Monday, April 18, 2016

Advice on Pitching at Conventions/Conference

So, I was stoked when I was invited to Panel at RT Booklovers Convention 2016. It wasn't until I'd gotten all the "work" details sorted that I realized I would be attending it post-release, agentless, and with a new project to shop. I immediately became terrified. After all, what better place to meet and chat with agents and editors? But that would mean, you know, pitching.

After several weeks of ensuring my projects would be polished enough, I made a vow to myself:

I will wear my Big Girl Panties. I will take opportunities that present themselves. I will not back out for fear of annoying someone. I will not wallflower out of fear of failing. I will try.

And after taking the opportunity to pitch three editors and seven agents, and receiving nine requests for my material, I have the following to say:

All the advice I've read from agents and editors in the past is true.

So I won't reheat the tasty morsels as if I was the chef. I will just regurgitate the meal for you:

1. Publishing professionals really do expect to be pitched while at these events. Except in the bathroom. (Google it. It's a thing. And not a good one). Don't hesitate. Do ask if they have time, unless the event you're at is specifically for pitching (then see point 3.)

2. Editors and Agents really do want to see if your project is a good one. So they will listen when you talk. As long as your talking is polite and professional. And within the parameters of point 3.

3. They really do want you to be brief. So you better know how to boil your book down to 20-30 seconds of words. Maximum. If they want more information, they'll ask. If they don't ask... Well, you have your answer.

4. Be prepared to pitch at any moment. Literally. (One of my friends ended up being introduced to two agents in a bar at two in the morning. Opportunity? If you're sober enough....)

5. No one has time for pulling you out of your shell. Either you want this, or you don't. When an editor turns to you and says "What are you working on?" they aren't being nice. They don't want you to apologize, or qualify, or prevaricate. They want you to pitch your project. (See point 3.)

6. The only way you can achieve point 4 is to prepare ahead. Seriously. At the advice of an agent blog I carried with me at all times:
- One sheets for the two projects I was shopping that included contact details, pitch, blurb, and author bio.
- My business card
- My pitch notes (Bullet list of what I needed to cover regarding my experience/background).
- A notebook/wallet. (Because when one agent gives you their card and says "Send me the first three chapters + summary, and another says "send me the full ms" you better send the right material to the right person!)

7. Professionalism goes a long way. In the end this is a business. No matter that we're selling creative work, the professionals you deal with to help you reach your goals are business people. They dress like business people. They keep business hours. They relate, at least initially, on a professional, slightly formal level. Don't show up in jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt. But you also don't have to wear a suit. Look polished, in whatever style is yours. Make eye contact. Shake hands. Don't apologize for yourself. In short: Own it. Own your project, own your experience (or lack thereof). Own your goals.

In the end, there will be falls and failures. But you can't get good at this stuff until you've tried it, figured out what didn't work, and tried again.

This is not an industry for the faint-hearted. Yes, it's scary. Yes, there are lots of opportunities to fall on your face. But there is also potential to see doors open.

You can't walk through unless you knocked first.

Your Turn: Have you ever pitched professionals face-to-face? Any advice? Or any questions for what that looked like for me?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

VEGAS BABY! Are you coming?

Join me for two events in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 14th:

I'm appearing at the RT Booklovers Convention for the You're Never Too Old for YA panel at 11:15am. Come and join my table, we'll have a blast!

And that evening, from 7:00-8:00pm, I'm part of this awesome romantic author reading and signing event at The Writer's Block, 1020 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 89101

Be there, or miss out on being photobombed by me. Your loss...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Danger of Comparisons

During a conversation with a dear author friend (who happens to be VERY successful), the issue of comparisons was raised. My friend commented that no matter how far along her author journey she traveled, she was still vulnerable to comparing herself, her work, her achievements with other authors.

At first I was flabbergasted, spluttering  "'re a REAL bestseller!"

Of course, having reached those ranks, she's now friends with many other bestsellers. She still finds weaknesses in her own writing. She still has projects that don't reach the heights expected by her publisher. She still, at times, feels inadequate.

Just like me. And, I'm guessing, just like you.

It got me thinking: When I first started writing for publication (and frankly, to this day) I constantly ran into writers who were so much better than me. When I first looked for an agent, there were friends who got agents sooner, faster, easier... When my book went out to editors, there were writers who got contracts. And not just nice contracts like mine, but big offers that came faster, better, with fewer obstacles than mine. 

And now I'm staring down the barrel of my third book as a firmly midlist author while many friends books sell more, or their contracts get bigger instead of staying steady. Or they turn out five books in two years so their income is much higher.

I realized that I give it any thought at all, it quickly becomes clear that no matter what stage of the writing journey I am in, there is always someone further ahead, more talented, or more successful.

Is there anything to gain by comparing ourselves to others who've done better? (Or conversely, to others who've done worse?).

I think not. 

I'm not going to feed you platitudes about us all being in this together, or sharing the joys and trials of your fellow authors. We definitely do share the ups and downs--and no one is more empathetic about the journey than other writers. But the fact is, there will always be people and projects you and I can point to and say "I'm crap", or those we can point to and say "I'm not doing so bad..."

So, I want to tell you that there is no comparison. No one else wrote your book. No one else created your world. No one else's audience is exactly the same.

The question can't be about whether someone else is more successful or has a better fan club. Because their fanclub adores THAT book.

The thing you and I need to focus on isn't whether or not some other writer wrote a better book. Because I write for my audience, and you write for yours. Neither of us writes for theirs. The question we really need to ask is whether or not we've done the best for our readers.

Have I worked hard to get the technical aspects right, to better deliver my world to my reader?

Have I made sure that someone who hasn't heard me explaining characters and talking plot for the past six months can follow my story?

Have I done the best research to ensure my characters are realistic in their motives, their reactions, their intents?

Have I written the story I'm urged to write. Not the one I think will WIN?

Then the only comparison can be with my own work. 

Is this book better than the last one? Is this book in the very best shape I'm capable of molding? 

If the answer is yes, then that is winning.

Goals are good. Dreams should be pursued. But there are just too many things in this industry that we can't control. 

The only thing firmly in my hands is whether or not I'm still growing and developing. Whether I'm the best writer I'm capable of being, for my personal audience.

And for today, at least, I say "Yes. Yes, I am."

Can you?

Your Turn: What's the hardest thing about your current point in the writing journey?