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