Hey there, epic author people! Janeen Ippolito here. Are you ready for your book’s fifteen-minute first date?
Because that’s what it is, essentially. You’re sitting down across a table from someone else, trying to figure out if you/your book are ready and compatible to work with the agent or publisher.
This is a long-term commitment, people. We’re talking years.
Suddenly, the nerves all make sense, right? After all, first dates can be awkward enough when you’re just putting yourself out there—but you’re carting along yourself and your manuscript that you’ve spent much blood, sweat, tears, and glaring sessions on (because glaring at the computer screen when you’re stuck is a thing).
Not only that, but you’re going up against a “professional dater” who has way more experience at this than you do.
So what’s an author to do?
Make a good impression as yourself.
Make: it does take effort, even from extroverts
Good impression: be polite and professional
As yourself: be polite, but don’t be fake—both sides are evaluating each other’s personalities to see where this date is going!
1.) Own Your Work – Aka, Your Dreams and Purposes for this Book
- Own your goals and plans for your writing. Write them down. This is crucial for making sure you’re walking into the appointment with the right mindset.
- Own your attitude towards your work: are you super-attached to this manuscript? Non-committal? Where does this story fit in your creative journey?
2.) Know Your Agents/Publishers – Aka, Research the Agents and Publishing Houses
- Research what they are expecting, and where you/your book might fit in their existing work.
- Make a pros and cons list so that you understand what you might be committing to. Part of getting into a working relationship with an agent or publisher means you’ll be giving up your absolute freedom to do whatever you want.
3.) Know Your Stuff – Aka, the Pitching
- Get a logline—be able to tell your story in 1-2 sentences max. Here’s a great website for creating your own logline.
- Research the agent/editor’s website for ideas on what they expect in a pitch—and then put those items together. Usual suspects for a pitch packet include: a one sheet, a one-paragraph summary, a one-page summary, and a sample chapter.
4.) Present For Success – Aka, “But What Will I Wear?”
- When in doubt, go at least business casual—but make sure you’re comfortable. Pitch appointments are not the time to pull out that super-uncomfortable pair of dress pants or skirt that you “save for special occasions.” You don’t want to add scratchy fabric to the pile of nerves you’re dealing with.
- Look like the book you’re representing. If you’re pitching an edgy thriller, then you can probably rock a leather jacket with jeans and boots (neat and clean, of course). If you’re pitching a nonfiction book for professionals, then look like the professional who might buy that book.
5.) Be Prepared, Yet Flexible – Aka, It Might Not Go the Way You Think
- Be early to your appointment. But understand that you may have to wait.
- When in doubt, the agent/editor could lead the pitch session with requests. But understand they might sit back and say “go ahead with everything.”
6.) How to Face Rejections – Aka, It’s Not Over Yet
- A rejection can be a good thing. Maybe your manuscript isn’t the right fit, or maybe they already have a similar project—you don’t want to be competing with your own press! Maybe you discover that your personalities clash—yes, personality matters when making a commitment! Maybe they don’t want this project, but they want a future one. Hey, they like your work!
- If they give feedback about improving your manuscript, listen with an open mind and be willing to consider their side. Even if you disagree, don’t literally tell them “I disagree” or start arguing. Any feedback given is meant to help you, not threaten you. Be polite, be humble, and go over the feedback when you’re less keyed up.
You’ll make some mistakes. Maybe your mind will go blank. Or you’ll forget that sample chapter. You could sit down at the wrong table or totally flub your logline.
It’s okay. It’s only one appointment.
People have connected with the right agent or editor even while making mistakes.
Just give it your best shot, then go forth and be awesome!
Janeen Ippolito believes you should own your unique words! She writes steampunk fantasy and urban fantasy, and creates writing resources, including the reference book World Building From the Inside Out and the creative writing guide Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories. She’s an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, marketing strategist, and is the leader of Uncommon Universes Press, a traditional science fiction and fantasy publishing house. She’s also the cohost of the podcast Indie Book Magic. In her spare time, Janeen enjoys sword-fighting, reading, pyrography, and eating brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. www.janeenippolito.com