Friday, April 29, 2011

The Scoop on the Dreaded Fifteen Minute Appointment

I've had several people ask me what to expect when they have a fifteen minute appointment with an industry professional. Many even wonder if they should take advantage of an appointment. My answer? ABSOLUTELY. Even if you don’t have something to pitch, an editor, agent or even well known author can give you valuable insights to help you focus your career goals.

Let me give you some idea of why professionals agree to be part of the faculty.

They want to help you. By and large, those on the faculty at writers conferences are there because they have a heart for helping new writers. They know what it’s like to sit on your side of the table. Others have helped them achieve their goals and now they want to give back by helping someone else.

They’re looking for new writers. The market is constantly changing and there is always room for new writers. Recently I had someone ask me why a publisher is looking for new writers if the book market is shrinking.
  • First, it’s not shrinking—it’s changing.
  • Second, writers come and go.
  • Third, every choir needs more than one voice for each section. It’s the blend that makes the music beautiful.

Now, onto who you should speak with at a conference.
Editor (for books or magazines)—these professionals are a good choice for two reasons.
  • One—you have a project that fits their line and want to pitch it.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Agent—these are good for the same reasons above.
  • One—you have a project that fits who they rep.
  • Two—they know the market and can give you an idea of their opinion about where it’s headed.
  • Three—they can also give you input on an idea you have.
  • Four—they can give you career advice.

Published Writer—these professionals can do a lot of the same things. They can also:
  • Commiserate about challenges you’re facing as a writer.
  • Give you advice on where a particular project might fit or who in the industry might be looking for something similar.
  • Give you encouragement.

You’ll sometimes find other industry folks at a conference, such as marketing professionals, speakers, publicists, etc.

I encourage you to make your appointments and try not to be nervous. They are there to help, not tear you down. And a lot of good things can come from those appointments—way beyond career stuff. I’ve made friends, gotten validation that I’m not really crazy and had the opportunity to be prayed for and to pray for others.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have any questions or, if you’ve been to a writers conference, any advice?

And . . . don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. I just had my first 15 minute appointment with Jim Watkins, (At an American Christian Writers conference) and I thought it went great! He gave me a lot to think about, and some encouragement! He helped me to think about things I never thought of before, and gave me some new angles to work with. I'd say it was worth it! Yes, I was nervous, but he was really nice and didn't bite. :) Definitely go for it if you have the opportunity!

  2. Great advice, Edie. As you said, even if you don't have anything to pitch at the moment, it's still good to make that connection and then act like a professional. That editor or agent or author you meet today may eventually be the very person you submit to years later. Many--if not MOST--of the editors, agents, and authors I work with today are people I met at a writer's conference!

  3. I enjoyed every 15 minute appointment I had last year at BRMCWC. One of my fondest moments was waiting for one appointment. I stood near Dr. Donn Taylor, poet extraordinaire. I had written tons of poetry as a youth/young adult and had been selected to attend a retreat/workshop as a teen. The woman I'd had an appointment with there was a highly respected local poet. She basically told me I wrote emotional poetry that stunk. I had scribbled out half a poem that morning and asked Mr. Taylor if he had time to look at it. He agreed and reassured me that my poetry was quite lovely. I just needed to shorten my stanzas. His encouragement was like God washing away all of the harsh words of the critic in my past. I highly recommend looking for those few moments in the appointment room where you may be able to talk to another faculty member while waiting for your next appointment.

  4. As always, excellent advice. Thanks for all you do...

  5. Edie, you're amazing! Loving these posts and wishing I'd had them a couple of years ago. My first conference was BRMCWC, and God told me NOT to pitch, but to just sit down across from the person I wanted to be my agent and get to know them. I did that. And five months later... that's my agency! God knows what He's doing. A pitch that day would have been disastrous, because I was nowhere near as ready as I thought I was. And because I went knowing I was not to pitch, I had an amazing, relaxed, FUN conference where I learned a whole lot more than I would have had I been stressed about that appointment! People really are there to help, so much so that it amazed me. Love how the "big names" in this industry give right back!

  6. Edie, I just posted this question on the BRMCWC loop, but it's right on target here. In these 15 minute appointments, I'm curious about the one-sheet. Stand out with bright colors like your green example, or clean, clear, and "comprehendable" as Eva Marie Everson blogged? I've got a sample of both, and I don't know which to print and bring. With so many sections (tagline, blurb, contact info, bio) I feel the need to separate them visually somehow, so it's not just a query letter...but I'd love some wisdom. :) Thanks for your clear and encouraging insight. You rock!

  7. Edie, you are an amazing resource of wisdom and encouragement - especially for us newbies! I finished my "Edie" notebook yesterday so I'm officially ready to go. ha! Thank you...

  8. As a newbie at BRMCWC this year, I did everything wrong. . .EVERYTHING! No doubt you'll remember that I submitted my Christian living book in the Bible Study category. I didn't know the basics, e.g., limits on exclamation points or spaces allowed between sentences. The worst was getting lost and showing up 12 minutes late to my 15 minute speed dating appointment with David VanDiest. I wasn't even sure what an agent was or what he did but I had signed up to meet him because of his bio. So out of breath and barely able to utter an apology, I pulled out my charts and shared my heart for God. Today, despite my lack of experience, knowledge or understanding of the literary world, . . .he is my agent. God is good (Prov. 3:5-6).

  9. At a recent conference I made a last minute decision to sign up for a read and critique by a bestselling author. I almost didn't do it because I felt my work wasn't ready. I am so glad I didn't let those fears hold me back! I was blown away by the words of encouragement and praise for my work she shared. Not only did I get some great suggestions for making my work stronger, but I had the opportunity to discuss our industry and glean insights into what it's like once your book sells - the demands on your time and the tricks of promotion. I can't put into words how valuable those 20 minutes were. This particular conference didn't offer appointments of the nature you are referring to in this post, Edie, but I can tell from my read and critique experience that those sort of appointments are about so much more than just pitching a book. I wholeheartedly agree with your advice, Edie, to sign up whenever you can and don't let nerves get in the way. Oh! And make sure you take notes if not during, then immediately afterward before moving on to something else. You won't want to forget the advice you received!