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Pitching with Success at the ACFW Conference


by Tiffany Amber Stockton

Many know that I’m a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). It’s the premier Christian fiction organization, and I owe a great deal of thanks to the members for helping me get published. Every year, they hold a national conference, and this year it’s just about in my back yard. Denver, Colorado is only about an hour away. That means around 500 writers, authors, editors, agents and other industry professionals will be coming to the great state of Colorado to teach, learn, pitch, listen to queries, network, meet each other and have a grand time.

To help promote the conference and get folks excited about all that’s going to happen, a lot of members have offered to post on our blogs and spread the word.

Since the ACFW Conference in 2003 is where I first pitched my novel that received a contract in 2006, and since I’ve received requests from all others to whom I pitched, that’s the topic of my post today. For anyone who is attending ACFW (or any other conference), here are some tips I hope will prove helpful to you:

1. Before you make your appointment, study the needs of the publishing house or agency and what they are looking to publish or represent. Present yourself as a well-informed professional who has done your homework. The worst mistake is to sit down and pitch something only to have their eyes glaze over because your story isn’t what they are looking to find.

2. Remember that any editor or agent is looking forward to meeting you. They wouldn’t be at the conference if they didn’t want to hear about new stories and discover new talent. You just might be the reason they’re there.

3. Practice your pitch with someone who will be honest with you. They can give you valuable feedback on what to cut or change or even give you the extra encouragement you need to feel confident.

4. Dress appropriately. Appearance counts just as much as what you say. The old adage proves true. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Appear professional.

5. Be confident. Sweaty palms or a case of nerves is normal. But you have to believe in yourself and your work before you can convince someone else to buy it. So, be proud of your writing.

6. Start off the meeting with an icebreaker or small-talk. Perhaps mention someone else who recommended this meeting, or why you chose to meet with this person. Oftentimes, the editor or agent will set you at ease and start it off themselves. If not, have something casual ready.

7. Choose your words wisely. Keep your pitch to 25 words or less. This is often also called the “elevator pitch” or what you’d say if you were riding the elevator with your dream editor/agent. You want to catch their attention right away and don’t want to take the entire 15 minutes to get to the main point.

8. Know the main conflict of your story and highlight it when you pitch. Be ready with more details when asked to elaborate.

9. If there is anything unique about your main characters or your story, work that into your pitch. Editors and agents hear hundreds during conference season. You want to make yours stand out.

10. Study the editor or agent as you talk. They might be looking for what you have to offer, but you want to make sure this person is the “right” person for you. Prepare some general interview questions for them instead of waiting for them to direct the entire meeting.

11. Be mindful of the time. When your 15 minutes comes to a close, wrap it up. Don’t keep the next appointment waiting or the editor/agent from getting to the next aspect of the conference.

12. Conclude in style. Thank them for their time and ask for a business card if they are open to you submitting to them. Offer a handshake and a smile, and confirm a request to submit if it was offered, or reaffirm a referral if it was given.

These tips only brush the surface, but I hope they give you a starting point to help guide you as you prepare for whatever meetings you have. The faculty who are selected to be on staff at the ACFW Conference are top-notch. Many of them have remarked about the quality of the manuscripts or ideas they’ve received each year. And each year, they return, knowing they’re going to find the cream of the crop.

You just might be the one person the editor or agent has come to that conference to meet. Be confident, relaxed, proud. Most importantly, be yourself. You might end up with a successful story to tell!

http://www.amberstockton.com/blogAmber Stockton – Author (www.amberstockton.com)

BIO

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart, in beautiful Colorado. They celebrated the birth of their first child in April and have a vivacious Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix named Roxie. She has sold six books to Barbour Publishing with more on the horizon. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster. Read more about her at her web site: www.amberstockton.com.

Available Now:
Copper and Candles, April 2009 (HP #843)

Society teas and garden parties, shopping, gossip—

Life as a young lady of means may be fun, but Felicity wants to do more. Unfortunately, she finds that her position and wealth can sometimes hinder her efforts to help those around her in need. Thus, when a charity case falls ill and cannot work, Felicity determines to go to work as a commoner in Detroit’s dangerous factory district.

Relationships become complicated, however, and she soon finds herself falling in love with a worker from the copper refinery next door. She knows her family would never accept him as a suitor, but what’s a girl to do? What she doesn’t know is that Brandt has his own secrets and hides his identity just as carefully as she. Brandt and Felicity soon discover that deception—no matter how noble its intent—demands a price that even they, with all their resources, may not be able to pay.

Can they survive the storm when truth is revealed?

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