What Does the Editor Want?

When I attended my very first writer’s conference, I clutched my manuscript in my hands. I prayed and hoped that some editor in some publishing house would want to publish my book.

At one point during the conference, a woman walked up to me. I had seen her before but I didn’t really know her. To this day I still don’t know who she was. She told me, “I scheduled an appointment for you to speak to an editor.”

I was shocked. Who was this lady? And why had she dared to do such a thing? I sputtered my confusion and she advised me simply, “Go to the appointment and just find out what the editor wants.”

Not sure what to expect, I silenced my objections and went to the appointment. After chatting a moment, I remembered the lady’s words of advice. “Um,” I started, clearing my throat. “Um, what kind of books are you looking for?”

The editor paused for a moment and then explained that she’d really like to see a craft book written for elementary students in a new series she was planning. Crafts didn’t really interest me, but by that point I tossed all caution to the wind. I asked her to clarify exactly what she needed. For the rest of our appointment, she explained the types of crafts she liked and what she wanted to see in a proposal for this book. By the end of the meeting, much to my surprise, I had volunteered to try to put together a proposal for the book she wanted.

That is how I landed my very first book contract. And that is also how I stumbled upon some of the very best advice I ever received: Don’t just try to sell your own manuscript. Learn to ask, “What does the editor want?”

I’ve landed more book contracts because I have first tried to find out what the editor wants. Either at conferences or through queries, this strategy produces results. Try it and see what kind of results happen for you!

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders


6 responses to “What Does the Editor Want?

  1. The article was informative but the thing that intriqued me most was the person who signed you up for an appointment. The Bible talks of entertaining angels unaware. Maybe this was one of those incidents!


  2. Thanks, Nancy. What a novel idea! (oops! no pun intended.)

    BTW – Write2Ignite is back on the calendar. Feb. 26-27, 2010. PTL!


  3. I agree, Gloria! Don’t we serve an amazing God? -Nancy

  4. Jean–Congratulations on your upcoming conference!!!! -Nancy

  5. shirleyshibley

    That’s quite a story, Nancy! I wonder if any other writers can say they were signed up like that. Amazing, but I’m not surprised. God has used you in special, productive ways.


  6. Yes! I really relate to your story, Nancy. It was at one of my early SCBWI conferences that an editor spent time with me talking about what she was looking for. I was so nervous — and probably chattered like a little monkey — but I came away with a pile of notes and ended up writing 7 books for that company. It does pay to listen!


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