Happy Monday. This is the guest post from Ed Horton, one of the caption winners from last week.
During the early morning hours on June 1, I typed in my registration to attend my first ACFW conference. I have benefited from attending other conferences over the years, but this will be my first “fiction-only” conference. The part that makes me more-than-a-bit nervous about these conferences is the editor and agent appointments. You see, these great opportunities have gone poorly for me in the past. At times, my speech has faltered and delivery of my pitch has been less than eloquent. And frankly, I’ve let myself be scared-senseless by some wonderful publishing professionals.
So, as of today I’m practicing to make my appointments this fall more memorable in a positive manner. Let me share a few ideas with you. Most of it’s just common sense, but let’s review it anyway.
Learn how to pronounce the editor’s name—both first and last. It’s embarrassing to bounce up to the editor, all smiles, and have them correct your pronunciation of the name they’ve known forever. In print, Lisa may seem like ‘Leesa,’ but actually be pronounced as ‘Līsa’ or ‘Lizza.’ If it’s a last name like ‘Gouphedenseison,’ well, good luck!
Let the editor or agent begin the conversation. If they’re on their cell phone or checking email, wait until they give you their attention. At one appointment, after I started speaking, the editor looked at his watch and told me I was a minute early so I waited semi-patiently as he continued reading his email.
Know your pitch. Write it out and practice it until you have it memorized and can say it smoothly. Don’t choke and ramble like I’ve done before. An editor’s eyes can glaze over quickly and noticeably (especially when they rollback in their head). Once you’ve lost their attention, it’s difficult to get it back.
Hook them quick! Dazzle them in the first sixty seconds. Editors and agents are accustomed to making judgment calls about proposals and manuscripts very quickly—within minutes or even nanoseconds. Make sure your proposal is right for their publishing house, and then give them the best hook you can. You’ll know when you’ve succeeded. Their eyes widen slightly and they lean forward to hear what you have to say. Then they may shoot rapid-fire questions at you. Be prepared to answer with wit and wisdom, and of course, the truth.
Expect the unexpected. During the space of one fifteen-minute appointment, an elderly man at a nearby table fell off his chair twice (no, it wasn’t from the excitement of landing a big contract). Distractions happen, which is another good reason to hook the editor or agent fast.
Hide your emotions. As tough as it may be, if you receive disappointing feedback, don’t burst into tears or let your face fall like an imploding building. Be gracious and follow up with a brief thank-you note.
Don’t give up! Whatever you do, if an appointment doesn’t go well, don’t cancel the remaining ones. Learn from each meeting and keep trying.
Hoping to see you all at the ACFW conference!
-- Ed Horton