by Susan May Warren
The ACFW conference is less than two months away and I can’t wait! Even now, I’m gearing up to hang out with my favorite peeps, fellow authors and the My Book Therapy community (The Voices.) And, just like you, I’m training for the day when I see editors and agents and pitch them my newest idea. I want to be on my game, to know my genre, my competition, my story and most of all, I want to leave them with a good impression.
Here’s my five recommendations on how to prep for the ACFW Conference.
1. Familiarize yourself with the current releases of the editors you will talk to.
An editor wants to know that you understand the products they publish, that they aren’t wasting their time as you pitch them your book. Of course they’ll be polite, and even kind, but imagine their dismay when you offer a fantasy or YA novel to a house that only publishes contemporary romances. Know the books your editor publishes. Look at the newest releases from that house and read the ones in your genre. You want to keep current with literary trends and publishers preferences, and you do this by reading their current releases. More than that, by reading the kind of book they publish, you’ll also know their preferences in voice and subject matter. I sold my first book by reading everything published by Tyndale in contemporary romance. I dissected the stories, found the commonalities, the preferences, even the different voices. Then a crafted a story I felt they would want to put their name on. Read up on your publisher and walk into the game prepared.
2. Read the submission requirements and genre preferences of the agents you will talk to.
Like the editor you will talk to you, when you approach an agent, know the kind of books they represent. Agents will clearly state on their website what book they prefer, and frankly, it behooves you to know a few of the authors they represent. It will give you insight as to what their preferences are, and how you might fit into their repertoire of authors. If they have a blog, read it. Plan to attend their class, or a panel. Prep yourself on the people whom you will be asking to partner with you in this business.
3. Read the Carol award finalists for your genre.
I am shocked by the number of novelists who don’t read in their genre, and frankly, who don’t read inspirational fiction. You can’t write in a genre you don’ read, and you can’t sell in a market you don’t understand or even respect. My favorite authors are in my own genre – Dee Gist, and Siri Mitchell, Rachel Hauck, Jenny B. Jones, Robin Caroll, Ronie Kendig, and so many more. I always make a point of reading the other finalists if I am up for an award (and am always humbled by their skills). Know the market you are writing for and learn from your peers. Only then will you know how to stay in the game.
4. Prepare business cards, your one sheet and your pitch. Practice it (and if you don’t know how to create a pitch, then attend our Pitch and Promotion Seminar).
The key to pitching is to know your story so well you can talk about it easily, in a sentence (or pitch) a paragraph (or the premise) and then in specifics (genre, theme, and even basic storyline). However, getting to this place takes practice and an understanding of the dramatic irony and selling points of your story. If you haven’t learned how to craft a pitch, go to www.mybooktherapy.com and read about the essentials, or talk to others who have crafted a pitch. The most important product you have is your ability to think on your feet and be prepared with an answer. Take the time to warm up for that moment.
5. Buy your ticket for the MBT Pizza Party and get ready to have fun!
ACFW is about rejuvenating. Let’s face it – writing is a lonely business. Most of the time it’s just you and your computer and the voices in your head. I designed the Pizza Party as a time to relax and have some fun. This year will be the best party yet! Don’t miss it – Get your tickets now at: http://store.mybooktherapy.com/product/pizza-party-2014/ First 100 get a gift bag filled with goodies!
Here’s what you don’t have to do:
1. Don’t spend hours polishing that first chapter. If it isn’t polished by now, you can do it after the conference. You won’t hand anyone your first chapter at the conference anyway.
2. Don’t spend hours worrying being alone with no one to talk to. You won’t be lonely, I promise. If you are in need of a friend, stop by the MBT Booth. We’ll be there to give warm welcome.
3. Don’t worry about feeling overwhelmed and like you don’t know what it going on. Everyone has that moment at the beginning of the conference. Again, stop by the MBT booth and pick up your 2014 Voices pin (to identify each other!) I promise by the end of the conference, you’ll know exactly the next step to take on your journey.
I can’t wait to see you all in September!
Susan May Warren is the RITA, Christy and Carol-Award winning, best-selling novelist of over 40 novels. Her newest novel is When I Fall in Love. She is also the founder of My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community of over 1500 novelists.