Tips from the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature
DO pack a goody bag with selected items you'd like to show your mentor, such as a work-in-progress, a cover letter that you wish to fine tune, an editorial letter that you don't quite understand.
DO set specific goals that can be accomplished in a short meeting. Plan productive questions:
DON'T forget some business cards to share with the new friends you'll make.
DO find friendly faces and introduce yourself. Mix. Mingle.
DON'T wait for people to come to you.
DO keep in mind that all mentors are volunteering their time--you are not receiving a paid service.
DO expect advice to help you move toward the next level of your professional development.
DON'T expect a close line edit of your work.
DON'T expect your editor or agent mentor to take on your work, nor your author or illustrator mentor to recommend you to his or her editor or agent.
DO contribute to the conversation. Ask questions about writing, illustrating, and publishing. Share your helpful opinions and experiences.
DON'T monopolize or discourage.
DO introduce yourself to members of the RUCCL--we're eager to meet you!
DO feel free to approach an editor or agent who you believe will like your work because you feel you understand her tastes based on familiarity with the list she edits and/or the opinions you've heard her express at One-on-One Plus. Ask for a business card so you can submit a manuscript later. Get permission to submit if the house has a policy of not reading unsolicited manuscripts.
DON'T launch into a lengthy pitch describing your project unless the editor or agent asks you to do so.
DON'T ask any editor to take your manuscript home from the conference! (Notice that was a big don't.)
DO follow up on new friend connections and follow through with submitting work to appropriate contacts.
DO learn more about the profession by reading journals such as The Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and by visiting the websites of the Children's Book Council, The Children's Literature Web Guide, and The Purple Crayon. They in turn will guide you to other resources.
DO be an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
DON'T send submissions out willy-nilly to all the editors on the mentor list--DO your homework on them.
Attending the conference does not, in and of itself, guarantee a later reading of an unsolicited submission at the office of any participating mentor.
Our editor and agent mentors, who volunteer their time at the conference, represent over forty publishers and literary agencies, each with their own often-changing submission policies. DO make connections at the conference, DO research first, DO send queries. DON'T just mail a submission with "Rutgers" written on the envelope unless the recipient has indicated that's acceptable.