Friday, April 18, 2008

Scheduling Pitch Appointments

I have a question for you, as we all approach the “starting bell” for the mad dash of agent and editor appointments at RWA National. For someone like me that writes single-title stories, the almost constant feedback is, “you need an agent.” I agree, no argument there. What I’m wondering is, knowing that I do need an agent, is also taking an editor appointment a good thing or a bad thing? Editors take appointments looking for new ideas and new writers which is wonderful, but if I end up sending something to one of them, before I start working with my dream agent, am I tying that agent’s hands in future marketing opportunities? I know this probably sounds silly and many have suggested I should grab at all opportunities that come my way, but I also know that a huge part of what an agent brings to the writer-agent partnership is knowing which editor will like a certain voice, storyline, type of book, and how to best market it. How high is the risk that I’ll get ahead of that dance and inadvertently close a door that would be better left alone?

There are a lot of good questions here and while I’m definitely going to give my opinion, I suspect that a lot of our readers will be able to chime in with not only their own opinions, but also their own experiences.

I tend to think that pitch appointments are as much about networking as they are about making the pitch. Often before I submit a new client’s work I will ask if she has any editors she would like me to consider. I’m interested in knowing if there are any she’s met at conferences who she really clicked with or if there is anyone she really feels wouldn’t be a good fit for her. If you met someone at a conference and the two of you really hit it off, that could possibly do more to get you in the door than any connections I have with the editor. Now the one caveat to asking my client’s opinions is that if I feel the editor wouldn’t be the best fit we’ll discuss it and see where we end up.

Editors take pitch appointments for the same reason agents do: they are hoping to find really great books, authors and ideas. If you have the opportunity to sign up with an editor you’ve been wanting to meet or think might be right for your book, go ahead and make that appointment. If an editor requests material it’s rare that will hurt your chances. It’s not the same as blindly submitting on your own. If the editor rejects but an agent later asks you to do major revisions, the agent can always requery, and the truth is, a lot of authors sell books because of appointments and get the agent later.

So don’t be afraid to make appointments with whomever might interest you. Think of it as a great opportunity to network. Good luck!



Julie Weathers said...

You've given this advice before and I think it was golden. It's taken a lot of the fear factor out of the conference adventure for me.

"Think of the conferences as opportunities to network first."

I want an agent who meshes with me personally as well as one I think will do a good job with my projects. I would think that would be important with an editorial relationship as well, though not to such a strong degree.

Someone with a sense of humor is always going to make me take notice.

Hopefully, the conferences will give me a peek at the personality of some people I would like to work with.

Patience during my pitch appointment would move them up on the list several notches. If I get the guts up to pitch, that is.

Anonymous said...

Very timely topic for me because I'm thinking about National. I appreciate knowing that it's more helpful than not to pitch to editors, even if they reject the partial they've requested.

I'll take Julie's comment a step further. During one pitch, I quickly discovered that the pitchee (I being the pitcher) had zero sense of humor -- confirmed in a later conversation with someone who knew her. A sense of humor is a non-negotiable requirement for me, so I knew we wouldn't be able to work together and didn't send my partial to her -- though I did thank her.

Jessica, how much follow through have you found after conference pitches? Have you ever signed a client as a result of one?

Kate Douglas said...

I think the most important word in the entire post is "networking." If you attend a conference for that reason alone, it's worth the cost of travel, registration, etc. Making contacts within the industry can be an invaluable asset down the road.

Angie Fox said...

The key for me was to go in looking to connect rather than worrying about the outcome. Maybe these appointments make all the difference for some writers (and I’m sure there are plenty of “big break” stories out there) but I really didn't think one agent/editor appointment would make or break my career. Rather, these sessions are better than any workshop if you want to learn about the business, what people are buying and what they're looking to buy.

Plus, I’m not the type of person to just walk up to an agent or editor in a bar and start talking. But if I have that block of time where we can sit down one-on-one, well that’s golden. I can’t control whether or not they like whatever book I’m working on at the time, but I can get a great feel for the industry and who I’d like to work with.

Two years ago, I ended up getting an appointment with the agent of a new author whose book I loved. I think I spent more time asking her about that then trying to get her to like my manuscript. The agent ended up being a lot of fun. I learned a lot and when we got to the pitch, I was much more comfortable than I would have been and I felt like I'd really gotten an inside look at the business.

That manuscript didn’t sell, but I became a better writer for having pitched it. So, yes, the pitch helped my career. Then last year, I missed the RWA agent/editor appointment sign up and didn’t meet anybody. The book I would have pitched sold anyway.

So my advice would be to focus less on the selling. If they like the idea, they’ll definitely request. Instead, focus on connecting personally and learning all you can about this crazy business.

Kim Kasch said...

I appreciate this info. It's nice to know. Thanks.