Q. How do I prepare in case I get the opportunity to actually speak with an editor at as conference or by phone?
A. The reality is that most editors will not speak to writers by phone, so your chances of speaking to one at a conference is much more likely—provided you are attending writer's conferences. However, the preparations would be much the same in either case. Before phoning an editor, check their listing in the market guide or their writers' guidelines to see if it indicates they accept phone calls from writers. If not, do not try to call them. It is unlikely you would get through, and it would only irritate them if you did. If they do accept calls, be sure you go in prepared. Study the publication/publisher and their guidelines to be sure they are a good fit for your writing project. Spend some time on their Website. If you're not fairly sure it is a match, don't waste their time or yours. When you call, it might be wise to ask for their assistant first. Tell the assistant what you want and ask if you can speak to the editor directly. The assistant may ask you to make an appointment for the call if the editor is busy or not in the office.
If you are calling a book editor, ask the assistant which editor handles your genre and how to reach that editor. If you get through to the appropriate editor, be prepared to describe your book in as clear and straightforward a manner as possible. Include why you think this publisher is a good match, as well as what qualifies you to write the book (if nonfiction).
If the editor asks to see your submission, ask if he/she wants it be snail mail or e-mail, confirm the correct spelling of his/her name, and how long you can expect to wait to hear back about your submission. Make a note of that date and if you have not heard back by that time, e-mail a polite request for an update on the current status of your submission.