When one season ends and you are looking ahead to the next season, how do you prepare? What happens in the in-between? I don’t know if we spend enough time in that in-between space. Sometimes we were so ready for the last thing to end that we don’t pause to consider the implications and lessons that accompany both seasons.
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The word on the street about editor-agent relationships is muddled at best and negative at worst. But I don’t give that much thought when I am in the trenches with an agent reviewing a proposal and negotiating an author’s contract. I decide how my relationships with agents are going to be—and I like working with agents.
You finally meet with the editor or agent, and to your surprise, after thinking their favorite word is no, they say they like your concept and would love to see more of it. “Here’s my card,” they say. “Please email me a full proposal.” The words you had practiced to combat any objections are caught in your throat and all you can say is, “Oh! Oh, that’s great. OK! Yes? Really? OK! Thank you!”
Yes, they want you to send them your manuscript (or proposal). But you know what some writers do? OK, wait. This requires a list.
As a book publishing professional, I have made it one of my focuses to understand social media well enough to help the authors I serve. I've even helped myself along the way. With that, here is a very simple social media plan to get you thinking in the right direction as you build your platform and hopefully sell books in the process.
There’s one thing I think we all—editors, agents, writers, and published authors—can take for granted from time to time during the submissions and acquisitions process. But I think we can all take it down a notch and recognize this one thing—process breeds relationship. Or, maybe I should say, process can breed relationship.
OK, I’ll admit that I don’t always like to show all my cards amongst my peers (and I am good at cards—well, Spades), but the truth is I’ve never been to a writers’ conference. I’ve spent the last six years in the books—editing, editing, editing. I think I’ve got it down enough to where it’s time for me to look up for a minute and check out the beautiful scenery around me. So I figured a writers’ conference was in order.
I found the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference through a colleague’s mention. I checked it out and saw that it was close and maybe I could afford a last-minute trip a few hours away. I didn’t know how accommodating they would be at my wanting to come at the last minute. (Like I said, I’ve never been to one.) Apparently book editors are well received at these shindigs, and I was asked to be one of the faculty who will review manuscripts and meet with authors/writers one-on-one. A few e-mails up the chain of command at the office, and my attendance is approved as work time out of the office. How awesome!
Since last week my mind has been going a thousand miles an hour trying to make sure all my ducks are in a row, so I won’t look or act like I’ve never actually been to one of these. In other words, credibility, professionalism, and confidence are paramount in my book. And I can’t have any of these without being prepared. Here’s what I’m doing to be on my A-game:
1. Connecting with the writers’ conference community
I found out that this particular conference has a Web site, blog, a Twitter page, and Facebook fan page. I jumped on all four by becoming a fan and follower to keep up with news. I read all the blogs and Twitter and Facebook posts to get a glimpse of who the faculty and other conference attendees are, their areas of expertise, their suggestions on how to get the best out of this conference experience, and why they're coming.
2. Checking out the list of faculty and sessions schedule
To see who’s coming and who I may want to meet (everybody, really), I made notes on the faculty—what classes they’d be teaching and a little about their work history. This way, I’ll be sure not to miss some of the key connections I hope to make. I also made a personal schedule of some of the classes that are about things I need more knowledge in, things that would enhance my own position as an editor, and things that will help me relate better to my authors. I am there not only to advise but also to learn. Since many of the tracks occur simultaneously, I figured this would be a way for me to not be overwhelmed with all the scheduling once I arrive.
3. Making a list of questions or observation of the industry I hope to have answered or discussed
This will help me hone in on some of the things that I wonder about during my daily activities. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, so some of the things I can’t answer within my sphere may be answered amongst a larger pool of professionals. I expect that once I get there, all the excitement and speed of this jam-packed weekend will cause me to forget many of the things I hoped to learn. So I make a list.
4. Contacting attendees in my area or those I know from other networks and letting them know, “I’ll be there!”
Another thing to help me build my network and make new connections is to make it a point to meet my friends in social-network land face-to-face. It takes the relationship from abstract to concrete. Letting people know I will be there and them telling me they will be there, helps us to take time out to meet and greet each other despite all the huff and puff of the conference.
5. Doing a little research about what’s expected of someone in my position at a writers’ conference
I have a little book that I’ve been “eating on” for a few weeks now. It’s called Editors on Editing edited by Gerald Gross. Yes, I know, it’s old, but it is so resourceful. It tells everything about what an editor does. Each chapter is broken down in essays written by well-noted industry professionals. There are three essays I am working through specifically for this conference: (1) “What Editors Look for in a Query, Letter, Proposal, and Manuscript” by Jane von Mehren, (2) “The Editor and Author at the Writers’ Conference: Why They Go, What They Do” by Michael Seidman, and (3) “Editing for the Christian Marketplace” by Janet Hoover Thoma. In addition, I am reviewing blogs and articles by other editors and writers about their experiences at writers’ conferences. This will help me have a gauge of what people expect from me as an editor when they come up to meet me, what kinds of questions I may be asked, and what questions I should ask. I want to be fully engaged with everyone on all sides of the publishing paradigm.
6. Deliberately planning what I will wear
Regardless of what anybody says, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that looks (outside physical appearance) play a huge role in what people initially think of me. Some try to play that aspect down and say that it’s the inside that counts. Yeah, OK. No one gets to your inside until they get past your outside. You have to look the part (whatever your part is). I want to be approachable, welcoming, credible, professional, and teachable, so I am going to dress for that. Comfortable shoes, I hear, is a must at these things. I think I have some three-inch red pumps that are pretty comfortable. The dress is usually casual, some people wear jeans. I think I can ring up some freshly creased, wide-legged, cuffed slacks with a little bling-bling to accessorize the deal. Bottom line: I plan to dress for the reception I want from others. “Comfortable” is relative. Comfortable is confidence. Comfortable is being taken seriously. Comfortable is not being self-conscious. Comfortable is matching my outside with how I feel inside—and like James Brown, “I feel good! Dunna-dunna-dunna-duh.”
7. Remaining open and teachable
Yes, I am going to be a resource to aspiring authors and writers, but I am really going to learn new things and take part in the conversation. I am looking forward to the opportunity to expand beyond the books my company publishes, our publication and submission guidelines, and what goes on in our day-to-day. I know that I will gain so much from every interaction, the classes I attend, the other professionals and how they interact, different ways to do things, new ideas, and on and on. This is going to be a rich experience. I expect to see my perspective broadened and my understanding and relationship to the market increased.
How do you prepare for a writers’ conference? Is there something I should add to my list? Let me hear you!
Amazing things have happened to me since I joined the Twitterverse. Here are seven of them...