Monday, February 9, 2015

Make the Most of Those Fifteen-Minute Appointments

Today's guest is author and editor Cindy Sproles. Leave a comment below and you will have a chance to win a copy of her new book, Mercy's Rain. Be sure to check back next week to see if you won.

By Cindy Sproles

As conference time nears, conferees dig down and prepare to meet one-on-one with publishers, agents, and editors. The wonderful advantage of attending a conference is this “free-card” to meet face-to-face with industry professionals. The publishing market has tightened to the point of strangulation. Publishers are overworked and understaffed, so to meet with them at a conference is an amazing opportunity.

During these meetings, publishers (and agents) will extend an open-door opportunity for writers to submit their work directly to them during a specific time frame. Does this increase your opportunity for publication? Somewhat.

What are the advantages of the fifteen-minute appointment? Believe it or not, a lot can be accomplished in fifteen minutes. Publishers and agents are looking for individuals who can be concise. Sitting across the table from these folks offers writers the opportunity to pitch their work, develop a relationship, and to network—which increases your opportunity at publication. Don’t misunderstand. Increased opportunity and the promise of publication are two different things. If a publisher requests your proposal, it’s not a promise to publish it; it is merely an opportunity to look at the work—an opportunity a writer may not otherwise get for several years.

Make the most of your fifteen minutes:
  • Come Prepared.
  • Bring a business card.
  • Have a one-sheet.
  • Come with paper and pen.
  • Have a list of questions you’d like to ask.
  • Be ready to spit out your pitch.
When you sit across from a publishing professional, don’t find yourself upside down, digging in your briefcase for things. For lack of better words, when your backside hits that chair, the items listed above should land on the desk.

Why choose an appointment time? This is the one time a writer can obtain a free-card. During conferences, publishers and agents (who are snowed under with manuscripts), allow writers to send unsolicited work to them. Most publishers offer a time frame (maybe six months to a year) for conferees to submit work to them for review. This in itself is a prime opportunity.

Follow these steps for your fifteen-minute appointment:
  • Set your watch on the table and be courteous. WATCH THE TIME. Others are waiting.
  • Have your business card and one-sheet ready.
  • Introduce yourself and shake hands. Handshakes say a lot about a person. So have a firm handshake, not a fishy one.
  • Don’t babble. Some professionals will want to know a tidbit about you—not a life history. Rather, your length of time writing, your genre, and your passion.
  • Practice your pitch. Know what you want to say before you sit down. I’ve lovingly said, “You should be able to bolt upright from a dead sleep and spout off your pitch.”
  • If the professional wants to read your one-sheet, please be courteous and be quiet. Let them read. The more you talk, the more you eat away that fifteen minutes.
  • Should the publishing professional offer you constructive criticism … be gracious. Don’t be offended, be thrilled. You’re getting free, professional advice from folks who know the business.
  • Finally, understand before you sit down that if the publisher or agent wants your work, they will ask. Sometimes the opportunity to “not ask” is a gentle way to say no without hurting your feelings. So don’t ask them if you can send them your proposal. If they are interested, they will ask.
Remember, the fifteen-minute appointment is a prime opportunity to network. Many authors pick up freelance work and special projects from publishers from these appointments. Publishers meet you, see your abilities, and remember you when a special project opens. You may be the certain someone who might fill the bill. These appointments are more than just pitching one piece of your work. You’re pitching yourself and your abilities. You are a whole package, not just one project. Keep that in mind as you meet with publishing professionals.

Things to do ahead of time:
  • Research the editors, publishers, and agents at the conference and pick the ones who represent the genre you write. Prepare your pitch accordingly.
  •  Make your one-sheet (see instructions below).
  • Get business cards. They don’t have to be fancy. You can even make a business card on your computer so professionals can make notes on the back. A photo will help them remember you.
One-Sheet Requirements:
  • Title, genre, word count, completion date.
  • One to three solid paragraphs that summarize your book (think back of the book text).
  • A SHORT bio and your photo, agent information, or your contact information.
  • ALL DONE ON THE FRONT OF ONE SHEET—hence the name.

Follow these guidelines and make the most of your fifteen-minute appointment.


Cindy Sproles is the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries. She’s an author, popular speaker and teacher at conferences, and a writing mentor. Cindy serves as the Executive Editor of,, and is the Managing Editor for SonRise Books and Straight Street Books with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is the author of New Sheets–Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be and Mercy’s Rain–An Appalachian Novel. Visit Cindy at


  1. Can't wait to get my copy of Mercy's Rain. I've been waiting a long time for it. Thanks for the refresher on my 15 minutes. I definitely need that watch, with a large dial. lol I could talk all day, as you know.

    1. Look forward to seeing you too Karen. Thanks for reading this post.

  2. Thanks for the great advice, Cindy. My writers group has a book almost ready to pitch at the next conference we go to so I appreciate the tips. We'll work on a one sheet so we'll be ready.

    1. One sheets are very helpful. Not only do they help you remember what your pitch is, they also serve as the chocolate for the editors. They take it home and want more.

  3. Looks like you've covered it all, Cindy. I love your advice that we should be able to bolt upright from a dead sleep and spout off our pitches.

    1. Thanks Tracy. Ever so true. If we don't believe in our work enough to know that pitch, who else will?

  4. Cindy, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. You've impacted my life in many wonderful ways. Thank you. I can't wait to read Mercy's Rain. Congrats on a job well done!

    1. Thanks Nan. I look forward to seeing you at Boot Camp.


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