If you don’t already have a meeting scheduled with an editor, you may just have to “cold call” at the conference. But how?
The simple answer is to pick a person who obviously works there and open with this:
“I’d like to talk with an editor about a book project. Can you lead me in the right direction?”
But as with many things that are simple on the surface, the devil is in the details.
Use a phrase like “book project” or “book idea.” Definitely don’t walk into the booth and start talking about your dissertation or, almost as bad, the conference proceedings you want to publish as an edited collection.
- Your dissertation served its purpose; you have the Ph.D. If there is a kernel of a book in your dissertation, transforming it into a book will require some serious rewriting. (Yes, really. Yes, even if your advisers told you to write the dissertation as much like a book as possible.) So talk about the book you want it to be and leave the dissertation safely in your grad-school past.
- Edited books are hard to sell. People—readers—tend to think of them as repetitive, rangy, and random. So they’re less likely to buy them, making editors less likely to acquire them. But some books actually benefit from the contributions of diverse scholars. Focus on the idea of the book as a whole, not the fact that it is edited.
- The conference was great for exploring a subject, even pushing the boundaries of our thinking about it. But the papers are just that: conference papers. Not chapters. They will need revision. You will also probably need to cut some papers and solicit others. Your goal should be to create a cohesive and comprehensive edited book—one that will overcome our ingrained resistance to edited books—so talk about the book, not the conference.
Beyond the lingo to use, let’s talk briefly about tone.
You already understand how important the department secretary is, and you make an effort to be friendly and respectful—right? The same applies here.
The person you picked to approach at the publisher’s booth may be the editor you need to meet. She may be the publisher. She may be a marketing person. She may be an assistant in the editorial or marketing department. She may be a hired hand.
Regardless, the conversation will continue on a better note—and she will remember you more favorably—if you don’t accidentally convey that you think she is merely a bit player.
Next time: what your second line should (and shouldn’t) do.