2.24.2007

Kindergarten, hell. I learned it all from Elmore Leonard.


I'm signed up to attend a local writing conference-- with completed first novel in hand.

The top editor from my favorite publishing house will be speaking (and her publishing house accepts unsolicited submissions and pledges to read through the slush pile and respond within six to eight weeks).
My impulse is probably not very couth. Is there any dignified, professional, non-offensive way to make contact with her?

Thank you!



Do you REALLY need to hear that trailing around after her with a sidecar of pages is a bad bad bad idea?

Do you REALLY need to hear that leaping out from a dark corner screaming "manuscript available" while your Ipod plays the theme from Rocky is a bad bad bad idea?

Do you REALLY need to hear that accosting her at the lunch table by announcing the availability of your deathless prose which of course you just happen to have in a valise under the table is a bad bad bad idea?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, editors are human beings. The universal "dignified, professional, non-offensive way to make contact with her" is to say "hello". Then if you have a brain in your head you'll offer a compliment on a book she edited. Then you'll ask a question like 'come here often' or 'what's your sign' or even the very brave 'how do you like the conference so far'.

We all know you're at the conference cause you're a writer with a novel. Be cool.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

That sounds awfully low key to me. How about "Yo, mama! I've got a book here that will make all the stuff you've edited in your whole career look sick! Here are the first thousand pages. Please feel free to ask for the other two thousand before the end of the weekend so I won't give them to your arch-competitor at The Dry Clean and Press."

You gotta have some chutzpah to make it in the business of scribbling.

Anonymous said...

Or, don't forget, you can shove those pages under the door of the stall in the ladies' room. Always makes a great first impression.

pjm said...

I've learned one of the best questions to ask is: Can I buy you a drink?

thepoopiesays said...

I would just staple the manuscript to my forehead and rush her.

Heidi the Hick said...

I think this is kind of like meeting rock stars. You should say hi and smile and treat them like people.

You should not open your stupid half drunken mouth and start blabbering about how you bought his last CD and took five kids to a concert on the most recent tour.

Or WORSE babble about how you didn't actually buy the last CD but you're going to. Soon.

Asking for an autograph or a picture taken is okay as long as you're not crying. And never ever ever touch the rock star. Unless he wants you to and then only in a purely platonic kind of way.

And yeah, I know this from experience...!

No crying, no touching, no babbling. And remember to breathe. (This way, the editor might be less alarmed by the stack of paper under your arm.)

EGP said...

Shoving the pages under the stall in the ladies room makes an altogether different first impression if the author happens to be male.

Anonymous said...

I found out the hard way that I am really, really bad at this exact kind of thing. I feel intense guilt at chatting with, being nice to someone for the sole purpose of selling them something. What I found worked for me is forgetting the selling and just engaging them in conversation.

Then, toward the natural end of the conversation, I would say something like, "I've really enjoyed chatting with you. I've read your website and I'm pretty sure you represent what I write. May I send you a query letter and the first few wpates of my MS?" They always say yes (that's why they are there), and most of the time they ask what I write, etc. And for me, my 'selling' ends up being a natural part of two people having a conversation rather than something forced.

Besides, one of the things I learned about myself is that I have no sales techniques. I'd much rather send a query that includes a polite intro of who I am and where we met. And after listening (Easedropping) on some of the other approaches people used at this particular conference, I'm of the opinion that most writers are not good salesmen.

Anyways, best of luck and don't forget that agents/editors are breathing, eating, working people, just like the rest of us!

RT

Dave said...

In my previous life as a scietific researcher, I had to solicit information (a long questionnaire on the review of a research proposal) and was ordered to get ten interviews at a conference. (This was a shit job)

I can't tell you how many people I knew and had worked with PREMPTIVELY raised a hand at my approach and said NO! People I had known and wrote papers with. People I had done research with. They didn't even want asked. It really did bad things for my self-esteem.

Take my advice, Be a good participant at the conference, smile, make nice, be a great conversationalist, a good host for your city - wait for the editor to ask you about your book. Ask how he/she likes the city, offer good advice on good restaurants or entertainment, talk about the weather, talk about the editors books, but don't blurt out "you wanna read my novel." You just can't imagine how rude it is to whip out your manuscript and shove it under the editors eyes.

Anonymous said...

You could try patting her on the behind, too.

A Paperback Writer said...

I attended a presentation with Q&A with two famous UK authors (one YA and one middle-grade) and their publisher. I found myself squiriming in embarrassment at some of the nitwit questions writers asked the publisher (Can I send you my manuscript?). This was a good year before I began reading Miss Snark, and I wished I had a clue gun to fire at them anyway!
So, if you insist on making a nitwit of yourself, please do it where the rest of us don't have to suffer because of you.

George Clooney said...

" Is there any dignified, professional, non-offensive way to make contact with her?"

I just whistle.

Anonymous said...

"A Paperback Writer said...
I attended a presentation with Q&A with two famous UK authors (one YA and one middle-grade) and their publisher. I found myself squiriming in embarrassment at some of the nitwit questions writers asked the publisher (Can I send you my manuscript?). This was a good year before I began reading Miss Snark, and I wished I had a clue gun to fire at them anyway!
So, if you insist on making a nitwit of yourself, please do it where the rest of us don't have to suffer because of you."

Oh lighten up; we're all new at one time or another.

Anonymous said...

One writer turned up to MY book launch with a manuscript under their arm, hoping to buttonhole my publisher!

It's not that they tried to use my book launch for their own ends, just that somehow the usual approach (query letter, partial) wasn't good enough for them.

Name & IQ of the perpetrator withheld.

And I agree with the rest. Go to the convention be chatty and FORGET ABOUT THE DAMN BOOK. Tell yourself it's a social event, and be sociable. Sooner or later the editor or agent you're chatting to MAY ask you what you're there for, and they'll be pleasantly surprised if you turn out to be a writer with a manuscript to pitch. You don't need a folded query letter in your purse or jacket pocket, just take their card and promise to get something in the mail.

On a related note, have you ever seen someone throw a piece of bread to a seagull, and minutes later there are so many of the things crowding round, demanding attention, that you bet they wished they hadn't bothered?

Play it cool. Don't be a seagull.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Anon:

Judging by the state of the restrooms at some conferences, paper slipped under the partition might be welcome.

Of course the conferences I attended weren't writing conference. It's not that we didn't talk about writing. It's just that we talked about dead, ancient people's writing. Maybe awriting conference would have better bathrooms than we get.

Anonymous said...

Dave said, "Wait for the editor to ask about your book." I think that's good advice. Because they will. It seems like there are so many people at writer's conferences who don't observe the most basic common courtesies. Which means if you act like a normal human being, editors and agents will take that as a sign that you might not be a complete idiot and would perhaps be someone with a great project who'd be pleasant to work with. So they'll ask about your work. They may decided it's not for them, but still...

December Quinn said...

I think it would be fun to pin the first three chapters of your ms to her hotel room door with a sharp knife. I bet that would get her attention.

Bonnie Shimko said...

Her attention and an arrest warrant.

Julie Wright said...

I found a smile, a hello, and a "may I have your business card?" works for short meetings. If you have more time, then be human and ask them questions about them. Do your research before hand and know what and who they represent. At the end of the conversation, ask for a business card. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever hand them anything at the conference. No agent, editor, or fellow author, wants to lug your manuscript home with them.