This past Saturday I sat on a panel with some big names in publishing. Besides being honored, I also enjoyed hearing the advice they had for the many writers (published and aspiring) in the crowd. I learned a lot!
From left to right that’s me, Daniel Jones (editor of the Modern Love column in The New York Times), Lisa Cheng, (my editor), Kirby Kim, a well-known literary agent, Rob Spillman, editor at Tin House literary Magazine, Susan Shapiro, author of 9 books, and Kenan Trebincevic, her co-author on The Bosnia List. What a great Saturday I had!
Here’s what I learned:
Cover letters matter, but each matter in a different way depending on the editor/agent you’re pitching. Find out what that specific editor/agent likes. Dan Jones from NYT likes them short and sweet, but agent Kirby Kim wants to see a bit more flair and detail. Customize.
Dan Jones is on a book tour. Don’t pitch him until August at the earliest.
Rob Spillman of Tin House loves beautiful language. Read Didion, et al (plus his magazine, of course) before pitching him.
It’s sort of pointless to wear uncomfortable but beautiful shoes when sitting on a panel because… draping.
Drink water before you sit down.
One of the best parts is talking to the audience members after the panel.