It's a great opportunity when you can pitch right to an editor, possibly even a decision-maker, and submit your manuscript, query or sample chapters in person. It's also frightening because the wrong approach may ruin your chances. No pressure lol! Really though, you only get a few minutes to get your message across, so you want to make the most of it!
Coming up is the BYU Publishing Fair in Provo, Utah, that I and another WiDo editor are going to attend, to meet authors and take manuscripts. Thinking ahead, and remembering a couple other times when we met with authors seeking publication, I thought I'd summarize a few tips.
1. Smile, make eye contact and don't cower. We're just people, too, and probably as scared of you as you are of us.
2. Prepare a pitch, or what I like to call a "me in 30 seconds" for your story. Time it at home and practice until it's smooth and polished. Make every word count and don't repeat yourself.
3. Start by telling the genre, and whether your story is character-driven or plot-driven. Word count is helpful, too. If plot-driven, give a quick plot summary. If character-driven, tell us what makes these characters remarkable. DO NOT spend twenty minutes giving every minutae of your ms.
4. You can also do a "me in 30 seconds" for yourself. Mention if you're previously published, won contests, have a masters degree in creative writing. Anything that makes you stand out from the crowd or that shows experience in the writing business. Mention that you're a heart surgeon, a retired police detective, you raised eight boys--something that suggests you might have a story in you.
5. Please don't ever say "This is my first novel." Instead say, "I've been writing since I was ten. I'm an English major from the University of Chicago. Published in my college literary magazine." Always say what makes you look polished and professional, not a like a beginner who just finished NaNoWriMo and is turning in the results.
6. If the publishing fair or event has no limits on submissions, go ahead and turn in chapter samples of your completed manuscripts. These are preferable to query letters. You being there is your query, so you want to take full advantage of the opportunity and hand the editors something more than a query or plot summary. Like the first three chapters or even a full ms.
These types of events can be intimidating, but also helpful and instructive. Even if you don't end up with a publishing contract, it makes you more polished and effective for the next time!
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf