A How-To for Meeting Editors

Book acquisitions editors are some of the busiest people I know and the most elusive. If they admit what they do for a living, people want to send them their grandmother’s self-published poetry or a best friend’s novel that she wrote in high school.

They aren’t flashy dressers. They don’t talk about publishing trends in the checkout line. And at parties, if someone asks them what they do for a living, they mumble and then wave at an imaginary friend. “Nice meeting you,” they say before darting to the other side of the room.

Then how can a writer catch a break? Ah, my dear contestant, you must know the secret lives of editors…not bees. Following are ways to meet an editor:

1. Make friends with other writers, especially those who have published at least one book.

They’ve made the leap, and many are willing to give you advice or help you achieve your dreams. Attend their workshops at writers’ conferences, listen carefully, and ask thoughtful questions. Learn the craft of writing and how to market a book while you write your manuscript.

Published authors know editors, and if you’ve written a manuscript that other authors like, they’ll be more willing to give you a recommendation or an endorsement.

2. With your polished manuscript in hand, query an agent.

Make sure to read an agent’s submission guidelines before you approach them, or pitch your project to an agent at a writer’s conference.

Attend the best conference you can afford. One of the perks of attending a conference is that you can request an appointment with an agent. Agents know editors, and they know whether your manuscript is ready to be published. Listen to their advice, and rewrite your manuscript if necessary. An agent can be your best ticket to meeting an acquisitions editor.

3. Acquisitions editors attend writers’ conferences as well.

They set up appointments with agents, and they take 15-minute appointments with conferees. Sometimes they will agree to critique your manuscript for a fee.

4. Attend workshops taught by editors at writers’ conferences.

Editors teach a variety of workshops that vary from character development to plot development to self-editing. They will tell you what kinds of projects they’re looking for so that when you get your chance to meet an editor, you’ll be prepared.

5. Attend meetings of a local writers’ group.

If the group is large enough, they will invite published authors to speak, and through the friendships you make with authors and other members of the group, you can support each other through the process of becoming a published author. If you don’t have a local writers’ group, consider starting one.

Finally, what’s the best way to meet an editor? Keep writing and improving your craft until someone takes notice of you. Editors love fresh, unique voices. You could be the next American Idol of the publishing world.

10 Replies to “A How-To for Meeting Editors”

  1. All of these elements are so critical to writing success. You learn something new at each step, and those building blocks grow until you have a solid foundation to stand on. I’ve tried to exercise a teachable spirit from the beginning, and hope never to lose it. I’ve worked hard on my craft, but no success came without the help of many others.

    1. That’s what I love about our friends who stop by the WordServe Water Cooler. We all learn from one another and then apply it to our careers…even me. I have to thank my grandmother first of all, because she wrote her first novel at the age of 70. She would save up her writers’ magazines so that when I visited as a little girl, I could read them and learn. It would be interesting to go back in time to when I was nine to see what famous writers were contributors to my education. Nothing we learn ever goes to waste. Information and experiences are tucked back into a corner of our minds where we can retrieve it at the most opportune time.

  2. Barbara, thanks for this practical advice. I have one further question for you: how do you go about setting up appointments as you say w/ agents or editors at conferences? Is this typically an opportunity structured by the conference, or do you just shoot them an email, introduce yourself and your book, and ask to meet up?

    1. Great question! Every conference is different, but typically, the conference sets out sign-up sheets and there’s a mad dash to sign up with the agent or editor of your choice. At the Mount Hermon conference, conferees approach their favorite editor or agent and book an appointment. Faculty are then able to choose when they want to see someone. Speaking of Mount Hermon, I understand there is still room for more conferees to sign up for the conference scheduled March 29-April 3. Held in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains in northern California, this is one of the best conferences in the country. If you feel you can’t afford to go, check with them to see if there are any scholarships still available.

  3. I love reading the help on this blog! Unfortunately, I’m in Australia, so I miss out on these rare opportunities to “get in” with editors/agents/publishers. Do you think commenting on blogs and being involved with interested people/companies via social media is a suitable replacement (of sorts)?

    1. I do. If you are a consistent contributor to an editor/agent/publisher’s blog or on other social media, they will notice you. Ask them the question about how best to attract attention since you live in Australia. I wish you all the best!

  4. My first few writers conferences scared me to death. I would totally lose my thoughts at times, when asked to pitch my ideas. But networking with other writers proved to be invaluable. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my fears. And I always appreciated the grace of an editor or agent, who didn’t treat me like I was wasting their time. Thanks for the advice, Barbara. Btw, I’m SO grateful that you’ll be doing some of my pitching for me now! Woo hoo!

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