Writing Confrence Confessions
edited: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
By Jake George
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
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Points to ponder from a Writing Conference.
My first writing conference was both exciting and a time for some self doubt. When I arrived I could see the same look of concern on many others in attendance. The interesting point of that discovery was that the look of concern and doubt were on the face of many of the authors there for book signings and who were to sit on panels.
I did not make it to my first writing conference as an attendee, but as a published author; there to try to sell some of my books and to talk to the conference attendees about how we were published and if they did this, that or the other they had a chance to be published also.
The conference attendee’s faces showed hope and determination with a few who looked as if they would faint if you talked to them. With shaking hands, many approached publishers and authors to strike up a conversation. I shook my share of sweaty palms but I have to say the writer’s conference was a very positive experience for me. Just as the faces reflected what was going on inside a conference attendee’s head, it also showed authors who were not comfortable talking to the public.
Some authors stood along the walls, holding a copy of their book; as if it were a life vest and they were swamped in an ocean of sharks. Two even held the book’s face toward their chests so the attendees could not see what their book was about. Book buyers passed by them with not so much as a glance.
Other authors went so far as to grab a person’s arm, who was walking by, to try to hawk their books. People ran from them for the most part and word quickly spread to avoid getting close to that table or you would be tagged.
Those who were successful in getting a buyer’s attention or a publisher’s time were those who showed self-confidence and knew what their book was about. They came across as people who were professionals and deserved some time to talk, or to listen to a sales pitch. We often see articles on the “30 Second Pitch,” that writers need to perfect to tell a prospective publisher or customer about their book or manuscript. That skill was very apparent at the conference, shown in books sold or a publisher/agents time given to a prospective author.
I watched people as I walked about the conference and book exhibits and what I saw can increase your chance of sales or publication.
Dress appropriately. If you are an attendee, dress for success when you plan on talking to publishers and agents. First impressions make a difference when you have only a few moments of a publisher or agent’s time. If you are an author the rule is a bit different. Dress appropriately for your book’s topic. Those who sell children’s books ware bright colors and have fun things about their area to draw a child’s eye to their booth. A sleuth writer may have props for example. A magnifying glass and a calabash pipe. They are not Sherlock Holms, but a person walking by will see the props and if they are interested in that Genre, will stop. Follow good taste and dress in a way that draws attention to you either as a writer or potential new client for a publisher or agent.
Practice, practice, practice. Talk to your friends about your book or manuscript. Get comfortable in your skin as you try to talk to strangers in the store, post office or any line you find yourself in. The more you talk about your book or project the better you become at it. After some practice you will discover you can trim your pitch to under a minute, or even better thirty seconds.
Join an organization where you have a chance to talk to others in public settings. It could be a bowling league or Toast Masters. Just being in public and talking to folks you do not know will help to alleviate the butterflies. Soon you will be comfortable to the point to talk to strangers about your book, hand out bookmarks or business cards. The more people you know and interact with, the better your chances of being noticed or selling books.
Be prepared to give information about your book or manuscript. I watched a few attendees approach an agent or writer, only to be stymied when asked a question about the genre or subject matter. Show the prospective book buyer or publisher that you know where your book fits into the market place. Who writes similar books, who would be interested in your book and why.
The pitch. After you have practiced talking to people and you are comfortable speaking about your book, you have to be prepared to present it to a reader or publisher. Hand the person you are talking to, a copy of your book, or manuscript. Point out what its virtues are to the person. Tell them of its strong points. Hand them your book or manuscript. Point out a few things while they have it in their hands. It is harder to say no in a face-to-face situation where they are holding your work. Make eye contact and be pleasant. Even if you do not make a sale or get a request to send a proposal for consideration, you will have made a positive impression.
Draw inspiration from those around you. Look to see who is being noticed and why. Is it appearance, or do they carry themselves well when talking. You never know who may be listening. I made a pitch to a news reporter about my book. I put the book in her hand as we talked and pointed out a few things to her. She did not buy, but a man at another table was listening to the conversation. When he came over he had already decided to buy my book. My pitch was not aimed at him but he bought my book. Same thing can go for publishers or agents. You may be talking to one who may not be interested but another close by may be inspired by your pitch and offer you a chance to pitch to them.
Most of all have fun. When you are relaxed you are more apt to come across as a positive person who can do what you think you can. After all, self-confidence shows in your speech and mannerisms. When you go to a writer’s conference, understand that those who are already published are just like you. Get to know them and it will be time well spent. The result will be books or manuscripts sold. Now get out there and write.