I am about to go to my first writing conference. I submitted my picture book manuscript to the conference director and will have a 10-minute critique session with an editor. Have you ever done this before? What should I expect when I meet with an editor?
Yes, I have attended critique sessions with editors at conferences. My best advice is to be a good listener and be prepared to jot down a few notes. But don’t get so wrapped up in making notes that you appear to ignore the editor. She will probably do one of two things: she will write comments in the margins of your manuscript, or she will provide you with a written critique (usually one-page or less). Remember that the editor is providing a general critique of your manuscript, it is not meant to be an edit, so don’t get bogged down with discussing the manuscript.
In her article, No More Piranhas!: Editors’ Thoughts on Conferences, Marilyn Singer writes: “Stephanie Lurie of Dutton, says one of her pet peeves is when ‘people expect to have an in-depth discussion of a manuscript they brought along or submitted recently’.” Singer’s article provides a unique look at writers’ conferences from the editor’s point-of-view.
Think of the experience as an audition or job interview. Some editors use these sessions to get to know writers. Do you take criticism well? If the editor is interested in your manuscript, are you willing to make any changes she suggests? Editors are also looking for writers who are prepared to market and promote their books once they are published. Be personable, but not overbearing. If the editor isn’t interested in the manuscript you submitted, take the opportunity to briefly pitch another project and ask if you can submit it.
Also, be sure to read Debbie Ridpath-Ohi’s article, Networking and Promotion Through Writers’ Conferences. You’ll find some excellent suggestions to help you make the most of your conference experience.