interest, the uniqueness and demand for your book, and your platform. The editorial team passes this information to the print buyers and e-book team to get an estimated cost of goods (COG) for a first print run. The acquiring editor processes this information according to the established publishing house formula to determine approximate print and e-book price points necessary to earn a profit. If your book is approved by the editorial board at this stage, the acquiring editor prepares a presentation for the publication committee.
PUBLICATION COMMITTEE. Also called the Pub Board, this committee usually meets monthly or twice a month and is composed of the top-level decision makers of the publishing house. Acquiring editors are armed with their enthusiasm for your book and the data they accumulated to support their case for publication. If your book is approved for publication, the acquiring editor will prepare deal points for an official contract offer to present to your agent or to you directly if you aren’t agented. There is a lot to consider at the contract stage and many reasons to have an agent to negotiate for you. But that’s for another blog post.
Editors need to find great books to publish. Their jobs depend on it. Likewise, agents are always looking for promising new clients with exceptional manuscripts. That’s why they attend writers conferences regularly. Keep this in mind as you decide if you are ready to request meetings with them at a conference. When you are confident your manuscript is in publication-ready shape and you have a significant following, you’ll be ready to pitch your book. Add to that a familiarity of the publishing process and a few specific terms and you’ll be ready for a successful meeting experience.
Where are you in your journey to pitch your book to an agent or editor? What tips can you share from you own experiences in agent or editor meetings at conferences?
Two keys to a successful meeting with an agent or editor at a conference. Click to Tweet.
Present a professional image by familiarizing yourself with publishing terms. Click to Tweet.