Talking to Pros is more about simple courtesies than pitching a certain book idea.
Often at Christian Writers Conferences, conferees are so programmed to engage with industry pros that they end up going overboard and make a poor first impression. Whether we connect face-to-face, by phone, or e-mail, there is a certain code of conduct that should be followed. It’s all about respect and courtesy. The Golden Rule sums up how we are to treat editors, agents, and others in the industry. Make sure you treat industry pros the very way you would want to be treated in their shoes. By doing this, you will leave a lasting impression with them.
Here are some specific etiquette suggestions for you, as you connect with the pros:
Make sure you don’t smell of cigarette smoke or heavy perfume. Many are sensitive to smell, and this will ruin your first impression. Double-check your other first impressions as well.
Be respectful of the pro’s space. Watch their body language to determine if it’s a good time to talk. Avoid stalker-style pitches (such as following a pro to the restroom to pitch your idea through the bathroom stall door!).
Follow their lead regarding physical contact. Sometimes a handshake is in order, and other times, if there was a real connection, a hug is okay—let them initiate which it will be.
On the Phone
Try to find general information online first, or in a market guide—before calling the agent or editor to ask questions. No need to ask if they take a certain genre if their website plainly lists what types of books they acquire or represent.
Since you are selling the agent or editor on your writing ability, usually they prefer your first contact (outside of conferences) to happen via e-mail or mail. Why? Because the pro wants to see how you write, rather than how you speak. This also works better for their schedules. Then they can schedule a phone conference if/when it suits them.
Even though you will be eager to hear how the pro likes your work, abstain from calling to ask. Honor whatever timeline they say it takes to hear back, and if you have not received a reply in that timeline, a short e-mail to make sure they received the submission is the best way to follow-up. Do not press for a decision or a deadline; just ask IF they received it and what the status is.
Once you are acquired by an editor or agent, you are welcome to call them on important matters, but be considerate of their time and avoid contacting them about trivial issues. Use e-mail for most communication.
Avoid frequent phone calls, even if the pro seems happy to hear from you. Remember they have other projects—avoid monopolizing their time. Especially be aware that they have office hours, and deserve a personal life outside of that time. If a call is warranted, it’s best to request a phone date via e-mail, and let the agent call you when his schedule permits. When planning a phone conversation, it is helpful to give your agent a range of convenient times to call.
Do not send attached files containing manuscripts unless their guidelines expressly state they welcome attachments.
Keep your initial correspondence with an agent or editor brief and subsequent correspondence on point with what is requested. Realize industry pros deal with hundreds of e-mails daily, and respect their time.
Authors should advise an agent how he knows the agent’s name (met at a conference, found online, referred by a friend, etc.). In fact, it’s helpful to put the connecting point in the subject line, such as “per your request at ABC Conference.”
Show appreciation for any information a pro gives you, even if it’s comes with a rejection of a submission. Try to avoid being defensive or argumentative, and by all means do not attack, accuse or criticize the professional.
Honor any requirements for correspondence. If the listing says to send a query, they mean a one-page pitch about the book project.
If the pro requests more information, send that with the original correspondence so they don’t have to search for the original note. Mention “per your request,” and resist saying that unless it is true.
Editors and agents are not royalty—they are normal people who happen to be in a position to get your manuscript to the next step toward publication. Treat them with common courtesy and professional respect and they will remember you. It’s these little things that set you apart from the thronging crowds of writers who forget something as simple as The Golden Rule.
What’s The Golden Rule is written by Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm. Kathy and her team get jazzed shining the light on their clients and their Lord. See more at their blog: http://www.kcwcomm.blogspot.com/