Looking back at my early submission days, I wasn’t brave enough to attend a conference. No! That was for established writers, and I was just getting the courage to send out an article, or a contest submission. I felt that being picked out of the slush pile was my only hope of publication. Being naïve, I didn’t see that challenge as being some insurmountable task. (I’ve always been the eternal optimist.)
Flash forward to my work today as an agent, and when I speak to colleagues about how I find my authors. I tell them that two-thirds of my clients have been found by blind submissions (aka: slush pile). They marvel at that! As a relatively new agent, I am not really on the “conference circuit” like many of the well-known agents are. I may be invited to 1-2 per year, which have been largely successful for me. I’ve found nearly one-third of my authors at conferences, such as University of Madison’s Writer’s Institute, held every spring. (It’s a regional conference, not some big New York or Los Angeles extravaganza, but still, it holds a wealth of talent with its attendees!)
As an author, I received my first two book deals thanks to face-to-face meetings at both NY and LA conferences for SCBWI. The pitches were flukes, not even formal ones. I saw editors in hallways between sessions, and struck up conversations. (Yes, I’m pretty outgoing and can chat and make friends virtually anywhere.) Those conversations got me invitations to submit my work. Those submissions still had to stand on their own merit, however, they were then officially “Requested Materials” and shot to the top of the editor’s pile of submissions.
The point here is two-fold:
1.) Don’t be afraid to do face-to-face pitches, no matter how new you are in the business. Speaking to agents and editors isn’t really scary… we’re just book-lovers like you, and often authors ourselves. (Note: It is important to have your pitch ready in your mind. Don’t try making it up on the spot!)
2.) Just because you’re submitting a manuscript uninvited or blindly, it doesn’t mean you won’t connect with the right editor or agent. It happens every day at The Purcell Agency, LLC, and I’m sure I’m not unique in that happenstance!
Keep the faith, work on your craft, and get confident in your abilities. Those are the most endearing qualities we look for – talent, confidence, and sincerity.
Tina P. Schwartz
January 2015 ©