Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who Wants to Know What I Learned at a Writer's Conference?

I went to an all day local writer's conference today. Though not a spa with hot rock massages and smoked salmon for lunch, it was time that felt rewarding and reassuring.

With all of you in mind, I made sure to note tips, sage advice, collective wisdom, with the purpose of sharing it with you.

I'm home now, and so ready to hop into pajamas that have been run through the dryer to super hot, but I'm putting that off, to tell you the top must-knows from today's presenters. (thanks for being here to read them)

--Know your elevator pitch, and know it in 35 words. 35 words is a work of art.

--Talk to everyone. Even if an agent does not take memoir, it doesn't mean she doesn't know someone who does. Ask for a card. Thank them for their time when you talk.

--You can never be too polite. Always be polite. It is important to be polite.

--It's essential to be confident but don't oversell yourself. Don't tell a literary agent, "This is your lucky day!" Same goes for, "If you don't find a publisher for this, you will be missing out!"

--Know the genre your book fits into. You can't say "niche-less, unclassifiable, one of a kind." You have to give the agent a genre. They can't sell your book without one.

--Have a double demographic ready for your book. YA and suspense lovers. Juvenile non fiction and parenting. Dog lovers and grief survivors. Why would both these groups want to buy your book? (know the answer to that question)

--Be ready to answer the question, "Why are you the one to write this book?" A good answer is, "I've written on teens and social media use for ten years and have amassed hundreds of contacts and possible markets who would promote my book."

--Arrive with an open mind. The woman on the panel talking about depression era teaspoon collections may not be anyone you'd imagine connecting with, but LISTEN to what she has to say. She could teach you a lot about perseverance, twists and turns, making connections, or just remind you to never give up hope. LISTEN. You learn surprising things when you do.

--Have your query letter match your book's tone. Be consistent. If it's a funny book, have a funny style in your query. If it's a book about grief, don't come in with knock-knock jokes.

--Know everything about an agent before you pitch them. Know their name, how to spell it, their latest books, who they've worked with, what they're known for, the genre they accept. Know it all.

--My personal favorite quote from today, "Writing is the most ironic of professions. You need to be thick skinned and able to take the punches when the rejections come along BUT also be able to write honestly and vulnerably. These two opposites must exist together in one person if you're going to be a writer."

--Rejection is not personal. Rejection is not personal. Rejection is a business decision. Will they be able to sell your book? If you think they will, it's your job to convince them why you are a sound financial investment. "Because I want it," is not a good answer to someone spending money on you.

--If you find yourself near the event coordinators, thank them. They may not remember your name, but they will remember your words. Their work has been going on for months and is a labor of love. It comes with a lot of pre and day of headaches. Like, will we have enough coffee? So, say thank you to them for all the hundreds of little things they tended to with you in mind.

--If you have the serendipity to meet people you, email them and tell them it was a pleasure.

--Oooh. Almost forgot about this one, "Don't be an Eeyore. Always be upbeat, positive, charged up, enthusiastic. If you can't be fired up talking about your book how are you going to convince me to be?" After I pitched today, the agent told me she didn't take my genre, but my enthusiasm for the project made her want to take a look at it.

--If someone at the conference goes out of their way for you, whether by giving you a contact's name, or a lead to a publisher that would be interested in your book, follow up with a thank you email. Just a few lines saying, "Thanks for telling me about Bluebird Books. I really appreciate your help!," is just the right way to do things for people who are nice to you for no other reason than to be helpful.

I had a great time today, I met an agent who asked me to send in my book proposal, and now I just heard the dryer timer go off telling me my pajamas are all toasty ready for me -- but first, I am sending Anna a thank you email for her time and encouragement.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

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  1. Glad you had a good day! I love "rejection is not personal." Everyone needs to remember that.

  2. Great tips! And good luck with this particular agent!

  3. Congrats on being able to send in your book proposal--that's huge! I hope the agent is properly impressed and ready to move forward with it. Wouldn't that be a kick in the warm pajamas?

  4. Wonderful advice, A, and good luck with the book proposal!

  5. It was great! I met two people I felt comfortable with, and that is all of this whole thing right there. It was great... They said they would hold it again next year, and I look forward to that. (thanks for reading!!)

  6. I went to a week-long writer's conference years ago that was the best experience for me. It was where I finally learned that rejection is not personal and that writing is a business, and those two understandings made all the difference in my relationship to words.

  7. Leigh Ann- he also said 'rejection is fuel.Use it."
    Elan - thank you! it was a day well spent.
    Nina - hoping, always hoping.
    Jocelyn- thanks, friend! Fingers crossed.
    Alison - who would I tell first, besides you? XO

  8. These tips all point to one thing: Be prepared. Great insights and congrats on connecting with an agent - good luck!

  9. Great advice! Good luck with your book!

  10. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    This is an excellent post - I'm I'm adding this one to my end of NaBloPoMo wrap up list. :)

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I also add participating blogs to my feed reader. Except you are already in there and have been for a while. :)

    I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!

  11. Oh my goodness, the writer's pitch slam I attended two years ago was equal parts terrifying and the best thing I'd ever done.

    I shook (literally) and trembled and stuttered and then, suddenly, I found my voice and believe what I was saying.

    Great advice here, Alexandra. I think the first step to all of it is believing.
    In yourself. Your words. Your story.

    I hope the agent loves your proposal.
    And I hope your pajamas are still toasty.

  12. This was an awesome list. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    Super exciting to hear someone wants to see your book proposal. I'm sure they will love it (and I will love that it is one step closer to landing in a bookstore near me).

  13. Wondering if I appropriately communicated my gratitude for your kindness post-BlogHer. This was wonderful, you are wonderful, your book will be amazing!

  14. Andrea: so right. Bring everything along.
    Cheryl: it was fantastic. Thank you!
    Snoskred: Just visited your site. A pleasure to meet you!
    Julie: great fun, stretching ourselves. saying the words.
    Tracie: THANK YOU!
    Amanda: I'm so glad I finally got to talk to you.



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