Archive | July, 2008

Where To Find Conferences

I’m continuing to answer questions on writing conferences. I’ve had the help of guest expert Meredith Efken in answering many of your questions over the last couple of weeks. Meredith has a great e-book out, the Writers Conference Survival Guide that covers all this stuff in depth.

Karen wrote:

So it’s conference ’season’ up over eh? I’ve been drooling over the ACFW conference schedule…

What other conferences are about?

I’m an Aussie, so drooling is about all I’m going to do for a few years. I’m looking at options now so that once I have a finished manuscript, I hope to make it to an ACFW conference. It covers my genre completely, includes many of the authors I avidly read, and every publisher that I would target, so I’m guessing it’s the one for me. Still, if you know of other conferences coming up, feel free to list them here so I can do some more drooling. We all know how important it is for writers to dream!

There are so many conferences in the US, it’s hard to choose between them. So those of you who are angsting over whether you’ll make a fool of yourself, take just a minute to be grateful that you can easily go to a conference near you. I have many loyal blog readers in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Europe, who would kill to have all your options.

As for which conferences to go to, I always recommend that a freshman start with a good regional conference near home. That will minimize your investment in time, energy, and money and yet will give you a good look into the publishing industry. There is a lot to learn, and you might as well learn it cheaply.

For sophomores, it’s not too early to pick a good national conference that is in line with your interests. The many Christian novelists who read my blog are often talking here about the ACFW conference (in September) and the Mount Hermon conference (in March or April). These are both great, and I teach at both every year, and usually 2 or 3 others. There are many other Christian writing conferences, such as Oregon (where I’ll be teaching next week), Florida (where I’ll be teaching in February), Colorado and Philadelphia and San Diego (where I have taught in years past), and a number of others.

However, many of my loyal blog readers are writing fiction for the general market, and there is a vast selection of conferences to meet your needs. If you write romance, then of course, you’ll probably be most interested in the RWA conference (I don’t know much about it, but I have many romance writer friends who’ve gone to this over the years, and one of my friends is a past president of RWA). Mystery writers have a number of conferences specifically for them, and the name I hear year after year from my mystery-writer friends is Bouchercon. Fantasy and science fiction writers also have some specialty conferences.

Writers in other genres can generally go to just about any non-specialty conference and get some value out of it. A number of years ago, I went to the San Diego State University conference, and out of that, I was invited to a continuing seminar with about 20 writers studying under Sol’s tutelage. Sol is one of the great writing teachers and I can still hear his voice in my ear whenever I lapse into narrative summary or backstory. When you hear me rail against these sins, you are hearing an echo of Sol.

The best resources for learning about conferences are WRITER’S MARKET (an annually updated book on publishers, agents, conferences, magazines, etc.) and WRITER’S DIGEST. Either of these will give you an encyclopedic list of your options.

As I noted above, most of these conferences seem to be in the US. There is not much I can do about this, except to commiserate with my many friends who are outside the US. I know that some conferences offer scholarships, and so I would recommend polishing your craft, saving your money, and waiting for the opportune moment.

Karri wrote:

Randy, I read somewhere recently that editors don’t read manuscripts, they read proposals. Isn’t it possible for an editor to be interested in a novel that is not yet completed, but that has a solid proposal?

Randy sez: Yes, but the amount of interest the editor will have depends on two things:
1) How good the writing is
2) How complete the manuscript is

Proposals are great, and you really do need one in order to get interest for your book. However, the best proposal in the world can’t save bad writing. It just can’t. The purpose of a proposal is to provide an editor with a summary of your book. It’s just quicker to read a 10 page proposal than a 400 page manuscript, plus the proposal is physically easier to carry around. In the end, the editor will make a decision based on the strength of the writing plus any marketing oomph you have–and you will describe that oomph in your proposal.

One thing all editors are wary of is the first-time writer who has three fantastic sample chapters but who has not yet completed the book. The fear is this: “What if those three chapters are the result of ten years of hard work with critiquers and editors? What if the writer doesn’t have the skills to write a whole book? What if this story doesn’t actually work? What if???” So the editor will almost never buy an incomplete manuscript from a first-time novelist. It can happen, but the smart money sez to finish the durn book.

Pam wrote:

I think we need a balance of writing well and pitching ourselves. I met with an agent at Mt. Hermon and she was considering saying no to something I had sent her before the conference UNTIL we met face to face. She asked me to simply tell her the story. And I did. After that, she said, well, that made all the difference. Send me 3 more chapters and a more detailed outline.

I’m still waiting to hear from her, but at least I had a second chance, and that was because I could tell my story.

On a happier note, I was asked for the full manuscript of the same story 3 months ago! Still waiting to hear on that, too.

Randy sez: Editors or agents tend to take you more seriously if they meet you at a conference than if you just send them something in the mail. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, when they meet you, you now have a face. You are no longer just ink on paper or electrons in an email. You are a human; they can see you; they can assess your passion for your writing. And passion can carry you a long way.

Second, when you have invested hundreds of dollars in airfare and conference fees, when you have taken time away from family and job, all to go to a conference, then you are a SERIOUS writer. Editors and agents take you more seriously at a writing conference simply because you are acting like a serious writer. This does not guarantee anything, but it is better to get to first base than to strike out. It just is.

Third, as you meet editors and agents at conferences, you will lose your fear of them. I am not exaggerating to say that many years ago when I started writing, I was terrified of the idea of meeting such High-Powered, Important People. Those who have been reading my e-zine for long know that I once suffered from Panic Disorder. I don’t any longer, but I did. And meeting editors and agents was high on my list of triggers for panic. But as I got to know these folks, sat with them at dinner, talked late into the night at conferences, and just watched them in action, I realized that they’re just people. They don’t acquire a Superman cape and tights when they become editors or agents. I know some editors who refuse to do lectures at conferences because they’re afraid of public speaking.

The longer you hang out with editors and agents at conferences, the more human they become, and the easier it is for you to talk business with them. Someday, when you’ve developed your craft, when you’re a Senior, when you’ve got a strong manuscript, and when you’ve lost your fear of talking to editors and agents, making your first sale will feel like graduating from high school did. It’s an achievement–an important milestone. But you’ll have earned it. And you won’t be afraid to take the next step.

That has happened to a large number of my friends and students. It can happen to you. It can. Writing conferences are part of that process.

I’ll be at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference Monday through Thursday of next week, so I may not have time to blog then. I always plan to blog at conferences, but it’s way more fun to talk to writers and editors and agents, so my good intentions usually go awry.

What to Bring to a Writing Conference

I’m continuing to answer questions on writing conferences this week, along with some help from my guest, Meredith Efken.

Sam asked:

My question regarding your conferences is: if you don’t *need* a one-sheet (but maybe bring one as a nice-to-have) what else would you bring to carry around a conference? Would you have your sample chapters in hand or do you wait to send them to an agent/publisher when they ask for it?

Meredith answered this with more detail than I would have:

For Sam, about what you need to bring with you to the conference: I cover this in great detail in the Writers Conference Survival Guide, including a packing list worksheet. But for the pitch session, you do not need to bring sample chapters. Most pitch sessions are only 10-15 minutes long. That’s not long enough for an editor to read much of anything. Plus, editors/agents rarely want to take lots of paper on the plane home. If they want to see any of the actual manuscript, they’ll usually say so in the conference information. Otherwise, assume they don’t.

You may want to have business cards on hand, but don’t give one to the agent/editor unless they ask for it. They are more likely to hand you a card if they want you to send a proposal. But they don’t really have any reason to take your card. Remember, they’re in the power seat in a pitch appointment. You have to do the contacting if they ask for it. They don’t have any reason to contact you. Have a one-sheet, have a business card–but don’t expect or pressure the editor/agent to take either one.

Now, a critique appointment is a totally different thing. We have to remember that at most conferences, a pitch session and critique session are TOTALLY different. A pitch session is for pitching–you don’t go expecting feedback on your work. A critique session is for feedback, not pitching. If you have signed up for a critique, there will usually be detailed information about how much of your manuscript to bring and how to submit it. And if that information is missing, contact the conference coordinator and ask. Sometimes there will be group critique opportunities or other feedback sessions. Again, what to bring for those sort of sessions should be explained on the conference website or brochure. If not, ask ahead of time.

Randy sez: Let me add that a critique session with a published author can be FAR more valuable to you if you are a “freshman” or “sophomore” writer. The reason is that, by definition, a freshman or sophomore writer is not yet ready to get an agent or get published. (Otherwise you’d be a “junior” or a “senior”. It is quite common for “juniors” to get agents these days and for “seniors” to sell a book. Happens all the time.) If you’re a freshman or sophomore, an editor or agent will not be outlandishly interested in your work. But an author can help you see what it is you need MOST right now to advance to that pesky next level.

By the way, it is probably not particularly helpful to tell an editor or agent, “I’m a senior.” If it’s true, they’ll figure it out pretty quickly, and if it’s not true, then you’ll be scraping egg off your face for awhile.

Melissa wrote:

I have to agree with Martha. I’m a complete social retard though, who hasn’t even got up the nerve to approach an editor with my work. So way to go Martha for trying! Anywho, my deal is that I completely lack the confidence. I have no credentials to speak of. So how do you be yourself and pitch your idea with confidence when you just know that every word you say is going to come out sounding stupid and unprofessional?

Randy sez: If you are really a social retard, then it’s going to be pretty easy to be yourself, isn’t it? I should know, because I am about as socially inept as you can get. But, as one of my friends once told me, “That’s part of your charm, Randy.” I personally don’t consider it very charming, but I think I got the point. Which was that me trying to be Joe Cool is never, ever, ever going to work. So I might as well just get used to being my own geeky self and then (here’s the important thing) QUIT WORRYING ABOUT IT.

I will give you my patented, fool-proof, method for getting along with anyone at a writing conference. If you’re talking to a writer, ask them, “What sort of writing do you do?” If you’re talking to an agent, ask, “What sort of writers do you like to represent?” If you’re talking to editor, ask, “What sort of books do you love to edit?” Generally, that will get them talking for a good fifteen minutes, which you can of course help along by asking for more info if they hit a lull.

This is very nice, because for a whole fifteen minutes, you can forget about you and think about someone else. By that time, one of two things will have happened:
a) You two will have hit it off and be gabbing like old friends
b) You two will realize that you really don’t have a lot in common

In case (a), you now have a new friend for life, which is a Good Thing. In case (b), you will both realize that it was fun chatting, but there are many other people at the conference and it is now time to part, which is a Mediocre Thing.

Notice that there is no case (c), in which Something Truly Horrible happens. I can say this as a card-carrying member of the Social Retard Club. If I can have fun at a writing conference, you can too.

Meredith types much faster than I do, and she wrote all this:

Like I said to Andra and Martha, feeling unsure of yourself is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. You would be surprised at how many published authors–even bestselling or award-winning ones–struggle with intense self-doubt. There’s no magic cure that I know of. I know how it feels to sit there listening to myself and thinking “Gosh I sound like an idiot.” It’s a terrible feeling!

At the risk of sounding psycho-babblish, one thing you can do is identify those negative messages you are sending yourself and replace them with positive truths. For example, your comment said “…you just know that every word you say is going to come out sounding stupid and unprofessional.” What you’re doing here is telling yourself “Every word I say is going to sound stupid and unprofessional.” Well, that’s not exactly true. Sure, you may trip up and say some stuff that sounds a bit awkward. But stupid? I doubt it. Unprofessional? That would be something like telling the editor your entire gory medical history, or about the fight you just had with your husband, or mentioning that you now hate your former best friend because she didn’t like the ending of your book. You are not going to say such inappropriate things to an editor. You really aren’t.

So stop telling yourself such nasty things! You can work on creating a more professional image and presentation. You can learn to manage your jitters. But first, you have to start talking to yourself more kindly. If you’ve got kids, you wouldn’t tell your kids they’re stupid or whatever, right? Or if you did in a moment of anger, you’d apologize for it later and try not to do it again. But somehow we think it’s okay to verbally abuse ourselves in ways we’d never dream of doing to anyone else. And then we wonder why we have problems with self-confidence.

There’s a difference between being honest about our own shortcomings and being self-abusive about our faults. When you catch yourself telling yourself something like “You’re stupid” you need to stop and evaluate that statement. Are you indeed, truly mentally incompetent? No, of course not. What is it that you are really trying to say? Maybe it’s that you say awkward things when you are trying to talk about your writing. Okay, THAT is a fair statement. It’s neutral and objective. Follow it up with more truthful, objective statements, such as “I can learn to be less awkward. That’s something I can correct. I don’t have to stay awkward. I can improve.” And then get to work on that.

Additionally, find things to compliment yourself on. Do you like being around people who put you down all the time? Yet that is what we do to ourselves. No wonder we don’t like ourselves very well! So be more complimentary. Be as honest about your strengths as you are about your weaknesses. Say, “I finished my manuscript–way to go! That’s quite an achievement.” Or “There is NOBODY out there with my exact story. It’s a unique reflection of me, and even though I know there are ways to improve it, it’s still an unique work of art to be proud of.” Or find sentences or scenes you particularly enjoy and tell yourself “I really enjoyed writing that and reading it because…(fill in blank). I’m glad I wrote that. I did a good job with it.”

As you make this sort of self-talk more of a habit, you’ll find your confidence improving and you will also find that you have more energy to write. Being verbally abused–even by ourselves–drains us of creative energy. You will become a better writer if you stop beating yourself up.

And don’t worry about your credentials. When it comes to writing fiction, there are no credentials greater than a strong story. Think of the author of ERAGON–he was 15 or 16 when that book was accepted for publication. Homeschool kid. Not much for credentials there. No college degree, no MFA, not even much for life experience. Just a strong story concept that caught the attention of an editor. The thing about fiction is that nobody cares who the author is or what the author has achieved. All that matters is the story. On the flip side, as a fiction writer you will NEVER be considered a real expert in whatever you’ve researched or studied for your books. That stinks–if you want to establish credibility in that field you have to do it outside the context of your fiction writing. But it does take pressure off you to have “credentials.” It just doesn’t matter at all.

So work on that writing craft, as I’m sure you already are doing. If you aren’t confident enough to pitch yet, then I’d recommend going to a conference and signing up for whatever critique opportunities are there. Also, try to find a conference that gives you opportunities to meet with published authors or faculty. Talk with them about your book, get their opinion on whether or not you are ready to pitch to an editor. Chat with them about your concerns about your work. Authors are SO under-utilized at conferences because everyone wants to get to the editors and agents. But authors are there to help you, and they have incredible experience and insight. It would also help you get used to talking about your work in a situation that is low-pressure. The only way you’re going to get more confident about it is to do it. Use those authors as a sounding board–that’s why they’re there.

Randy adds one thing: At one time or another, every writer feels like they’re lousy. A few months ago, I was feeling kind of discouraged about my writing and starting to think that I’m a horrible, wretched excuse for a writer. And after I told Meredith about that, she went through several of the manuscripts she’s edited for me over the years and pasted a number of paragraphs in to a long email, with a few comments about why this or that passage was particularly good. That helped me break up my little pity party. Thanks, Meredith! I owe you for that.

A Bit More On One-Sheets

Last week we began discussing “one-sheets”–a sheet of paper with info about your book that you use in pitching to an editor an agent in a one-on-one appointment. I’ve enlisted the help of novelist/freelanced editor Meredith Efken to help answer your questions, since she’s become something of an expert on writing conferences, having authored the e-book Writers Conference Survival Guide.

Today, Meredith and I will tackle more of the backlog of questions that my loyal blog readers have posted here.

Karri wrote:

I don’t have any questions, but just thought I’d say that all this talk of pitching makes me want to pitch myself off a cliff.

Randy sez: We’ve got some great cliffs around here, so be sure and come visit me before you make that pitch. 🙂 Of course, Alice had a slightly more helpful comment:

LOL, Karri! It’s not as scary as it sounds. Agents want new clients–selling more books is how they pay the rent. So they’re willing to listen–you might be their next multi-seller. The key is to know your hook and your elevator pitch cold.

Randy adds: To be honest, it is very scary the first few times. But it’s true–agents and editors are there because they’re looking for talent. If you have talent, they want to talk to you. Now here is a secret that isn’t commonly known: The editor knows how to dance. What I mean by that is that even if you don’t know how to pitch your novel, the editor knows how to ask the right questions to put you at your ease and find out about your book. With VERY few exceptions, editors and agents are Xtremely nice people.

Meredith had some good comments to add to the issue of what it means to dress and act like a professional, so I’m going to insert them here:

At the conference I attended in April, I saw so many would-be writers shuffle into their pitch sessions in worn-out jeans and scuffed t-shirt and tennis shoes that looked like a dog chewed on them. They sat slumped in their chairs while pitching, and their entire body language and appearance screamed “I don’t believe in myself and you shouldn’t either!” If any of them actually were invited to send a proposal, it’s either because they’re actually so brilliant that their slovenly behavior was overlooked, or the editor merely felt sorry for them.

And I can attest to the fact that even Randy, with his “zany physicist” fashion sense, still looks neat and presentable at conferences. Beyond even his clothing, he is good at relating to editors, agents, and other writers as a confident, competent professional. And that’s what I think most writers need to remember at conferences. You can be yourself, you can be zany, you can be eccentric and wonderfully unique. You don’t have to be a fashion plate or look like the CEO of a company. But you do have to convey that sense that you are, indeed, a professional, career-minded writer.

Randy sez: I can say amen to that. I will never look like a fashion plate, but if there’s one thing I communicate to editors when I talk to them, it’s that I’m interested in them and that I enjoy talking with them. I want to know what kind of books they like to read. I want to know what authors they’re working with that excite them. Occasionally, I’ll find an editor who loves the same books I do. Of course, it may turn out that they don’t much like my kind of writing. But I may very well know a writer who’d be perfect for them.

For the same reason, I spend a lot of time talking with agents at conferences. I don’t need an agent. I have a great one already, and I don’t need another. But I like to know what various agents like, because then I can do a better job connecting up writers with agents. (Please note: I only do this when I decide a writer is ready for an agent, and that is rarely when the writer thinks he or she is ready. And I only do this at writing conferences, which is the only time I have time to play matchmaker.)

Andra wrote a question which seems to be very common for many writers:

Why is selling myself as a writer so darned difficult?

Meredith answered:

Great question. I find it MUCH easier to rave about other people’s work than my own. I think, for me, it’s a matter of perspective. My writing is personal, and it’s hard to distance myself from it. There’s also all that creative angst of “Oh, this is total schlock. Who would want to read it?” I think those insecurities come across when we’re talking about our work. It’s hard to sound as if we believe in ourselves and in our manuscript when we’re so acutely aware of the flaws and shortcomings of it.

What I do to overcome that is give myself permission to be proud of the strengths in my manuscript. It’s so easy to only think about what’s wrong. It seems arrogant or egotistical to be proud of what is right. But the truth is that your manuscript is a product–an artistic product, but still a product to be sold. You need to believe in the value of that product and know how that product will benefit the reader. It’s not ego to confidently assert that your manuscript holds certain reader benefits. It’s not arrogance to acknowledge that your product is unique or different from what is currently available.

As far as yourself–if you have managed to write an entire book and are going to conferences and have the nerve to actually meet with publishing professionals, that puts you in a very elite group of people. Do you know how very many people are out there who would “like to write a book someday”? How many of them actually take the time to study the craft, to put in the time to create this piece of art? How many of them are willing to take the risk of receiving tough feedback about it? How many are willing to handle the rejections, the disappointments, the years it can take just to get that open door to submit their work?

Those of you who are pursuing the study of fiction writing, who are persevering in this incredibly difficult and
competitive field–you guys are HEROES in my opinion! You are worlds ahead of all those wanna-be’s who never quite manage to make the sacrifices necessary to turn that dream into reality. So when you start feeling low on confidence or unsure of yourself, remember that you are attempting what most people don’t have the courage or perseverance to try. You have already accomplished so much just to get to this point. You’ve earned the right to be confident, to believe in yourself.

It’s a tough, tough road and plenty frustrating. Celebrate how far you’ve already come. Never, never look down on yourself or discount who you are. You’ll be surprised how much respect you’ll receive from other publishing professionals when you show that you respect yourself.

Randy sez: Yeah. What she said. I’d never thought of it, but yes, if you go to a conference, you have already done something that 90% of the wannabes have never done and never will. Let me give one last piece of advice for today, and then we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow:

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER reject yourself. That’s the job of the editor or agent. Don’t do their job for them! Your job is to write your best stuff. Your job is to present that in the most appealing way you can. Your job is to keep on keeping on until you make it. When you write something and then don’t even make an honest effort to sell it, you are rejecting yourself. Don’t do that!

Continuing on One-Sheets

We’ve been talking about pitching your manuscript (as well as yourself) to editors and agents. One commonly used tool for this is the “one-sheet”–a sheet of paper that summarizes the high points about your book and you.

I’ve invited novelist and freelance editor Meredith Efken to answer some of the many questions posed by my loyal blog readers. Meredith is the author of the popular e-book Writers Conference Survival Guide, which tells you how to get the most out of those all-too-expensive writing conferences.

Sally wrote:

I have a hard time finding the right publisher for a narrow niche. Is it time to self-publish? At writers’ conferences, my work has been praised, but not for their market.

I’m thinking about doing some e-books. What are the pros and cons of e-books vs. “real” books?

Randy sez: Self-publishing can be a good idea if you have the skills to carry it off. You need to be able to get your manuscript professionally edited, of course. And most important, you need a marketing platform big enough to make it worth your time. If you are speaking to thousands of people per year (and can sell books at the back of the room) then self-publishing almost always makes sense. If you have a web site or blog with similar exposure, then again it makes sense. If you don’t have that kind of marketing platform, then you need to team up with somebody who does. That “somebody” is a royalty-paying publisher.

E-books can be good, and I think the Amazon Kindle is going to make it (finally) work for fiction. But again, an e-book will only earn you money if you have a marketing platform. If you don’t, then you need to team up with someone who does.

Sylvia asked:

My daughter recently sold her historical novel to a rather new publishing house which is taking a new tack in publishing. Here are some things about the house:
It is a Christian publishing house, fairly new, that encourages first-time authors. The editor seems to be well-respected. They only print on demand and offer no advance, but give 25% of profits to the author instead of the usual 10-15%. They do little PR, leaving a lot of that to the author. They sell only on-line, but sell through the “big” companies: Wallmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon.
I recently asked an agent (on his blog) what he thought about this venture. He wasn’t very encouraging. He seemed to regard POD publishers with “vanity” publishers. I realize that agents are by-passed with this type of publisher, so he might not “approve” for his own economic reasons, although this agent is a respected one, and I would hope he would give an honest evaluation.
What is your take on such a publisher?

Randy sez: POD is not the same as a vanity publisher. At present, I have too little information to evaluate this, since I don’t know the details. The question I would be asking first is whether there are upfront fees that the author has to pay. Also, whether a POD publisher can really get a book into Wal*Mart, Target and B&N.

Meredith commented on this question:

The thing with self-publishing is that the distribution is extremely difficult. And e-books are still very limited in sales. You also lose the opportunity to have a traditional publisher pick it up because most of them won’t want something that has already been published in any form. I would advise being patient, keep working on other projects, develop your craft, adjust your sales pitch, and don’t settle for anything less just because it’s taking a long time.

Martha asked:

I have always been able to speak in front of groups with not problem. I taught English and sponsored Student Council groups for years, served as president of a number of groups and minored in public speaking. I even direct a conference here in Houston. Why is it that when I sit across from an editor I am suddenly tongue tied or babble like a child who doesn’t know what he’s saying without or without a one sheet, and with my “one liners” memorized. After years of attending conferences, I have yet to “sell” a manuscript to an editor. And I know several editors personally, but when it comes to getting them interested in what I write…

Meredith’s answer:

I feel your pain, honey! I, too, am comfortable speaking in front of people, but I am acutely uncomfortable pitching or even discussing my own work. I can’t answer your “why is this” question, but I can tell you what helps me. First, do use a one-sheet. Second, take a bottle of water with you into the pitch session. My mouth gets very dry when I’m nervous, so the water is a must. But you can also use it to give yourself a break. If you start to babble, stop and take a drink. Gives you a way to get control again without being too obvious about it.

This past April, I pitched for the first time in quite awhile (having an agent means I don’t really have to pitch, so I’ve avoided it). I, too, tend to babble or get tongue-tied, so what I did was let the editor guide the conversation. We exchanged a few small-talk remarks and then she asked me to tell her about my book. So I gave her my pitch line (use that one-sheet–which I wished I’d had!) and then told her “I don’t want to unload the entire plot line on you–what would you like to hear more about?” She actually wanted to hear more details! And it helped turn it into more of a question and answer session, which was somewhat more comfortable for me than trying to give a big presentation. If I’d had a professional looking one-sheet, I would maybe have handed it to her after giving my pitch line, and then taken a BIG swig from my water bottle while she perused it. She asked for me to send three sample chapters and a synopsis, so I’d say it was a successful pitch. But I was still nervous.

In my Writers Conference Survival Guide, I have some other suggestions for how to handle pre-pitch jitters. But don’t get too down on yourself about being nervous. It’s quite normal, and there is nothing wrong with you. Editors and agents generally understand how nervous writers can get. If you plan out some coping mechanisms in advance, you can learn to get through it. I just accept the jitters as part of the process
and work to keep them under control. Having experience pitching successfully, I now don’t let it bother me because I know I can be successful in spite of it.

Randy sez: I think it simply comes down to practice. You will get better at pitching by pitching. If you don’t feel confident, then going in with the goods is essential. Then you don’t have to talk much. Just show them your work. Listen, if it sings to that particular editor or agent, then you win. If it doesn’t sing to that particular editor or agent, then the best pitch in the world ain’t gonna fly.

OK, enough for today! Tomorrow, I’ll continue working through the backlog of questions that you’ve asked, so be patient. We should be able to get through them all in the next week or so.

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