This blog is a continuation of the previous blog about conference preparation.
7. Bring an idea collection kit. Yes, it’s nice to have an emergency sewing kit, but not that kind of resource. At conference, you learn important information about craft, marketing, story ideas, etc. This kit helps you FIND that information later. My kit is in a zipping plastic bag, about 8 inches by four inches, see-through so you can quickly find emergency supplies like paper clips, scissors, highlighters, rubber bands, post-it notes, stick-em ‘flags’ so you can quickly flag important pages and not lose vital business cards; Sharpies so you can post or add info on bulletin boards. Drop this kit into your conference bag and you’ll be ready to gather important info.
8. Bring a thumb/travel drive of your writing. No, don’t wave a 400-page completed manuscript at a passing editor or agent. Travel drives (portable memory drives) are small and can hold query letters, synopses, first chapters, partials and such of every novel you’ve written. Should you connect in a meaningful way with an editor or agent who asks for a partial of your pitch story, or another story you’ve written, you can easily take that travel drive to the business office of your hotel and print it out. It never hurts to be ready when opportunity knocks.
9. Defeat self-defeating behavior and denial. Avoid disaster thinking such as,
“I don’t need to practice my pitch. It will all come to me when I sit down.” Practice at home. Prop a doll, a stuffed animal or even a potted plant on the owner side of your desk and take a seat on the public side. Pretend you’re talking to the agent or editor, and be able to say, smoothly and enthusiastically,
“Thank you for coming the conference. I’m (your name) and I write (your genre). My completed novel is about (protagonist’s name). S/he (describe the inciting incident that starts your protagonist’s story) and must (whatever s/he must do to get what s/he wants), but (describe the antagonist/villain and what makes her goal seemingly impossible), only to realize (describe the growth your protagonist experiences through the course of the novel.”
If you can deliver this information succinctly and comfortably, you’re home free. The agent or editor may ask questions to learn more–questions like length, where the story is set, particulars about the story, but if you can deliver this small pitch, the publishing pro knows that you have completed the novel, and most importantly s/he knows that you know what your story is about. You may want to elaborate. If so, go for it, but not until you accomplish the short pitch above and can deliver it in your sleep because you’re so familiar with it.
This familiarity will give you confidence, and once you have that, your appointment will be pleasant, not agonizing.
Final tip on the pitch: save at least ninety seconds to ask a question, something you want to know about your story, the market for your story, whatever. Allow the publishing pro to talk! You have endured the many challenges of completing your story, and you have suffered anxiety over this appointment. The least you can do is be prepared for the meeting, ask a pertinent question, and really listen to his or her answer so you can walk away with a kernel of information that will be helpful to you.
10. Go forth and mingle! Conference is time to re-charge your creative battery. Do that by attending as many workshops as you can. Conference Goddess Pam Nowak and her team have worked hard to assemble a fantastic assortment of workshops and panels just for you. Be there! If you’re shy, work past that. Sit down at a table where you know only one person, or no one at all, and introduce yourself to the person to the right of you and to the left of you. Be genuinely interested in them and what they can share about their writing and the industry.
Wishing you a terrific conference, and be sure to stop me and say Hi! I look forward to this all year long!