Back again! I’ve been out of town for a while. My boss flew me to an outdoor retailer’s conference in Utah. My job is to look for new products to bring into Alberni Outpost (a sporting goods store) and meet with reps from the lines we do carry. As a buyer, I’ve been learning a lot about the world of business lately and it struck me that no matter what industry you’re in, whether writing or outdoor retail, the structure seems to be the same.
As a buyer combing though hundreds of booths looking for the next magic product to bring into my store, I think I might have gained some insight into what it might be like to be an agent looking for the next great book. This is what I’ve learned:
You have to be passionate about your product and aware of what else is out there. You have to have a wide market appeal but at the same time your product needs a unique twist to make it stand above the competition. The story behind the product is important- why do you do what you do? Even though the fiction industry is firstly about entertainment, you still need a reason to write- a platform to stand on and build on. Draw from that place of truth, know WHY you do what you do. If it’s just to make money you probably won’t make it.
If you cut corners in production it shows.
Interpersonal relationships are essential. Even though you’re selling a product, integrity and up-front honesty will make or break a deal. Don’t lie- but at the same time believe in your product. If you sell yourself well, people will look harder to find a reason to support you.
Sometimes a sales rep will present a product many times over before it catches on. (It often takes at least 3X of showing a new product to a buyer before they catch the vision) If you give up too quickly, a buyer who may have been considering your product will think that you dropped the idea/manuscript because you found something wrong with it. Don’t give up.
Be teachable and willing to innovate. Change with the times, be flexible and fresh. Don’t crumple under criticism. If it’s an agent or editor (buyer) understand that they are one step closer to the consumer than you are and represent the current demand that they see. I would suggest taking notes and gleaning through the feedback for consistent comments.
Finally, don’t burn your name. If you present something before it’s ready or underdeveloped it will be much harder to win back the buyer the second time around- even if your product it amazing.
So that’s what I learned on my trip. On a side note, I made a really cool connection with the owner of an outdoor clothing line who has now asked me to present some writing samples. If he likes them, he’s going to hire me to do the writing for his line and his catalogue. ( http://www.sherpaadventuregear.com/ )It was a reminder to me that you never really know where you’re next break is going to come from. It’s important to never brush someone off and to remain consistent, genuine and passionate wherever you are.
So now I switch hats. I’ve got a manuscript and I’m looking for a buyer. My heart is pumping. I only hope I can apply everything I’ve learned… be still my nervous beating heart!