Thursday, September 3, 2015

Conference Prep

With the ACFW Conference less than two weeks away, I thought it would be fun to share this blog post I originally wrote two years ago before my second conference. I've learned even more since I wrote this, but it's a good starting place for conference newbies. If you're going to ACFW for the first time, I hope this helps put your mind at ease.
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I will be attending the ACFW Conference and I'm busy preparing for the meetings, classes, and networking I'll be doing while there. I can't wait!!

For many authors, pitching appointments are at the top of our preparation list. Everything else pales in comparison when we start to think about pitching. We can never start practicing and preparing for these important meetings too soon.

Three areas I'm preparing right now are one sheets (or pitch sheets), business cards, and practicing my actual pitch.

One Sheets. When I start to prepare for my pitching appointments, the first place I start is with my one sheet. This is the piece of paper I'll place in front of the editor when I sit down to pitch. Here's my very first one sheet (my agent used this one as an example in a blog post she wrote for the Books & Such blog about preparing your one sheet):

On my one sheet I have my story question (or hook), an image that represents my story, my picture, the "back cover copy," information about the book's length, genre and series potential, my bio, and contact information.

I feel this one sheet captures the essence of my writing. Make sure your one sheet does the same.

The first year I pitched, I took Beth Vogt's advice and organized a pitching folder. You can watch her great vlog here. Since she does such a fabulous job explaining pitch folders, and how to have a successful pitching appointment, I won't go into too many details. But I want to share what I felt worked really well about her advice.

My pitching folder

I bought three sturdy folders and placed my one sheet on the left, my full book proposal on the right (including the five page synopsis and first three chapters of my novel), as well as my business card in the little slots on the bottom left. When I sat down for my pitch appointments I took out my one sheet and placed it on the top of the folder. It was great to have the pitch sheet ready to give to the editors when they extended their hands. I based my pitch on the "back cover copy" and if I needed to, I could easily look at it for reference if I forgot my words.

Having everything together in one place came in handy when an agent--who I talked to in the hallway before a meal--ask for my entire folder.

Business Cards. I discovered business cards were mostly used to connect with other writers. When I come home from ACFW I have dozen and dozens of business cards from people I meet. It's a great way to gather contact information. The editors I talked to didn't take my one sheets, but they did take my business cards.

Here's what my business cards look like:

I tried to make my business card and one sheet look similar. My best advice is to make sure you put your picture on your card! This will help people put a face with your name later on.

At the conference be sure to have these card easily accessible! You'll find yourself exchanging cards all the time.

Pitching. Ah, pitching. I admit, I was very nervous to pitch my story the first year. But I learned a few things before I went to the conference, and I learned a few things while I was there, that have put my nerves to rest...a little bit.

First, practice, practice, practice! Practice in front of the mirror, practice with a friend or family member, and practice while you're doing household chores. It's hard to condense a 100,000 word story into a two or three minute pitch (because that's about how long it should take you)--but you can do it! You want to hook the agent or editor in the first thirty seconds and then keep them hooked for the next few minutes. After that, hopefully they want to know more and they'll ask.

Start with a great story question. The first year I asked: Can breaking someone's heart be the ultimate act of love? Both times the editors raised their brows and said: "Can it?"

One thing that surprised me about pitching was how it was actually done. It's hard to imagine what it will be like, so I thought I'd explain it as best as I can. First, you show up for your scheduled meeting about fifteen minutes early and wait in the waiting area with a lot of other very nervous people. :)You're told to be quiet, since meetings are taking place close by.

People are talking quietly together, encouraging and praying for one another. A few minutes before your scheduled time, the coordinator with call all the writers to one place and explain what will happen. There is a long hallway with many meeting rooms. You will be told where your agent/editor is waiting.

A minute before you go into your appointment a whole group of other people will be exiting the meeting rooms, done with their appointments. Then the coordinator will tell you to find your meeting room--quietly. At this point, you walk down a long hallway with about fifty other people. It kind of feels like you're being herded!

The meeting room is well lit (I say this, because for some reason, when I imagined pitching appointments, I imagined sitting at a table in a dark room with a large light shining directly on my face...) :). There are about five or six small tables set up in the room, with two chairs at each table, directly across from one another. There will be name tags on their tables so you know which person to go to. The agent or editor will be sitting on one side and you'll take the chair on the other. Hopefully they are smiling at you when you walk in! :) You sit down, with a smile on your face, and take a deep breath. Remember there are about a dozen other people in the room talking, so don't let their chatter distract you.

My first editor started by introducing herself and asked me to tell her a little about myself. This immediately set me at ease. I love talking about my home and family. After that, we launched into my pitch. The second editor greeted me with a handshake and told me to tell her about my story.

My first pitching appointment! The editor had this lovely smile
the entire time I talked to her. She put me at ease and asked
great questions about my writing.

Five minutes before your time is up the time keeper will come into the room and say: "Five minutes left" or something like that. Sometimes, I use my entire time, and sometimes I finish with a minute or two to spare. Once, I spoke with an editor who simply asked me to send her my manuscript right away and we were done in five minutes.

There is nothing I can say that will magically prepare you for the conference. It takes a lot of time, hard work and determination--but you can do it! Remember that you are the expert concerning your story and that God has called you to write it--no one else. Don't forget to be confident, yet humble. Try to put your nerves in their proper place. God gave you these nerves to keep you alert and conscious of your performance, but if you let them have too much control they can work against you.

And last, but not least in any way, pray, pray, pray. If God has called you to it, He'll walk you through it. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

Your turn: What makes you the most nervous about pitching? If you've pitched before, tell us about it. If you have any advice about one sheets or business cards, I'd love to hear it.

We have a winner from my giveaway last week to celebrate my new publishing contract with Love Inspired Books! The winner of the August Box Set of Love Inspired Historical (eBooks) and

a copy of each of my novella collections is:

Kim Hansen-Amundsen!! Congrats, Kim. I'll be contacting you soon.

Gabrielle Meyer:
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1 comment:

  1. I should tell you I've been STUDYING this all day.
    I've struggled with my pitch for weeks!
    Now, because of you, I feel like I have a much better handle on things.
    Thank you!


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