Up Close and Personal

Since the topic this month is the road to publication, what better topic than how valuable it is to be able to meet face-to-face with editors and agents.

I attended my sixth RWA National Conference this past week. I’ve only missed one since I joined RWA. Before I was published, one of the highlights of each conference was the chance to have a ten minute pitch with both an agent and an editor—if I was lucky enough to be able to get one.

Before the self-publishing revolution the past few years, snagging an appointment was a major deal. Writers would sit at their computers, hand on the keyboard, waiting for the starting gun so they could try to get a coveted slot. It was a lucky break to schedule one at all. And to get time with their targeted agent or editor? Sublime!

What was so great about a ten-minute appointment? You could meet a real live editor and agent and tell them about yourself and whatever story you were pitching. Your editormeetenthusiasm—and perhaps your nerves—would be on display, and you prepped and rehearsed, hoping to give the perfect pitch.

I can remember exactly how rattled I was on myt first meeting. I’m quite the extrovert, and I normally don’t get flustered by talking to people. But…but…this was an editor! (Shoot, was I ever that green?)

As each conference passed and I got more experience, I was able to contain the nerves. I started to realize that agents and editors were people just like me. And although they held the big brass ring I wanted to grab, I learned to stop “pitching” and simply talk to them.

Then everything changed. I remember vividly how the atmosphere at the conference in Anaheim was so very different! Writers weren’t stalking agents and editors. Most shocking…not all the appointments filled. There were tons of open appointments for writers to pitch.

What changed? Writers were empowered by the self-publishing revolution. That conference was the first where I didn’t come home mentally exhausted from the nervousness that always went with having a pitch or two.

Conferences cbstoftimsan still mean face-to-face time with editors or agents. But now, they’re usually relaxed meetings at one of the tables near Starbucks or a couple of the chairs scattered throughout the hotel. Those meetings are much more valuable than the ten-minute pitches, because authors can be themselves and take their time.  Instead of trying to say everything in ten minutes, you can have a conversation about you, about your book, and even about other projects or plans for the future.

I strongly believe that personal meetings are so much more valuable than phone calls or emails. It was great to have a true conversation with my editor, and I also enjoyed meeting the other editors at my publishing house at our spotlight and book signing. We were able to say things that never come across well in emails, and even to share smiles and hugs. Those connections go a long way to forging strong relationships.

If you’re on that rocky road to publication, remember the importance of having some personal time with the people who can help further your goals.

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Up Close and Personal — 5 Comments

  1. Sandy, As I read this I thought I could have written this article. Not as well, but I’ve lived some of the same emotions and experiences you described. I wasn’t there for the Anaheim conference, but I heard from writer friends who were there how it was such a different experience. I thoroughly enjoyed San Antonio this year.

    Barbara Barrett

  2. I’ve only had the opportunity to meet editors and agents in person a few times, and unfortunately I’ve never been to RWA nationals. But I remember how nervous I was. Interesting how you describe how the mood among writers has changed. Publishing has certainly changed but I think editors and agents will always be important to writers.

  3. We’ve become so reliant on email and social media that it seems we often forget the value of face time with another person. It’s interesting to see the changes happening in the industry and how indie publishing has empowered authors. Thanks for the conference tips, Sandy. I hope to be able to put them to good use next year. 😉

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