Thursday, July 21, 2005

Conference 101 by Gena Showalter

I’m sure many of you are packed and eager for RWA National conference to begin. I’m equally sure the rest of you are wringing your hands in nervousness, visions of disaster dancing in your head. Well, take a deep breath. Now slowly let it out. Everything is going to be okay. Think of it this way: you’ll soon be surrounded by women who know and understand what it’s like to have conversations with fictional characters. Even better, these women won’t think you need to be committed.

Did I forget to mention you’ll get tons of free books?

Let’s get back to the nervous thing, though. Some of you are still pacing, and I bet I can guess why. You have an editor/agent appointment, right? Maybe I can help calm your nerves by disproving a few myths.

1) Editors are the spawn of Satan and want only to dash your hopes and dreams.
Actually, editors want to discover new talent. They love books. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in this business. When their authors do well, they do well. They aren’t out to get you, ruin you, or destroy you. Promise! Their goal is to find books that appeal to them and that they think will appeal to others.

2) If Jane Doe Editor hates my pitch, then it (and my book!) must suck the big one!
Not true. Writing and story preferences are subjective. What one editor hates, another may love. This was the case with the first book I sold, The Stone Prince. What would have happened if I’d given up because the first editor didn’t like it?

3) If I do something stupid, like walk out of the bathroom with my skirt tucked in my hose, I’ll be a laughingstock.
Sorry, but I can’t help you with this one. I’ll be laughing – probably rolling on the floor with the rest of the conference attendees. Just know that stuff like that has happened to all of us. (I’m guilty of walking around with toilet paper on my shoe, falling on my face, having food stuck in my teeth, and so many other things.) And hey, that might be an excellent -- and more importantly *unforgettable* -- opening for your pitch session…”So, did you see my granny-panty covered ass earlier?”

4) If I take my manuscript with me and personally hand it to the editor, I’ll have a better chance of being read.
Nope. Sorry. This is likely to impact your meeting in a negative way. Think about it. Editors have to lug around a lot of stuff at these conferences. They don’t need one more thing. Plus, policy states you are supposed to mail it in. If you hand it to them during your pitch, you are showing you don’t follow procedure.

5) This pitch session will absolutely, unequivocally make or break my career.
My response to this is twofold. Have sales resulted from pitch sessions? Yes. Is it the norm? No. Try to think of this as networking, of making a contact. Remember -- the editor will be talking with a LOT of writers. The sad fact is (or maybe this is a good thing!), not everyone will be remembered. What you *can* do is generate excitement for your story. That, my friend, is the most important thing.

Having said all of that, I’ll leave you with a final tip: Let your enthusiasm for your story shine through. Enthusiasm is like a virus. If you have it, everyone around you will catch it.

You can visit my blog for more tips!


Blogger Toni Anderson said...

Gena--here's hoping on all fronts--especially the knickers thing ;-)

Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 6:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I'm excited to be among so many talented women and know they understand me!

Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 10:32:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the case with the first book I sold, The Stone Prince. What would have happened if I’d given up because the first editor didn’t like it?

The spatula is one of my favorite book props ever, so I'm certainly glad you didn't. ;)

Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 11:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shelley Bradley said...

At a previous conference, a friend of mine showed up for her editor appointment in a very smart red dress with white polka dots. Said editor was wearing the exact same dress and was NOT amused. But my friend survived and went on to sell the book she was someone else. So the story still had a happy ending!

Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 11:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Are you kidding, Shelley? I'm glad she sold to someone else! Wouldn't want an editor with no sense of humor! It's not like she had the power to do it on *purpose*! I'd have been laughing about it.

Friday, July 22, 2005 at 9:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger wilddunz said...

Great post- Thanks Gena! Maybe we can have a contest for the most embarrassing moment!

Friday, July 22, 2005 at 10:37:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Kelly Maher said...


I hope you had a great time at the conference. This line:

Did I forget to mention you’ll get tons of free books?

made me flash back to New York when we met in the line for St. Martin's. Little did we know the madhouse we were to walk into :)

~yes, this is a pseudonym ;)

Thursday, August 4, 2005 at 3:53:00 AM EDT  

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