Written by Shirley McKee
There will be a time when you will have opportunities to meet with editors and agents. The Professional Attitude is more important now than at any other time. A meeting with an editor should begin with eye contact and a firm handshake. If you are proposing a book, be able to summarize the book in one or two sentences, including the genre. They will tell you never to be negative, but what I’m going to say will sound negative.
Do not, I repeat, do not talk to editors or agents about an unfinished manuscript. They will immediately be turned off. And for good reason. A professional will begin his or her description by saying, “I have a (genre) complete at approximately (word count) concerning (description briefly).”
You should, as a professional, be able to wrap up your interview in as little as five to ten minutes and, if you have that Professional Attitude, you will most likely get an invitation to send the editor or agent the first couple of chapters, and eventually, the entire manuscript. It’s all in the quality of the writing itself and the way you approach them.
I would add another admonition here. Don’t take your completed manuscript with you and offer it to them. Most editors and agents have flown to your conference and cannot be carrying heavy manuscripts back with them. Part of the professional attitude is consideration. Better to go home and mail the chapters they’ve requested with a notation on the outside of the mailer “Requested Material.” They will thank you for it. Be prepared to answer their questions about your book with brief, concise responses.
Believe me, they are constantly harassed by the unprofessional and will appreciate meeting a writer with the professional attitude.Dress for success, not necessarily tailored, but neat, not gaudy and comfortable. Never ever say “I’m a writer, but I’m not published yet.” Simply say, “I’m a writer.” If they ask, “are you published,” answer, “I’m currently working on a (book, article, whatever) and there are several magazines or publishers interested.” I hope you all will adopt the professional attitude and be published in the very near future.
Professionalism is much more than being paid for writing. It’s an attitude that carries us through each minute of each day. When someone asks what we do, writers should hold our heads high and say, “I’m a professional writer.”
Shirley McKee is a former police detective and investigative journalist. Now retired, she teaches creative writing in two Texas school systems and is working on her first mystery novel which is in its final edit. She has over 400 articles and short stories published in magazines, not to mention her journalism publication. Her awards number over 1,000. She loves nothing more than meeting with other writers and sharing ideas and tips.