Spending the week working on my CWIM article about editors has gotten me thinking about conferences. After all the main place new authors get to meet editors is at conferences. And what I think of as the conference season is upon us. (I have found that January through July culminating with the big SCBWI LA conference in early August is the busiest time for writing conferences. Conferences do happen in the fall, but there are fewer of them with all the holidays and all.) This year I find myself completely conference free since I have not been doing the proper pimping of myself as a speaker to the various local SCBWIs. This is good since it gives me more time to get ready for other stuff like TLA, but it’s bad since I like conferences and they are a good source for slush.

However, I’m digressing. What I wanted to talk about are the kinds of things that are appropriate to ask editors either during a conference Q&A or even when you have the chance to talk to them one on one. Here are my top ten:

  1. What are your favorite books (either that you acquired or wished you had acquired)?
  2. What kind of books do you enjoy?
  3. What are you looking for for your list?
  4. What kind of books do you really dislike?
  5. What kind of book is your dream book to acquire?
  6. What kind of book would you like to acquire but the right manuscript has never come across your desk? (Every editor tends to have one of those at some point. Mine is currently a steam punk picture book.)
  7. Who are your favorite authors?
  8. What are some of the books you have acquired?
  9. Have you ever acquired something from the slush pile? (Not every editor can say yes to this. This can be instructive regarding your chances of getting acquired this way.)
  10. How many books do you usually acquire every year? (Again instructive for your chances. Obviously if the editor only acquires 2 books a year, both normally submitted by agents, you shouldn’t pin all your hopes on this editor.)

All of these questions help you get to know the editor and will help you determine whether or not your manuscript is something that might interest the editor in question. For example, I interviewed an editor who automatically rejects all high fantasies that come his way simply because they do not fit with his list. He does fantasy, but only those grounded in our reality. So, if you’ve written a grand epic tale set in a world like Middle Earth there would be no point in submitting to this particular editor. It would merely waste your time and his.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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