Write Like a Pro: Sell Yourself to an Agent or Editor

Mary Andonian

By Mary Andonian

You have two ways to sell yourself to an agent or editor: either mail your query letter to her (as I discussed last month) or approach her at a writers’ conference. Here’s how to make the most of your in-person sell.

First, dress to kill! Invest in a comfortable but savvy business outfit. You don’t want to go into a pitch session feeling self-conscious about your appearance. When I worked in the training and development field, my boss once said, “Ninety percent of making the sale involves dressing well, showing up on time, and smelling good.”

Next, bring that query packet you worked on with you to your pitch session. When you begin your pitch, have it sitting next to you on the table. You can even open it up and refer to some of its content if you’d like.

Your pitch should start with a statement about the book you’re proposing:

“My book is called [name of your book]. It’s a [short description that includes the section of the bookstore where your book will go].”

Describe a sample chapter. “For example, one of my chapters is about [give an example]. [Pose a question about your topic]? [Then answer it with info from your chapter].”

Next, tell them what’s unique and different about your book. You learn this by comparing your book to others in the same section of the bookstore. “[Give a short summary list of why your book is unique and different from what’s already in print].”

Then, explain why you’re the best person to write the book. “I have [xyz] years experience in [your book’s area of expertise]; first as a [tell how you got started], then as a [tell how far you’ve advanced in your field]. I’ve even [mention something unique about your experience].”

Answer questions. If you don’t have the answer you think they want, offer up a reason why you’re the right person to write the book.

Finally, close with an offer to send more. “I brought a proposal package.” (Refer to the lovely packet at your side.) “Would you like to take it with you, or may I mail it?” (Otherwise known as the assumptive close.)

Smile and shake hands. As casual as a writers’ conference may seem, you’ll stand out from the pack if you maintain a professional demeanor worthy of a Fortune 500 board meeting.
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Mary Andonian is the agents and edtiors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference, one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. Contact Mary at maryandonianwwconference AT yahoo.com.
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1 Response to “Write Like a Pro: Sell Yourself to an Agent or Editor”


  1. 1 Stephanie June 22, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I just participated in a Pitch Slam at the BEA/Writer’s Digest Conference and it was a fantastic experience.


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