Monday, January 24, 2011

Conference Tips, part 2

Lots of you are getting ready for SCBWI-NY, so this seems like as good a time as any to follow up on Conference Tips Part 1.

First of all, "pitching" should not be the goal. I personally hate it when people creep up to me and say "I wanna pitch my book to you!" - What happened to "hello"? How about you just talk to me like a person, and let me ask you about your work?

now this is a pitch

But let's say that you have a one-on-one pitch session scheduled. Or you have chatted me up at a cocktail party and I've ended up asking you the question: What is your book about?

This shouldn't be a summary of your book. I don't need to know the main character's childhood nickname or favorite food or where they went to middle school. In your real voice, in real words, NOT in a canned speech, just briefly tell me what this thing is, and why I should care. That's the taste of the story that will make me want the whole thing… something that will make me say WOW, sounds fun, I want to read that. 

You aren't giving a speech, you are having a conversation with a real person. So keep the "pitching" part brief, pay attention to social cues just like you would in any conversation. I might want to ask you for more information. Be ready to answer follow up questions about yourself or your story.  That means, BE LISTENING.

This is a chance for you to talk about something that you are very passionate about, and know more about than anything in the world.  You are the world’s foremost expert on this book. Literally nobody on the planet knows more about this topic than you do. Have fun! 

A superb brief tutorial on The Pitch can be found on Janet Reid's blog.

Heck no. Though conferences can be great fun and useful to get a glimpse at parts of the publishing biz beyond your own desk, or just make new friends who are in the same boat as you, they are hardly required.  You can get an agent and get published without ever setting foot in a conference. (Ask half my clients!) It's just hard to tell, because the writers who are usually the most "out there" on the internet are often the type of personalities who LIKE to go to conferences, so that can make a newbie feel like everyone is doing it, because everyone they see is.

If you want to dabble, but not commit to a big time conference where you have to travel, consider attending a short SCBWI event or two in your region. These are usually a few hours to a day long, and priced reasonably. Also, take a look at WriteOnCon, which is all online. 

You should go if you can afford to (this means both in time and money), and if you honestly want to.  But if you can't get time off the day job, or it is just too much of a stretch financially, or you feel reluctant, or you don't like to be in groups, or whatever, don't listen to folks who insist that you MUST attend. That is hogwash.

The important thing is, do what you need to do to fuel your writing.