by Raelene Gorlinsky
The stories about awful pitch experiences are always more entertaining (see Kelli's "Pitchy Behavior" post). But there are also some good "outside the scheduled appointment time" opportunities to talk to an editor or agent about your book.
Of course, there is the most common--as Meghan says, "Buy me a drink and I'll listen to anything." Editors often congregate in the bar at conferences. They are feeling chatty and friendly. Make conversation, offer to buy a drink or a plate of munchies. Just show common courtesy--if the editor is in a group or a general conversation, don't expect her to ignore everyone else just to talk to you. Maybe you can turn the conversation to "so, what's everyone working on now?" and get all the authors present talking. Throw in your WIP description, maybe the editor will look interested and ask for more info. Or if you can get a few private moments with her, ask her if you can talk to her about your book or if you can set up a time with her to do so.
Drive the editor. This is my favorite. I greatly appreciate conferences that arrange to have someone meet me at the airport, rather than leaving me to struggle with finding a shuttle or expensive taxi. And of course while I'm in the car with you, my designated driver, I'm going to make polite conversation, starting with "What do you write?" That's your cue that I'm willing to listen. I've had authors fighting over who will take me back to the airport at the end of the conference, getting the chance to do a car pitch to me.
Feed the editor. There are always meals that are not included in the conference schedule. The editors have to eat somewhere with someone--so why not ask one if she is free to join you? This is good if there are several authors together. And it doesn't always mean you have to pick up the tab--just phrase the invitation appropriately: "would you like to join us" versus "can we take you to...". Do allow the editor time to chew and to have some general pleasant conversation; don't make the whole meal a series of book pitches.
Be kind to the editor. These are serendipitous opportunities. There was the time I arrived at a conference with a painfully damaged knee and back. An author I bumped into in the hotel lobby helped me check in and drag my luggage to my room, offered to go get me something from the lobby coffee shop, and was generally helpful when I really needed the hand. So besides thanking her profusely, I did the conversation thing: "What do you write? Got anything ready to submit?"
At the lengthy and crowded pitch appointments at an RWA National conference, I was exhausted and commented on how I really, really needed some chocolate to keep me going. A few minutes later, a man I'd seen standing in line showed up with candy bars! No, he didn't have or need a pitch appointment with me. But his wife was an author, and I had a nice chat with her when I spotted them at dinner that night--we progressed from "You have such a wonderful, considerate husband" to "So, what do you write?".
In other words, editors are normal people who appreciate kindness and helpfulness, and will try to repay that with what they have to offer--their time to talk about your book or answer your questions.