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How We Snagged Our Book Deals: Conferences! (part 1)

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it: pitch your book in person to an editor, agent, or art director (or perhaps all three) during a conference or event. If this sounds scary, that’s because it is. But trust us, meeting people, whether in person or over a virtual call, sells manuscripts. A few of us here at Twenty-One for the Books found homes for our manuscripts through this intimidating process. In this post, we’re sharing three insights into the experience. And with SCBWI’s Winter Conference just around the corner (February 19-21, 2021), it’s time to get your best pitch ready and be bold!

Buffalo Wild! by Deidre Havrelock (September, 2021) got the attention of an editor from Annick Press when Deidre participated in an “Ask an Editor” event at the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP) annual conference. Deidre received excellent editing suggestions from the editor and when she asked if she could submit the edited manuscript she was told, “Of course!” Four months later, Deidre signed a contract with Annick.

I sent the same manuscript to this editor a year prior and she had declined. But I knew my book was a perfect fit for Annick so I wanted to try again. When I saw the editor’s name listed in the event at CANSCAIP, I thought this is my chance! Her suggestions for improving my book were spot-on. I followed every one of them and then resubmitted. She loved the changes and said, “Yes!”

Rebecca Kraft Rector presented her story, Squish Squash Squished (February, 2021)a twenty-year-old manuscript that she still believed in—at the Super Children’s Book Boot Camp at the Highlights Foundation. However, she didn’t show her work to just one editor, she had to read her story to a panel consisting of an editor, agent, and art director.

The only way I got through the ordeal—oops, I mean opportunity—was by pretending I was reading to one of my storytime groups and those scary publishing people were no taller than my knees. A week later, I had an agent and publisher!

Phaea Crede attended the 2018 New England SCBWI Agent/Editor Day in Massachusetts where each writer sat with one agent or editor, shared a story, and received feedback. At the end of the day, agents and editors explained what they were looking for with an open invitation for writers to submit manuscripts. Lisa Rosinski of Barefoot Books was one of the editors. After listening to Lisa, Phaea decided to submit her picture book Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) (May, 2021). This happened to be a different manuscript than the one she had shared during the event. Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) was a perfect fit for Barefoot Books and the rest is history!

Editors are not scary gatekeepers who hold their power over you! They are just regular people who love books like you love books. So, don't be scared, but do be professional! This is a business after all (which makes any feedback totally not personal).


  • Prepare a short pitch that you can memorize.

  • Practice your pitch with friends or family members.

  • Be able to communicate what you love about your story.

  • Look for events where you are given face-to-face time with editors, agents, or art directors.

  • Choose the right person for your manuscript.

  • If someone shows interest in your work remember to ask the BIG question: May I send you my manuscript?

  • Don’t forget to breathe.



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