Category Archives: Conference Confidence

So You Think You Have Nothing to Say?

Last month I drove an hour and a half to my first speaking engagement. I knew this day would come. The day when I couldn’t just hide behind my computer screen. The day when I would have to take my writing on the road and share everything I’ve learned as a writer so far. And sell books.

Problem is I’m an introvert at heart. Yes, those who’ve met me at a conference might want to argue this point, but I’m not one to crave the spotlight or get up and speak to a group, though I am capable and have been known to do both. Yes, even sometimes I confuse myself with my introvert-extrovert tendencies!

I guess I don’t mind speaking when I’m passionate about the topic. And writing is one thing I’m passionate about, but WHAT could I possible speak on? As a creative writing teacher to grade schoolers and teens, I know how to talk to them. Practically anything I say is brilliant. But to a room of my peers? What could I offer that they haven’t heard before?

Then I remembered I have years of speaking material on my blog. Just this year I learned how to cut my WIP from 56,000 to 21,000. Surely, I could teach others how to do the same. So I will, tomorrow!

The thought of speaking to a group may terrify some, for me, it’s just a necessary progression of this writerly life. Others like me, just have no idea how to start the speaking phase of their career. To you I say, you’re already speaking and people are listening.

Search your blog archives. Find the subjects people respond to. They could be on the craft or simply encouragement in the writing life. Look at your written words in a new and fresh way. Maybe they weren’t just meant to be read. Maybe they were meant to be spoken!

 

My ACFW Conference Journey

Since I started writing fiction seriously and pursuing publication in 2005, I never missed an ACFW conference…except last year.

Each year my motivation to attend ACFW was different. Each year I had new goals and dreams. Each year I grew as a writer and took home something specific I would need on my journey ahead.

And each year God met me at the perfect moment!

The first couple of times I attended ACFW, I went to pitch and SELL. I was focused, driven, and hardly recognized my introverted self. I had to will myself to be an extrovert, in fact, flying to my first conference I distinctly remember the moment I put on my game face. I gazed out the window, worrying about having to push out of my shell and said, “Game on.” Yes, I was a big Survivor fan at the time, but it gave me the focus I needed to play the game.

And it worked, I got multiple requests for multiple manuscripts (yet to be written, of course.) I admit I was naive and believed what I’d been hearing, that you can sell without a completed manuscript. Sure, if you’re Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins or Ted Dekker. Sadly, I was not.

Then there was the conference where I witnessed my critique partner, a newbie writer whom I had mentored some, receive a contract, before me! Oh, the pain and growth that happened that conference as God’s timing and plan for my writing finally started to sink in. Mine would not be an overnight success, but a long haul.

There have been ACFW conferences I attended, knowing I wouldn’t pitch anything. I had given up writing for a season and simply went to network and make friends. It was awkward for me, a little no body, sitting with the big guys, late after classes. But I did it and prayed I didn’t look like the misfit I felt like. Good thing I pushed out of my comfort zone. It was at this very conference that I met my agent, Chip MacGregor, but didn’t pitch to him until I was ready two years later.

Then there was the time I didn’t have the money to attend the conference, but I knew I had to be there, so I applied for an ACFW scholarship. And didn’t get it. But that didn’t stop me from scrounging and saving and earning money by blogging just so I could go. And though I wasn’t at a point to submit anything to an editor, I did have a God meeting which encouraged me to keep writing! And it was the encouragement I needed for the next year!

And I’ll never forget the conference where I introduced myself to James Scott Bell, the keynote speaker, and asked who he was!

I remember each ACFW conference as a mile stone in my writing life. Each one ministering to me in a unique way, and each time I was able to be used by God to encourage another writer in their journey. Even the conference last year is remembered simply because it was a time in  my life when I knew I needed to stay home. I attended each ACFW conference with different expectations. Sometimes they were met, other times God had his own agenda.

As I look forward to attending the 2011 ACFW Conference, I have a new set of goals and expectations. This year I’m attending as a contracted author who just turned in her first novella. But will it be any better than the ones before because of my achievements?

I don’t think it will be any better, but it will be what I need.

Why are you going to conference this year? Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone and let God move in your life?

 

Know Your Editors

Nothing shouts “NEWBIE…UNPROFESSIONAL” like pitching an editor or agent a suspense story when in their bio it says they don’t represent suspense. So before you pull out your romance one sheet make sure the editor is looking for romance.

You need to take it one step further and find out what type of romance or suspense the house you’re targeting is looking for. Have you written a story too edgy for the editor you’re meeting with, then don’t waste your appointment. Do your homework and it will not only save you time, but embarrassment as well!

Here’s a short but sweet assignment. Print out the entire ACFW (or other conference) editor and agent list. Then study them! Visit their websites. Read their guidelines. Highlight the people who are accepting your genre and forget those publishing houses that are not looking for what you write.

Know what your editor wants before you sit down in front of them. Pitching a historical to an editor only requesting contemporaries is a waste of everyone’s time.

Here’s a great interview to get you inspired!

Tyndale editor, Jan Stob

And check out this article!

Conference Notebook

There’s nothing worse than waiting in line for your editor or agent appoint wondering about the unknown…nothing worse EXCEPT walking into that meeting unprepared when the editor or agent asks to see your one sheet OR your first chapter and you fumble through your papers to find it OR don’t have anything to offer.

That’s why putting together a conference notebook is essential to showing your series about your writing and you are a professional.

Supplies you’ll need for your Conference notebook:

(1) 1 1/2 in binder
(10-20) plastic pages to put your papers in (I’ll totally at a loss to what you call these things!)
(1) pack of dividers
(2-3) Baseball card pages or business card holders. You can get these at Walmart
Business Cards
Thank You cards with stamps
List of cell numbers for those you want to connect with at the conference
Goal sheet
Now we’re ready to put together your notebook. Just so you know, I don’t have the market on a conference notebook, so feel free to share what works for you.

I put everything in the plastic sheet holders. On the first page or in the little pocket on the inside cover I put the phone numbers and my conference goals. For example: Meet with so and so. Pitch to this editor. Ask this agent these questions. Start planning now because I guarantee once conference rolls around you’ll be too excited, overwhelmed or nervous to remember everything.

Leave the first plastic page empty so you can put all your registration stuff. Honestly, I can’t even remember which editor I signed up for. So I’ll be needing to check this section often.

In the next page put your agent/editor list you printed out and highlighted from online. Then refer to it often, especially before you sit down at one of the editor tables for lunch.

Then add your business card holders. These are great for collecting agent/editor and author cards as well as holding your own business cards. Last year I printed out my pitches on labels and stuck them to the back of my business cards. It made a great little cheat sheet!

Business Card tips: Don’t go out and buy the expensive kinds. www.visaprint.com makes a great free card. They have a small line on the back that says Business Cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com. One thing I’ve learned is that editors and agents don’t want to take your card. They’ll give you theirs. But it’s nice to have a card just to pass out to friends.

What to put on a card? I don’t want everyone knowing my address, so I put my name, my email, blogs and website.

Next add your dividers and use them to separate your WIPs. In the first section fill your page up with several one sheets. Not only do I take a one sheet to each meeting, but I take a pitch sheet which has a lot of info about my WIP that I may forget under pressure. Come back and I’ll tell you what I put on my pitch sheet!

After the One Sheet I put a couple copies of my first chapter and in the next sheet my synopsis. I’ve had editors request to read my first chapter and synopsis which can be a good and bad thing. I remember one year letting an editor take my not so perfect synopsis with her. I intended to rework it and submit later. A month later I received a rejection letter and I didn’t even know I submitted. So caution, if they ask for your synopsis and you give it to them, make sure it’s your best work. Otherwise just tell them you’d like to edit it once more and you’ll send it later.

In the next section do the same for your other WIPS.

You can also keep a couple copies of your resume, or put together an author One Sheet. On one side I have information about me as a person and writing, on the back I had short pitches about each of my WIPs. If you have a series you’ve completed, consider making a One Sheet for them.

Last conference I actually went a step further and made individual editor and agent folders, putting everything I wanted to take with me into that folder. You can always change it out as need arrives, especially if you’re carrying around your conference notebook.

What about you? Do you have any tips and tricks to help you stay organized?

One Sheets and Pitching

Welcome to the Conference Confidence Series:

ONE SHEETS

So you’ve worked on your pitch, gotten it down to a 30 second sound bite that will knock the socks of an editor. Now what if he/she wants to know more?

That’s when I pull out my One Sheet. I rarely have to do a lot of talking in my 15 minute interviews. I just let the One Sheet speak for itself. Then I shut up. (This is something I have not yet mastered!) Let the editor READ! Resist the Urge to Explain. You’ll have your turn when they start to firs off questions.

So what’s a One Sheet, you ask?

A One Sheet is a brief synopsis of your book which includes pertinent information like:

Title and tag line
Authors name: Big enough to stand out
Brief synopsis/Back Cover Copy and/or 25 word short pitch

Genre
Length, word count
Contact information: Address, Phone, email
Athor bio and photo

Can include one sentence summary of second/third book in series

What your One Sheet looks like is up to you. It should fit your personality and the mood of the book you’re pitching. But regardless of the style a One Sheet should:

Be professional and well written
Easy to read, not overcrowded
Have one to two complimenting graphics or photos

Here are some other articles on One Sheets.

http://linesfromlinda.com/?p=90

You can visit my WIP section of my writing blog to get an idea of what I include on my One Sheet. The only thing that’s missing is the author bio and contact info.

You can take the One Sheet one step further and make it an author bio sheet on one side and a very breif summary of your completed WIPs on the other side. You can even make one up for your series. It’s all up to you!

Need some other examples of a One Sheet? Visit these sites:
http://www.pammeyerswrites.com/writings.html

Perfecting Your Pitch

Conference Confidence Series

So you’ve finished your novel and your ready to set your baby loose. But if you were asked to describe your novel in a few sentences, would you be able to do it?

Some people call it an elevator pitch. The little sound bite that will catch an editor’s attention, if you were in…well an elevator. Though you many never use it in the elevator, it’s good to start off with a one sentence summary.

If you use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method, you’re already ahead of the game.

So what is a pitch?

Here are some great quotes and thoughts about pitches:

“A pitch is a HOOK. It should have one goal and one only: to make the editor want to know more about your story. Just as a chapter hook makes the reader turn the page, your pitch hook makes the editor ask a follow-up question. (Sometimes editors will ask a follow-up question simply to be polite. The trick is making them ask a question because they really are curious about the answer.)” Brandilyn Collins. Read the rest of the post here.

A pitch is a “one minute back of the book type blurb memorized to to an editor. We call this an elevator(pitch). Because, like me, you may literally be pitching it in an elevator. Though it could be anywhere, more than likely, over a meal. I practiced mine last year for weeks before the conference. My friends and I would cold-call each other and say, “Tell me about your book.” This practice was nerve wracking but paid off big time at the conference.” Gina Holmes. Read the rest of the post here.

“Don’t tell me your entire story. Just stick to the P’s: Pitch, Package, Platform. PITCH: Give me the essence in as few words as possible. (caveat: “Aliens meets Blue Like Jazz” is not helpful. “Philip K. Dick meets Don Miller” is better, but explain that genre with a more specific comparison like, “Kathy Tyers meets Siri Mitchell.” Mick Silva, acquisitions editor for Waterbrook. Read the rest of the post here.

Okay, you get the idea of how to pitch, now why should you do it.

“One of the most important reasons to go to a conference is to pitch to an editor and/or agent. Many CBA publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This is a good way to get yourself before an editor you have targeted. With ACFW conference in two weeks there will be a lot of reasons to practice your. ” Margaret Daley, Steeple Hill author. To read the rest of the article go here.

Ready to pitch or need some help refining your pitch?

Go ahead. It’ll be great practice!

Conference Confidence: Why Are You Going?

Just because I’m not going to ACFW this year, doesn’t mean I can’t help you get prepared to have the best conference you can. I’ll be reposting my Conference Confidence series to help you get organized and prepare for your upcoming writers conference.

I won’t claim I know it all, or know much for that matter :) But what I do know is that everything I’ve pitched at conferences have been requested by multiple editors (little did I know that I would have to follow up with a finished product…but that’s another story for another post.)

So the first order of business is to figure out why you’re going to a writer’s conference?

The first three times I went to a conference I went to pitch and SELL. I was focused, driven and hardly recognized my introverted self. I had to will myself to be an extrovert, in fact flying to my first conference (Glorietta) in Santa Fe, New Mexico I distinctly remember the moment I put on my game face. I gazed out the window, worrying about having to push out of my shell and said “Game on.” (Yes, I’m a big Survivor fan) but it was the focus I needed to play the game. And it worked, I got multiple requests for multiple manuscripts (yet to be written, of course. I admit I was naive and believed what I’d been hearing, that you can sell without a completed WIP…sure if you’re Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins or Ted Dekker. Sadly, I was not…)

There have been conferences since that I went to (ACFW), knowing I wouldn’t pitch anything. I had given up writing and simply went to network and make friends. It was very awkward for me, a little no body, sitting with the big guys, late after classes. But I did it and prayed I didn’t look like the misfit I felt like.

So why are you going to conference this year? And are you willing to break out of your comfort zone? If so, what’s your game plan?

If you've been wondering where I've been…

I’ve been super busy planning the WIN-ACFW local conference. It ended yesterday and today I’m beat!!

Last year we had one speaker, one room, and about 40 people. This year, I wanted to go bigger. Two speakers. Rene Gutteridge and Brandt Dodson…awesome, awesome, awesome. Plus we had an agent, Jeff Dunn, a publicist, Jeane Wynn, pastor/writer Ed Gungor and about 50 people. The official numbers aren’t back yet, but I do know that 8 people showed up at the door! Woo Hoo! How exciting that was…but we also panicked and ordered more food, which we actually didn’t end up needing because the wonderful WIN members kept us well supplied with snacks.

All the feedback about the conference was good. Everyone had a great time and offered some really great suggestions for next year. Even my own WIN members raved and wondered how I pulled it off. Not sure how I did. I just attacked the details one at a time and even added some things the very last week. I have to admit, planning this year was tough. I got some much needed help, but not as much as I wanted or needed, and yet, I’m thinking bigger next year. Next year? A part of me wants to jump right in with the planning (which I did this morning) and a part of me wants to run far, far away.

I can’t ignore the flashing red sign. The one with the four letter word everyone cringes at…WORK! Conference planning is a lot of work. Someone pointed out to me that I started planning this conference a year ago! That means I need to start planning now for next year!

So here I sit contemplating next year and my mind just wants to go for it. Bigger is better, right? But why do I want to go there? Partly because of the questionnaires and my desire to please everyone. Partly because there’s something inside me driving me to do more, go bigger, in lots of areas of my life. Maybe that’s what keeps me pressing on with my writing.

I’m realistic about next year’s conference and know it’s not going to meet everyone’s needs no matter what I plan. And I’m not going to go bigger without more help, that’s for sure. So I’m praying for some members to really step up. In the meantime, I’m getting more organized. Making a conference checklist and trying to amend some things that I overlooked this year.

I have speakers in mind. Several. But it all depends on budget and availability and help! I’m very good at delegating. Just need more people to delegate to! So we’ll see. I’m sure it will happen. I just don’t want to kill myself trying to make it so!

How do you get people to step up and join you in a process like this? It definitely takes a village to build a good conference!

Conference Time or Wondering Where I've Been?

As president of the local ACFW miniconference, I’ve been busy planning for NEXT WEEKEND! And let me tell you, it should be a full time job! But it’ll be so worth it. So if you’re anywhere near Oklahoma and have ANY desire to write fiction or just find out what it takes to write fiction, then I encourage you to attend this conference next weekend.

It’s the most affordable ($50,) meat-filled conference I know with dynamic authors who are great teachers! I’ve personally know them and have sat under their teachings! Did I mention they were awesome?

It’s not too late to register, but it’s getting late to take advantage of the reduced hotel rate.  All the info you need is here!

And if you can’t make it, can you do me a favor, pray for this conference and tell a friend or blog about it with a link! I want to reach as many people as possible because you never know who might be have a calling on their life to write. It might even be YOU!

Off to Christian Book Expo

I’m off to the Christian Book Expo where I’ll be hanging with writing friends like Cara Putman, Lynette Sowell, interviewing people like Colleen Coble and Brandt Dodson and meeting with my Agent Chip MacGergor.

I bought this cool little Flip Camera so videocasts will be coming your way! Hopefully, they won’t be as challenging to upload as my digital interviews…which by the way will be coming to you soon!

So stay tuned! Not sure if I’ll have internet access at the Expo, but if I do, I’ll try to fill you in on the event!

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