by Jane McBride Choate
We've all heard of the 30 second "elevator pitch," where we give a thumbnail sketch of our book to an editor. How do we take that to the next level, where we are invited to sit down with the same editor and present a more fully drawn description of our book? And, if we're invited to do so, how do we develop rapport with that editor?
The elevator pitch or, as some refer to it, the commercial for our book, is by nature short, a teaser to arouse the editor’s interest. If you are so fortunate to be invited for a fifteen minute chance to talk about your book, make the most of your—and the editor’s—time.
How do you do that?
What can you do to make the most of this all-important appointment? You’re familiar with the word rapport: relation, connection, especially a sympathetic or harmonious relation. Spending the time and effort to develop rapport with this editor will go a long way in helping sell your book. Of course, no amount of rapport will sell a poorly written book, but a lack of personal rapport can sway an editor from making an offer on a book.
- If you can, find out something about the editor. Chances are you have your laptop with you at the conference. Google her and discover what is important to her. Publishers’ websites frequently feature information about their editors. Was she born in a foreign country? What does the website say she is looking for in particular? Editors of the same publishing house have specialties. You can also gain insights by asking questions and then listening. Listening is a lost art these days. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Leave enough time that you can learn about her!
- Be prepared with notes but don’t bury your head in them. Jot down a few key points about your book, the main characters, the plot points, the theme. Review them, then look up, meet the editor’s eyes, and speak confidently.
- It goes without saying, or it should, that you know what kind of books this editor and her publishing house publish. It does you and your reputation as a professional no good if you pitch a paranormal book and the publisher doesn’t publish paranormals or this editor doesn’t buy paranormals for her line. If this editor thinks of you again, she will likely remember you as the author who presented something completely unsuitable for her house or imprint.
- Follow up your appointment when you return home with a card or note thanking the editor for her time. Good manners are never out-of-date.
- Then follow up by sending the requested manuscript. Pay attention to what the editor requested. Did she ask to see a synopsis and the first three chapters, commonly called a partial? Send that and only that. Did she ask you to send the entire manuscript? Congratulations. Polish it, make it the best you can, then send it. Be sure to follow the publisher’s submission guidelines.
There you have it. Take your pitch from the elevator to a sit-down chat with an editor. Be interested and interesting. Follow through by sending what she requests.