Thursday, September 18, 2014

One on one appointments by Terry Burns

I'm on my way to a writing conference at Rose State College (near Oklahoma City) and of course in addition to presenting programs I will be doing one on one appointments.
Too many people don’t take an appointment because they don’t have a project to pitch. It’s a missed opportunity, for most editors and agents I know enjoy having “teaching appointments” with conferees. Though they don’t have anything to pitch, they do have questions. I enjoy those, as long as I’m told up front so I’m not waiting for a pitch that isn’t coming.

Then there is the conferee who takes up all their appointment talking. You can’t sell your project in a ten- or fifteen-minute appointment. That isn’t enough time, but you can make an impression on the agent or editor so they will remember you when we have the chance to send your proposal to him or her. An editor or agent will let you talk your time away if you insist; that makes it easy for him or her. But if you really want to make an impression, engage that agent or editor and make him or her participate in the dialogue. It’s the same with agents using the time to read your proposal. They will probably ask you to send it electronically because most won’t remember what they read beyond the first two or three appointments, if that many.

Remember, the competition for contracts is stiff. Before you go to an editor/agent appointment remember these tips: Make your submission outstanding, make it your best work, exactly follow their submission guidelines.

What does it take to give a successful pitch? For the Hartline agents, we sell manuscripts to editors we know and have a relationship with. That means I’m looking for projects that really interest me, are well written, and, most important, are manuscripts that match what these editors are looking for. The last thing I want to do is put something under contract when I have no place to go with it.


Rick Barry said...

Good tips, Terry. I'm guessing that newer writers without projects to pitch fear looking like amateurs, or they don't want to perturb an agent or editor by posing a lot of questions instead of plopping a stellar proposal on the table. I've been turned down by a couple editors with whom I still "clicked" personality-wise and have become good friends even though my mss. don't fit what they're looking for. Certainly worthwhile to talk from the heart.

I have an agent, but some readers might wonder what specifically you recommend to be memorable (in a good way). Their photo on their business card? Simply fresh plots with interesting characters? A pleasant & professional personality? Or a nice mix of all these? What did your clients do to stick in your mind?

Terry Burns said...

Good question, Rick, but the answer is not as easy as a picture on a business card. It's like dating. What about your wife, or what did she do that drew you to her? It's a connection. First the writing has to be there of course. I meet a lot of people that I really like, but their project just doesn't work for me like the editors you said you became friends with. But beyond that we have to click as people. And it also has to be clear that they really want to be with ME, and not just "an agent." I have backed out of contract offers on occasion when someone said they would answer me after they heard from this agent or that agent or after they had agent appointments at a conference. Maybe it's an ego thing but I don't want to feel like I am the one someone chooses to go with if they can't get someone better. I feel like all of my clients are with the agent they wanted . . . or are very good at schmoozing me.

Jackie said...

Great post and lots of good tips to consider as I finish preparing for ACFW. Thanks!