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Fifteen Minutes with an Editor/Agent

by Jean Hall

One of the best things about attending the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference is the opportunity to meet one-on-one with editors and agents.

But what do you do with that fifteen-minutes slot?

I asked several editors that question a few months ago. Here are some of their suggestions. But don’t try to do ALL of these in one session. Focus on those that apply to you and your writing.

First, pray. Then relax. Then decide ahead of time your reason for the appointment.

If you have a proposal or book ready to submit, then you should meet with an editor or agent.

  • Do you have a book idea to sell?
  • Do you need advice on a particular project?
  • Do you want the editor/agent to glance at a proposal and give you tips to improve it?
  • Familiarize yourself with that publisher or agency BEFORE the conference. Study their website.
  • Pitch only one project unless the editor/agent asks for another one.
  • Ask him/her what they are looking for, or what literature they love and hate.
  • Ask, “If I incorporate your suggestions would you be willing to review my proposal/manuscript?”

If you don’t have a proposal or book ready to submit to an agent or editor, it will probably be best to spend your fifteen minutes with an experienced AUTHOR instead of an editor or agent.

  • Do you want to brainstorm a story idea with a professional?
  • Would you like recommendations for publishers to submit to?
  • Are you stuck in a manuscript and need some ideas to get you moving again?
  • Are you looking for a professional critique or edit? Remember—authors get paid to do them.

Either way here are ideas to keep in mind.

  • Come prepared with a few questions written down to ask the professional.
  • Be prepared to talk about yourself and your writing. Your passion should shine through.
  • Feel free to ask for general help in plotting your writing course.
  • Leave contact info with them such as a professional business card or a one-sheet if they ask for it.
  • Pitch your story in less than five minutes Then stop talking and listen.
  • Know your genre, theme and target audience.
  • Watch the time—be courteous and don’t make others wait.
  • Be grateful and gracious.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes things happen!
  • Follow up with a SHORT email thanking them for their time.
  • Anticipate some questions such as: How does your story end? What published author’s style would you compare yours to? Who are your favorite authors in your genre? Is this part of a series? What are the subsequent books about? Do you participate in a critique group? Have you pitched this to others? What response did you get?
  • Be yourself—your best self. Be open, humble and genuine.
  • If the editor/agent is reading your material be silent and let them read.
  • Answer their questions the best you can without defending your work.
  • Trust the Lord to open the right doors and forge the right relationships for you.

Jean Matthew Hall lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Her premier picture book, It’s Spring! is due to be released  in early 2019.  Jean is a member of the SCBWI and Word Weavers International. She serves KCWC as Assistant Coordinator and Secretary. Jean will teach a workshop at the conference on writing books for children.

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