The best chance you have of interesting an agent or editor in your book is through a face-to-face meeting at a conference. What are they going to want to know? What questions should you be prepared to answer? You’d be surprised at how early you need to start thinking about the questions in order to be prepared.
Last night, Marcy and Lisa had the privilege of sitting in on a workshop for early arrivals run by Kim Bangs, Author Relations/Contract Manager for Regal Books. Kim is also a member of the acquisition team, and graciously consented to let us share with you what she wants to know when she sits down with an author for a one-on-one appointment.
Tell me a little about yourself. This is your chance to give a pertinent bio that lets the agent or editor know why you’re the perfect person to write this book. What experience do you have in the topic? How long have you been writing? Where have you been published? What relevant degrees do you have? Do you pastor a church? Basically you want to let them know you’re a professional.
What’s one of your favorite hobbies? Kim is the kind of caring person who tries to put everyone she meets at ease and let them know that agents and editors are just normal people too. Part of how she does this is through a question like this to break the ice. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked what you’ve been reading lately.
Let me hear your pitch. The pitch is a concise summary of what your book is about that you can give in 30 seconds to 1 minute. We sometimes call this an elevator speech because you should be able to finish it before the elevator reaches your floor. Kim doesn’t mind if you read her your pitch if you’re afraid you’ll mess it up if you try to go by memory.
Who’s the primary audience? Nothing bugs an agent or editor more (except maybe pitching in the bathroom) than to hear that your book is for all people or even for all Christians or for all women. Narrow it down. For example, the novel Lisa and Marcy are currently co-writing targets Christian women between the ages of 31 and 49. Women in this age bracket who are also currently in a romantic relationship make up the largest percentage of romance novel readership according to the RWA.
What benefit will your target audience gain from reading your book? Fiction and non-fiction need to give something to their readers beyond entertainment. It’s the takeaway value. For our current novel, we plan for it to be the first in a series about choosing your faith in difficult situations, living out your faith in a hostile environment, and sticking to your priorities even if it means losing everything else.
How is your message unique from the other books out there? This is especially important for non-fiction writers since the market is glutted with books on every possible subject. What makes yours stand out? Why do they need yours in the midst of all these others? She reads over 1000 proposals a year, she’s one of 4 acquisition editors for a publisher that only puts out 60 titles a year. You have to stand out from the crowd.
What is your burning passion? Why do you need to get this book out? Christian editors and agents take it as a given that God “gave” you this book. (Check out Steve Laube’s excellent blog post on that.) You especially need to avoid saying that God told you their house needs to be the one to publish their book. Be specific. Be honest. What drives you to care about this subject? What fascinates you about it?
What marketing opportunities do you bring to the table? Who do you know who can endorse this book? Do you speak regularly? What contacts do you already have who can help promote your book?
Do you have a social media platform? Platforms today are not what platforms were even two years ago. Now you need to be blogging, posting on Twitter and Facebook, have a website, and even be uploading videos to YouTube. And it’s not enough to say that you’ll do that when the book comes out. You need to have that set up and have people following you and reading your message before the book comes out.
What other tips did Kim have for one on ones?
- Take a breath.
- Be honest.
- Be ready to take notes.
- Ask for a deadline by which they want to see requested material.
- Follow-up if asked. Last year she received only 20% of the material she requested.