I was mildly surprised and more than mildly delighted when I received an email from a reader asking how I handle nerves when I’m around editors or agents. When did I become an expert?
But really, I have had a small bit of experience in interacting with agents and editors and highly successful authors. Last June I sat down with David Morrell and had a conversation about ebooks. David Morrell wrote Rambo. He’s Rambo’s dad. But more important than who his character is? He’s an incredibly insightful, intelligent person and if I hadn’t looked past my jitteriness and just talked to him, I wouldn’t know that.
Same with editors and agents. My personal rules for engaging with an editor or agent:
1. Be on time. I hate it when people are late, like their time is worth than mine, so I don’t like to do it to others.
2. Be prepared. Have a pitch, know your work, bring a business card at least, even if you don’t expect to hand it out. Better to be prepared (and think positive!).
3. Say hello and ask questions. This also might fall into the “treat them like humans” category. Everyone likes to be put at ease. I asked questions of an agent once (out of nerves mostly), and learned that he coaches soccer at my sons’ rival school. That might not be a good thing for me, but it was fun to laugh with the agent.
4. Be friendly and polite, but above all, be yourself and professional. If this person chooses to represent your work you don’t want them to figure out you’ve misrepresented yourself. Hopefully you’ll have a long relationship with this person. Start it off on the right foot.
5. Always, always say thank you and send a thank you note or email.
I had the privilege to meet Janet Reid (the Query Shark) last June as well, and she is as funny in person as you suspect.