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How do you approach one-on-one critiques at conferences?

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aca

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What do you hope to get out of a one-on-one critique session (if you participate in them) at a conference?

1) Do you submit a piece that needs a professional eye so you can see how to improve it?
2) Do you submit something that you have polished and polished with the hopes that an editor or agent will be interested?
3) A little of both.
4) Neither. If so, then what are you looking for?

Also -- do you bring other work with you in the event that the critiquer asks to see more of your work?

And I'm curious -- when organizers are sorting out who gets an editor/agent/writer, what is their decision criteria? Quality of work? Match with the critiquer? Random? First come/first served? Other?

Thanks!
Abigail
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#1 - June 28, 2008, 12:51 PM
« Last Edit: June 29, 2008, 04:35 AM by aca »

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I send work that I feel is ready to submit to an editor/agent.  I don't think they see enough to be able to see how to improve it.  Not that they might not have suggestions, but 10-15 pages isn't very much to be able to get a feel for how more  than the first few pages could be improved, although they might have suggestions based on the synopsis.  Still, it's just a  1 page synopsis.  I've never had anyone say they want to see something else on the spot, although I write MG and that might happen with PB, I can't say.  I have had editors ask me what other things I've written and ask me to send them the other work.

I'm happy for any comments an editor/agent might make, but I'm hoping to pique their interest.

I suspect the person matching the author with the editors/agents is trying to match genre and editor interest first, and then moves on to first come.  I don't know why they would consider quality of work, because how do they decide which editor gets the best quality work?  Unless they try to spread it out.  I suppose that could happen.

anita
#2 - June 28, 2008, 01:36 PM

Lea

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I've submitted two PBs and an MG (1st 10 pages + synopsis) to regional AZ SCBWI conferences. I think I've always hoped for an editor's interest, but I also felt like I could walk away with some good feedback for improvement whether the editor connected with the story or not.

I've submitted work that is as polished as possible, meaning it's been through a cycle of revisions based on critique group feedback, and it has sat cold long enough for me to give it a fresh eye.  I do think editors can help guide you in revisions, but quality of feedback varies from editor to editor. One editor gave me great ideas to improve a PB, and the other (an art director) loved the PB, didn't ask me to submit it to her, and didn't have any helpful feedback for improvement.  For the MG critique, the editor connected with the voice and asked me to send her the full.

I've never brought along other WIPs, because I assumed editors wouldn't want to haul manuscripts around while traveling.

I think our AZ SCBWI submissions are sorted by genre, and I don't know if quality of work is a consideration in matching us with critiquers. But that's just a guess.

Lea



#3 - June 29, 2008, 12:41 AM

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I bring along other picture books. If there's time after the critique of the submitted work, I ask them to do a quick read of a picture book and give any quick impressions. They've always seemed willing to do that and the first impression comments are usually helpful. Laurie
#4 - June 29, 2008, 05:52 AM
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I am involved with a conference where we have crits by both editors and authors. The more polished submission are assigned to the editors, while the more "newbie" ones are assigned to the authors. This allows the potentially publishable ms's to get in front of editors and the ones that need more work to get some good feedback from authors who have "been the
#5 - June 29, 2008, 10:01 AM

Jessemi

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I've only done this once so far, but my goal was to give them the best story I had ready at the time...one I thought was worthy of subbing to a publisher.  That way I would either be validated or offered constructive crit to improve the story before sending it out.  The ms had been though several rounds of revisions in my critique groups and friends before I sent it in for the intensive.  Glad I did.  The editor gave me some great suggestions on how to strengthen the story and it is much better now that it was before.  The editor offered to look at it again if I followed her revision suggestions, and the revised story is currently buried on her desk somewhere as I type.  :smile  I'll wait to get anything other comments, should I be so lucky, before sending it out again.  But of course, I'm hoping she'll like it enough to want it for herself!
#6 - June 29, 2008, 10:25 AM

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Just to add, I work on this in a somewhat orderly fashion.  I send the partial to my critique partners before I sub to a critique group of other authors at a conference.  I do that and submit to a first page session with editors/agents before I submit to a one-on-one critique with an editor/agent.  And I try to do that (and get a full read-through, start to finish, from my CPs) before I send to editors/agents.  That way, my mss. is more and more polished as the stakes get higher.

anita
#7 - June 29, 2008, 10:46 AM

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I highly suggest submitting your Very Best Work.

Two of my pb sales were direct results of manuscript consultations.

And to answer your other questions.......

Yes, I bring other mss with me, but I would NEVER whip them out and say, "Here! Look what else I've got!" If, however, the editor asks whether or not I have brought additional work with me, I like to be prepared. :)

I believe at most conferences, if not all, the quality of work determines who will be critiquing which mss.

Best of luck! :)
#8 - June 29, 2008, 10:57 AM
« Last Edit: June 29, 2008, 11:09 AM by tammi »
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I believe at most conferences, if not all, the quality of work determines who will be critiquing which mss.

Best of luck! :)

I think I should clarify what I said before.  I think that quality may determine who critiques which mss., if the choice is between an editor and an author, but it seems odd that the people making the decisions on which editors gets which manuscript would play favorites among the editors and give the best manuscripts to certain editors. (I didn't even consider that authors may be critiquing when I made my earlier comments.  I didn't realize that was an option at some conferences.)

I think in when it's editors/agents critiquing, the people deciding use genre, editor interests, and order of receipt to make the decision.

anita
#9 - June 29, 2008, 11:49 AM

lurban

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I will agree that you should send a manuscript as polished as you have, even if you are not thinking that being paired with an editor for crit might get your foot in  the door. 

What you are trying to do is improve yourself as a writer -- not just improve this one particular manuscript.  Thus, you bring your best, learn from the suggestions made, and apply what you've learned to all your future work.  If you bring something less wonderful, you may end up fixing some problems with one manuscript, but not really stretching your skills.

As for bringing something else along, I wish I had done so for the one pro crit I had at Nationals.  Unfortunately, my crit was with another editor from the same house with which I already work.  She ended up critting a manuscript my own editor had passed on -- but asking for revisions, which I could not give her under the circumstances.  That was all accomplished during our first five minutes of crit and the rest of the time we chatted, which was lovely, but if I'd have had another manuscript with me, I might have gotten some work done.  Maybe.  Anyway, I suggest bringing it along just in case opportunity presents.

#10 - June 29, 2008, 12:30 PM

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I think if you bring something that still needs work, the critique may focus on things you might have fixed if the mss. was more polished. 

anita
#11 - June 29, 2008, 12:38 PM

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Oh, and to clarify MY answer...I meant I think the quality of the work determines if the ms will be placed with an editor or an agent vs. an author.
#12 - June 29, 2008, 12:47 PM
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aca

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Great replies . . . confirming the conclusions I had come to. I always submit a story that has been through many revisions with my critique group and has had "resting" time, but I haven't always sent my 'best' one (the one that has gotten some interest from publishers and contests.) My thinking was to give some of my other stories a chance and to see what I might do to make them better -- almost like sending out test balloons. I'm rethinking the strategy since conferences are expensive and the opportunities to sit with an editor or agent are rare.

Thanks again for the replies. I'm interested to see if anyone else has comments on his/her approach to conference one-on-ones.
Abigail
#13 - June 29, 2008, 12:48 PM

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I can answer from ONE organizers point of view:

I match manuscripts to the reviewer who requested ms in that category (i.e. pb / easy readers / nf / ya / mg / fantasy etc...). I do NOT read the mss. There is no system for certain types of mss sent to authors  and others being 'ready' for agent / editor.

Another factor in matching is the time constraints of the writer (leaving early) or the editor / agent (other duties at the workshop / conference).

Lastly when a writer makes request "My editor told me to find an agent" "I already have an agent, I'd like to be with an editor" "I'm a huge fan of this author" "X agent has already rejected my work... so I'd rather see another reviewer" I TRY my best to make it work.

I scan all mss to make sure they are in the required format but there is no way I'd have the time to read the subs!!!!



#14 - June 29, 2008, 01:09 PM
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Alison

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I guess I'm the odd one out here because I don't necessarily submit my most polished manuscript. I usually do, but sometimes I send one that I really feel the need for feedback on because I don't know what to do with it and have this one opportunity to get an editor or agent's opinion. Though of course I get it as polished as I can first, and I never send anything really rough! But it also depends on what I'm working on, how far along I am in it, and what the critiquer is interested in if I know who it's going to be and what sorts of things they like. For instance, even if my most polished manuscript is a YA chapter, if the critiquer mainly does PBs, I'll probably send a PB. And while I'd be thrilled for a critiquer to fall in love with my manuscript, I don't necessarily go in hoping they'll ask for more, because I may not have more!

That said, I have been asked for more, but I was asked to send it later by mail, not to show it to the editor immediately. I sometimes have other manuscripts with me, but have never had occasion to pull one out. I've never actually been asked for a different manuscript, but have been asked for more of a novel the critiquer saw a sample of. I've heard of some people managing to pitch different manuscripts, though, if the conversation turns in that direction.

I did just speak with someone today who sold a PB to a closed house after submitting it to an editor for critique at a conference, so I know it can happen!

As for how manuscripts get assigned to certain critiquers, different conferences and conference organizer do it differently. While it seems like many conference organizers do base some of it on perceived merit (though I've never understood who determines it or how they do so, considering the inherent subjectivity), giving the manuscripts they consider best to the editors and others to authors, my local SCBWI group nearly always does it by author choice, on a first-come, first-served basis, which I appreciate. They usually have people mark their 1st, 2nd, and possibly 3rd choices of critiquers. Where there is no author choice requested, I think it would often be done based on the interests of the critiquing editors--historical fiction to editors with a known interest in that, edgy YAs to agents who have handled a few of those, etc.


#15 - June 29, 2008, 01:55 PM
« Last Edit: June 29, 2008, 01:58 PM by Alison »

Christye

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I would have to say #3.  A little of both.  I just recently started writing seriously in the last couple of years, so I don't have many polished works and I'm eager to learn how to make my MS's better.

From what I understand in th eCarolina's SCBWI region, is that they try to match the manuscript with the best reviewer for that piece. 

I blogged about a one on one critique I had with Krista Morino from Delecorte this past April, if anyone is interested in reading about it. 

http://christyscreativespace.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-one-on-one-critique-with-krista.html
#16 - June 29, 2008, 02:19 PM

ahsitan

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I submit something I feel is polished and ready to go. I used to submit the first ten pages of novels, but recently I've started sending picture books to conference critiques. Since I know it puts the editor /agent on the spot, I no longer ask if they'd be interested in seeing my ms again. They'll ask if they want it. With the editor / agent critiques, I hope to get real feedback that will help me push my manuscripts over the rejection hump.
#17 - June 29, 2008, 04:00 PM

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I don't ask if they'd like to see more.  When they get asked, they either have to say, No, thank you, and then it could be awkward, or say sure.  If they say sure, then I mail it and wait, and then get rejected eventually.  I've wasted time and money.  If they want it, they'll ask for it. 

At conferences people get all excited if an editor/agent asks for a few pages.  I was at a conference recently and people thrilled that a couple agents had asked them for 5 pages.  I don't know why.  They could have sent 3 chapters in, just by looking at the website.  It's not like the agent was closed to submissions.  I think it was just easier for the agent to say "send 5 pages" than to say "not for me."

I try to think of these conferences (esp. when I meet with an agent) as an audition for them as well as for me.  Are the comments they make astute?  Do they make sense?  Are they taking advantage of the conference to talk to editors, esp. those they don't know?  Are they nice and personable, and kind, even to those writers they have no interest in?  Are they a prima donna?  It's very valuable to meet an agent, or see an agent in action, at these events.  I had an appt. at a conference not long ago with an agent who I thought was going to be perfect for me. 

They were.  On paper.  But not in person.  It was valuable to find that out before I queried.   

I'm getting a little off the question though, sorry. 

anita
#18 - June 29, 2008, 04:50 PM

aca

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It's interesting having a choice between PB and MG for these one-on-ones . . . I didn't have the choice before when I only wrote PBs but now I have a MG WIP. A writer in my local critique group said she thinks receiving feedback on a PB can be more helpful b/c the critiquer has the complete picture in front of him/her. On the other hand, I'm sure it can be helpful to see how an editor/agent reacts to the first 3 pages of a longer work . . .

Abigail
#19 - June 30, 2008, 06:29 AM

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At our mentoring workshops in NJ, we can submit 30 pages of a novel. That makes it even harder to make the choice to submit a 3-4 page picture book. So I tend to go back and forth between my pb and mg manuscripts. Laurie
#20 - June 30, 2008, 09:55 AM
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SuzyWilliams

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Hi guys, I'm coming in late to this thread but have been on all sides of this - submitting MS, organizing conferences, and reviewing ms as an author. I'd recommend if you have a ms that you believe is ready for publication that you submit that one - it's probably your best and you may get to talk with an editor or agent about it. Be prepared, though, to receive critical feedback and suggestions on a piece you thought was ready to go. If you are not sure you have a piece ready for publication, I'd send a piece that is very representative of the work you like to do and that you have some questions about. That way you can showcase your style and voice and at the same time get to most from your consult - you may get a good idea that will really help you. In Nevada SCBWI (I'm Co-RA) we focus on helping attendees polish their skills and move "up the ladder" in terms of what they are producing and their contacts. Don't forget, the contacts you make at conferences may be very important at a future date with a piece you haven't even created yet. And a critique with an experienced author may be more helpful in improving your manuscript than a critique with an editor. Authors have been through this themselves. If you are working on MG or YA novels I'll make an unabashed plug for our Novel Immersion Retreat this September - you'll get lots of time with both editors and writers. See www.nevadascbwi.org click Novel Immersion Retreat on the home page.  Suzy Williams
#21 - July 06, 2008, 03:41 PM

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