We are delighted to welcome Tracy Hartshorn to the blog. Some of you will know her as author, Sally Quilford. We asked Tracy to explain to members how they should approach publishers and agents at RNA events.
As the RNA Party organiser, I get asked lots of questions from guests about how to approach agents and editors. I’ve put together an FAQ list which I hope will help everyone.
I don’t know how to behave in front of publishers and agents. What do I do?
It might be hard to believe, but publishers and agents are people too, and are more than happy to strike up a conversation at the RNA party. However, instead of starting a discussion with ‘Will you take my book?’ begin by asking them how they are, and/or if they’re enjoying the party. They come to the party to network, and they honestly won’t bite if you strike up a friendly conversation with them.
How do I bring up the subject of my book?
Ask them what they’re looking for, and then if you think your book is a good fit, ask them if they’d be interested in hearing about it. Work out a bit of a pitch (just a few lines of what your work is about) before you arrive. Don’t be too pushy if they’re not interested and don’t monopolise them until they change their minds. If their company doesn’t publish Vampire Zombie romances, then you’re not going to persuade them to give yours a try.
Should I bring my manuscript to the party with me?
It’s best not to. Imagine if you were an editor/agent who had gone to a party after work and just ten of the guests wanted to hand you their 200 page manuscripts. That’s four reams of paper you have to carry home on the train with you. It isn’t going to endear agents/editors to an author, and it’s also a good way of losing manuscripts. If an agent or editor is interested in your work, they’ll usually give you their card and tell you their preferred method of submission (usually email or post).
Can you email me a list of who is attending so I can research them before I go?
Whilst it’s generally a good idea to research publishers and agents, it’s my policy not to email lists of guests prior to a party as I would need the permission of those involved in order to do that. Plus, the information is changing all the time, so I couldn’t guarantee it would remain relevant. I do, however, put a printed list of editors and agents in attendance on the reception table on the night to help guests who are looking for anyone in particular (the difference being that the printed list is disposable once the night is over and can’t be forwarded to everyone in a contact list). Besides, it is much better to go back to the gist of my first answer and simply strike up a friendly conversation with editors and/or agents. The RNA parties are an informal networking event, so no one expects you to know everything about them or their publishing house or agency.
The main thing to remember is to have a good time. If you’re relaxed, it’s going to make your experience of meeting editors and agents that much more pleasurable.
Thank you, Tracy. That does make things much clearer.
Elaine & Natalie