by Karen Ball
Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.
Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.
It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!
The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.
Summer and fall boast a lot of wonderful writers’ conferences to attend. So you writers need to know how to capture an editor’s or author’s attention in a matter of seconds. Yes, SECONDS, not minutes. So spend some time thinking about the following:
*What’s the main theme (or themes) addressed in my story.
*For fiction, what’s the nonfiction hook I could use to stir interest in media outlets (e.g. radio, where they generally don’t have a clue what to do with novelists).
*What genre/category is my book? Are there any best-sellers or movies that I can compare my book to that will position it quickly for the agent/editor? For example, “My book is Die Hard meets Left Behind.”
*What’s the spiritual takeaway?
Finally, can I describe my book in:
* one sentence
(At different stages in the process of seeking publication, you’ll need to be able to do all of the above!)
That’s enough to get you started. So hey, go for it! Put together a masterful pitch, one or two sentences, that will position your book in any editor’s or agent’s mind. And if you want to try your pitch out here, feel free. I’ll let you know what I think.