Thursday, June 07, 2007

Q & A Thursday!

You know what that means. I'm going to get straight to the point this morning and open the floodgates to your questions.

I'm going to mix it up a little today though and give you a topic which we encourage your questions to focus on. This way I really get ya all thinking about the wonder's of the world, or at least the wonder's of my world. So, without further ado, todays topic . . .

With RWA Nationals right around the corner, there is always a lot of talk about the do's and don'ts of approaching industry professionals. Is there anything that you all have been pondering about this? A situation that you might find yourself in where you just wouldn't know what to do?

And there you have it . . . Let the questions begin! Hopefully today's answers can ease everyones fears a little and make the intimidating moments a little bit easier to handle!


Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Good morning! Thanks for offering your advice.

Should we offer a card with our contact information during a casual encounter, or wait until they ask for it?

In the same vein, do we ask them for their card, or wait until they offer it?

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 11:41:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

I think that the Key Word here is Casual Encounter.

If you are just chatting casually I would wait until they ask for it, assuming they ask about your project and express interest. During conferences agents and editors meet hundreds, literally, off different authors. While it is a great networking opportunity in most instances, that is all we are looking to do during meet and greets.

In the same vein, I wouldn't ask for a card unless they have specifically asked you to contact them. Then it is AOK to ask for a card.

Many people collect think that if they get their hands on a card, it is free game to contact the agent with any and all inquiries and questions. Thats why I suggest you wait until you are sure that the agent or editor wants to pursue some sort of contact after the conversation.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger JDuncan said...

Well, since I will be there, Elaine, and running into god knows who (hopefully not literally), how about a little info on what you like to see from us aspiring writers regarding that initial intro. For me, it's getting those initial words out of my mouth to some complete stranger whom I'd like to make some kind of connection with. What do you like to hear? Not hear?

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Beverley Kendall said...

Can you ask they what kind of plots they like to see in their--let's say--historicals, or romantic suspense manuscripts? Or is that to specific, or not appropriate at all. So that you can decide whether they would be open to your novel (in you want to query them)?

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

GREAT QUESTION. I think that the advice that follows is the MOST important thing to remember concerning these unexpected encounters.

Be Natural, Be Yourself, AND, above and beyond, remember, we are all just people.

Your initial conversation should be casual - "hey how are you enjoying the conference?" or "Did you get a chance to hear the keynote this afternoon?" or even "I love your shoes!" (but only if you really do love their shoes!). Treat them just like another person and see how you hit it off.

If the conversation flows smoothly, most likely the editor or agent will bring up "what do you write?" Here is your permission to launch into a little 30 second pitch of your work and yourself. And then take it from there.

I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is read the other party's body language. Do they thoroughly seem interested or are they looking over your shoulder waiting for their opportunity to escape? Realize that they are being approached constantly throughout the conference, so it makes a MUCH larger impression when someone approaches them and treats them just like anyone else.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

You can do this, again if the situation feels right. I would be careful though that they don't think you are just trying to pitch them in a round-about way.

I would NOT advise saying something along the lines of "Would you be interested in reading a project about a young woman, once rich, now exiled, who stows away aboard Captain Jacque Sparrow's pirate ship, bound for the Spanish Seas to redeem his honor, and the tumultuous love affair that follows?" The agent/editor will probably know you are talking about your own story. Many are simply too nice to outright reject your project so they will say Yes, even if they know they would never be interested in such a project.

In a situation like this, your material may get requested, but in the end you have certainly done nothing to better educate yourself or get a foot in the door.

A better way to find out this information would be to ask them about their lists in general. Ask them what projects they have coming up that they are most excited about, what types of things they are looking for, what authors they love to read.

If they would happen to say, "oh I'm dying for a really great historical", it is appropriate for you to then ask if they have anything in particular that they really like, or dislike, in that highlighted genre. It may not give you the exact specifics that you are looking for concerning your project, but it will provide you information that will be far more beneficial in the long run.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Keri Ford said...

I picked up somewhere to give your quick pitch and then ask editor/agent if there's anything they'd like to know specifically. couse you have to be prepared to answer whatever they might ask.

Do you agree or would rather be read to for 5 minutes? :)

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 2:00:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the president of a RWA chapter. Is it okay to ask agent I've just met in a line up if they're interested in a speaking engagement or interview?

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 2:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT, read for 5 minutes. I don't want to be read to for even 1 minute.

I suggest you give a well thought out pitch from 30 seconds-3 minutes, but really, the shorter the better. Explain your book exactly like it would be explained on the back of a book jacket. Thats all we need to know right then. The major plot points. Thats all its really humanly possible to remember when you are listening to pitch after pitch anyways.

Let the pitch go naturally from there. Let the agent/editor ask you questions and vice versa.

Remember, you know your book more than ANYONE else out there. I have have never asked anyone a question they couldn't answer. While it sounds scary trying to prepare for it, really, when you get going, you will be suprised how the answers just flow naturally.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 2:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

I probably wouldn't ask them face to face at the conference. There is just too much going on to possibly think about our future calendars and what we can and can't commit to.

However, I DO think it would be just fine to send them an email when you return home and invite them to whatever event you are planning. Even if you only met the person briefly.

I'm doing a TON of traveling and I get invitations all the time from people that I have never met, or that have met me only briefly at an event or online via a chat or something. And I often attend. I know that I go to a lot of events where the other guests know no one else there either, so I'm not the only one who will jump on board if it sounds like a fun event with a talented group of authors!

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 3:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Q & A is closed! Anyone have any topics they would like to see us cover next week?

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 3:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Keri Ford said...

Elaine, thanks for answering. I didn't think you'd go for that reading thing. something about the agent/editors eyes will glaze over as though they've taken a sedative....

I did have reservations about blantly asking, "what else do you want to know." sounded kinda
unprofessional and unprepared.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 4:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Beverley Kendall said...

Thanks Elaine.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 4:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Hey Keri,
You are right, that could come off a little blatant - but you could ask if they have any questions in a slightly softer manner. :)

Usually, editors and agents have done so many pitch appointments that they know the proper questions to keep the session moving, and it doesn't get to that point of awkwardness.

In the case that you should happen to find yourself in a situation where the editor/agent won't bite and ask a question, you can briefly mention your career, other writing (again BRIEFLY) to keep things moving.

Really though, usually they go so fast there is no time for dead air.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 4:58:00 PM EDT  

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