ACFW Conference Debriefing

I just came from ACFW, the annual conference of American Christian Fiction Writers. It’s a large and terrific writers conference, with top notch writing courses and plenty of opportunity for networking. This year there were something like 540 writers attending, and 60 faculty and staff. Donald Maass gave an all-day seminar on opening day, and Debbie Macomber was the keynote speaker. In case you’ve ever wondered what a conference is like for an agent, here are a few notes from my personal perspective: * I generally enjoy writers’ conferences because I love nothing more than, talking, eating and breathing “publishing” and there’s no better place to do that! * The hardest part for me is staying “on” for hours on end, sometimes 14 hours with...
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Should You Go to a Writers’ Conference?

People frequently ask me whether they should invest the time and money to go to a writers’ conference. In my opinion, it can be a valuable experience whether you’re agented or not, published or not. But especially if you’re neither. I could write pages and pages about the value of a conference, but in the end it comes down to a personal decision about how to spend your time and money. Here are some things to think about: 1. If it’s a financial hardship, then it’s usually not the right thing to do. There will always be more conferences, perhaps at a better time financially. 2. Making a commitment to attend conferences regularly (once a year if you can) signals to yourself and your family that you’re taking this whole writing thing seriously; that...
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Recovering from a Writers Conference

I just returned from four days at a writers conference. I had something like 30 one-on-one meetings with writers, taught four 1-hour workshops, ran two late-night critique groups, had a few lunches/dinners/coffees with editors, and still managed to get out each morning for a 2-mile jog to and from Starbucks. Phew! I really enjoyed this conference but felt pretty rundown by the end of it, which is normal. It takes a lot of psychic energy to be “on” 12 hours a day! I came away from the conference with one very strong potential client, and a small handful of others I want to consider. However, as you know, I don’t really have much time for new-client consideration at the moment so I’m going to have to make these decisions slowly and carefully. One of the cool things...
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Tis the Season for Writers’ Conferences

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/ShTO0wGTulI/AAAAAAAAC9k/qOpEkB1BeDI/s200/kris-allen.bmp Oh my gosh, wasn’t that the BEST.IDOL.FINALE.EVER???? Congratulations Kris Allen! Now for today’s post. We’re now fully into spring and that means… writers’ conferences! Many of you are probably planning to attend at least one conference in the next few months. There’s quite a bit of information available online about preparing for conferences, but I want to discuss just one tiny aspect: your one-on-one meetings with agents and editors. You’re going to get lots of advice about how to prepare for those meetings: what to bring, how to pitch, etc. I’m not going over all that again. I want to offer a slightly different perspective, and it’s this: Consider using your editor/agent appointments for getting honest feedback on your manuscript...
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The Elevator Pitch, Part 1

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SXyH9FWNEeI/AAAAAAAACmQ/yuYTSPflM9g/s200/elevator.jpg It has come to my attention that I’ve failed you. I asked you to send elevator pitches, without previously teaching you about elevator pitches. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I’ll try to make up for it over the next three days by giving you lots of tips about how to craft a successful pitch. (I won’t be able to critique everyone’s pitch, but you can still learn from the ones I do critique.) I’ll start with some basics. I had a specific reason for setting up Friday’s blog post with “close your eyes and imagine…” I wanted you to grasp the fact that you are going to be talking to someone. I didn’t want your standard written pitch. Which is what many of you offered. There’s a huge difference between the way people speak and the way they...
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Agent-Writer Communication

I want to tell you about an incident at ACFW that was sort of heartbreaking for me. I guess I want you to know that we agents have a lot invested in these conferences, just like the writers do, and sometimes we have disappointments too. I met with a writer, a lovely and sweet woman who pitched me a couple of projects. She seemed like someone whose writing was progressing toward possibly ready for publication. I particularly liked one of her projects, and didn’t see as much potential for the other, and I told her so. But I said I’d love to hear from her after the conference, would love her to send me the manuscript so I could read it, and we could discuss the possibility of representation. Now understand, I don’t remember any more details than that. It was a 15-minute...
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Finding Potential Clients at ACFW

I spent the last several days at the ACFW conference in Minneapolis (along with about 600 of my closest friends) and once again my overriding feeling is… I’m tired. I’m sure everyone who went is feeling the same thing. It was terrific meeting lots of my blog readers and I’m glad many of you made the effort to say hi! I had 32 one-on-one meetings with writers, and countless opportunities to meet and briefly hear pitches from many more. I was impressed with how prepared everyone was, with a brief verbal pitch, one-sheets and first pages for me to read. Wow! I’m so proud of everyone for taking advantage of all the information available and really stepping up to the plate in these meetings. More importantly, I was struck by how many writers are presenting good...
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It’s Not All About You – Or Me

Last Wednesday in response to my call for readers to contribute their own additions to the writers conference checklist, one wise person wrote, “Don’t make it all about you.” I had been thinking of including that exact tidbit in my original list because it’s so important. But I ended up leaving it off my list because there didn’t seem time to explain this one. It’s a wise piece of advice, but the problem is that I’ve met earnest writers at conferences who have taken this whole “don’t make it all about you” to heart and then taken it to extremes. At a conference, or in any social situation, the key to lessening your insecurity and self-consciousness is to stop thinking so much about yourself—how others might see you, what...
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ACFW Conference Checklist

Many of us will be heading to the ACFW conference in about a week, so I wanted to give you a handy checklist of things to make sure you bring. Even if you’re not attending ACFW, you might find this useful sometime in the future for another conference. a Some concise and fascinating answers to questions like, “So, what do you write?” and “Tell me about yourself.” a Organized thoughts about the book(s) you’re pitching, so you can easily give a 1 or 2 minute pitch when asked. a One-sheets for each book you’re pitching—plenty of copies in case agents or editors want to keep them. a Business cards. a A printout of the first chapter of your novel (or a book proposal for non-fiction). You just need a few of copies since you will show them in meetings...
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A New Writing Contest

Passing along a press release… Zondervan and Mount Hermon Writer’s ConferenceSponsor Competition for Aspiring Fiction AuthorsWinner Receives $10,000 Publishing Contract GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., September 3, 2008 – Unpublished Christian fiction writers, get your manuscripts ready. Zondervan, a world leader in Christian communications, today announced All About the Story, a writing competition for first-time novelists. The winner will receive a $10,000 publishing contract with Zondervan, and all finalists will have their works recognized during the Christian Book EXPO in Dallas in March 2009. Sponsored by Zondervan and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, All About the Story is open to any unpublished writer who has attended a past Mount Hermon Writer’s conference or who is...
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Q4U: Your Tips for Agents & Editors

Yesterday I gave you some tips for making a great pitch at a conference. But as blog reader Karen pointed out, we agents and editors could use some tips, too. So tell us… what would make you more comfortable pitching to us at a conference? What do you need to hear from us? And let’s open it up beyond conferences. In all your dealings with agents and editors, what can we do to make things easier for you? Now’s your chance. We’re listening!
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Ask the Agent: Strategizing a Conference

The Teensy Weensy Challenge is officially closed! Many thanks to the 123 courageous authors who entered. Stay tuned for results! Question: “I am focusing my efforts on finding an agent. However, I will be attending a conference where I will have the opportunity to meet with agents and editors. If I have not yet signed with an agent by the time of that conference, would it be wise to make appointments with editors?” There has been a bit of confusion about this lately, because it’s hard to know what to do in every situation. I’ve written about this before (see this post) but let me try to help a little more. If you are unpublished, unrepresented by an agent, and uncontracted with a publisher, you should use any and all possible methods to get your work seen by the...
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Pitching in Those One-on-One Appointments

Yesterday there was a comment about pitching agents and editors at conferences that I thought was important enough to address here. The question was whether a “newbie” unpublished author should pitch during their one-on-one appointments, or simply use the time to get to know an agent/editor and learn more about the process. In the past I’ve advised newer writers to spend the one-on-one time telling about their project, and asking for feedback about story or marketability, rather than simply trying to sell it. In other words, use the meeting to learn more about how your own writing fits (or doesn’t fit) into the larger publishing arena. As an in-house editor, I never minded when writers used my appointment time to pick my brain and gather good feedback about their...
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More on Writers’ Conferences

Some UnFunny, Not-Snarky, Deadly Serious and Totally Anti-Sarcastic Tips For You I know a lot of you will be attending writers’ conferences soon, so I wanted to mention a few more things here. First, I can’t overstress the importance of having a verbal pitch ready. There are numerous opportunities at conferences to give a brief pitch of your book, sixty seconds. This can be at a meal (where the person hosting the table often asks writers to share what they’re writing) or any number of other occasions. You’ve heard about the “elevator pitch,” right? Well, this last conference I took my very first bonafide elevator pitch, in an elevator. (I’ve received plenty of hallway pitches, bathroom pitches, dinner-table pitches, etc.) It was fun! Anyway, I...
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