I was sharing in the Writing for Children Facebook Group (previously the Mentors for Rent Facebook Group) about some submissions I was making, and how some were to editors I have relationships with and others were to editors I’ve never had contact with. Several folks had questions, and I said I would share a bit more about these relationships–how they start and how they work–for me, anyway.
How Do They Start?
- Often in-person meeting at conference or event. I have developed relationships with editors who critiqued my work or who I heard speak at conferences. An in-person meeting is a great place to start.
- Speaking together at events. Being a speaker puts you on a professional level, so you’re slightly more on even ground. There are often speakers-only events at conferences, too—cocktail parties or whatnot. Those chance for conversation help you both get a feel for whether you might work together well.
- One editor I submit to regularly was the judge for a writing fellowship—I didn’t win but got an honorable mention. Actually, now that I think about it, this was a few years after she critiqued a picture book manuscript for me at the annual L.A. SCBWI conference. Recently, I got another honorable mention for this same fellowship (different judge), so that opened up a new relationship.
- Repeated personal feedback on your slushpile submissions. A few of my editorial relationships have come about simply from personal rejections. They reject my manuscript but say nice things and invite future submissions. Or they even take a manuscript to acquisitions. If the manuscript gets acquired, we clearly are building a relationship. But even the times a manuscript doesn’t get acquired, an editor has shown that he or she believes in your writing. This leads to more submissions.
- Social media can also be a starting place—if you’re good on social media. I tend to be kind of awkward on it, so for me, it’s secondary. I do follow many editors on Twitter and such, but I’m not active (or interactive, really) enough to build relationships there. At least not at first. But if you’re skillful at social media, this is definitely an opportunity to stack the tiniest relationship building blocks.
- Remind them of your previous contact—I never assume they will know who I am! I’ll say, “We met at NCTE last November when I stopped by ______’s signing at your booth.” Or, “We had a great conversation last month on Twitter about the pros and cons of glossaries in picture books, and I…”
- Follow their lead in taking it to slightly more personal level (vacations, families, etc.). Wait until they mention anything outside of the strictly business/publishing realm before you share anything likewise.
- Follow up an in-person meeting with an actual paper note. Not a submission—just a “so nice to meet you at…” I don’t do that frequently enough, but editors really appreciate it when I do. Who doesn’t love getting something other than a bill or a work task for a change?
- Study what kinds of books they actually acquire! A ya publisher is not going to buy your nature poetry collection for preschoolers just because you enjoyed mojitos at ALA.
- Submit your work through normal channels—email or snail mail. Not under a bathroom stall. Not during a cocktail party. Not as a dm on Twitter.
- When awards are named, if you know the editor of an honored book, give them a shoutout, via social media or a brief email (if you are at the email stage).
- Maybe send a holiday card if the relationship has progressed to the point where they’ve expressed the hope that you’ll find a project to work together on someday.
- Be patient. Publishing moves slowly. Relationships take years to build.
- Value the editors for who they are and the work they already do, not just for what you hope they might someday do with your own manuscript!
Don’t Do This
- Don’t make them sorry they agreed to look at your work. Be polite, not stalkerish.
- Don’t send more than one manuscript at a time unless they invite you to. It’s unprofessional, and it assumes way too much interest in your work.
- Don’t send more than one manuscript every month or two, even if they reply more quickly. I have people I don’t answer emails from right away, because if I do, I get another email from them the next day. Pace yourself so they don’t dread seeing your name on an email or an envelope.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some things…who has something to add?