Beating the Post Conference Blues

Are you home from the ACFW conference?  Finally unpacked?  I hope you came home filled with encouragement and new ideas on how to make your writing breathtaking.

Now what? 

Conferences can be overwhelming, between the requests for proposals or full manuscripts, new story ideas, craft lessons, marketing epiphanies and loads of new friends.  Where and how do you start to process all this information?

  1. Organize your contacts: Sit down a make a list of everyone you met, from editors to fellow authors, to newbies. I always have a bazillion biz cards, and I just take a moment to input those into my outlook contacts.

 

  1. Reach out.If there are editors or agents who gave you their time, even in an elevator to listen to your proposal, thank them.  If they asked you for a submission, thank them and tell them that you’ll be sending it. Thank the new authors you met who spent time with you.  If you’ve met someone just beginning their journey, reaching out to encourage them is a way to remind yourself of where you’ve been.  This is how you build connections.

 

  1. Start a “Huddle” or Craft Group. This is not a critique group, but a group of writers committed to learning together. One of the best things that Rachel Hauck and I do is compare notes on similar books. We’ll both read a book and then talk about the craft we learned in it. Or she reads a book and tells me what she learned, and I read a book and mention what I learned. Working together you can start to apply what you learned at conference.

 

  1. Organize your plan of action. No doubt you’ll have come home with something you’d like to work on in your story.  If it is something you are going to weave into the plot or the first three chapters, knuckle down and do this immediately before you send in your proposal. If you have a list of new teaching tips to add into your ms, then make a list, and apply these, step by step in to your story. Don’t try and tackle it all at once – get one element down, then move to the next.

 

  1. Respond to those requests for proposals. If you’ve received a request to send in a proposal, or a full, then, Yay! and Oh Boy, because now you have an open door that you want to use wisely.

 

Now that you’ve attended the conference, you may want to hold off submitting until you have applied changes to your MS. If you have quick revisions, go ahead and apply them, easiest to hardest, to the synopsis and first three chapters. Your can fix the rest of the book while the agent/editor is reading over my proposal.

 

However: if it is a full book rewrite, write to them and tell them you’ll contact them when it is finished. You don’t want an agent to read your proposal, be excited about it, only to have you say…sorry, it’ll be six months before I get the rest to you.

 

The key is to keep communicating.  If it takes you until mid-November to rewrite, then simply send your agent/editor a Christmas note giving them an update on the story.  I promise they’re not waiting by the computer for your submission, but it’s courtesy to let them know what’s going on.

My advice: Follow up on every proposal request with the appropriate information:

  1. A Thank you and your ready proposal
  2. A Thank you, and an update on when you’ll send it.
  3. A Thank you and an “I’m not ready yet, but can I contact you later when I am” request.

 

Conferences are a great boost to your writing journey – but the key is to beat the Post-Conference Blues and get to work!

 

Then– Go! Write Something Brilliant!

smw sig without background

Create an Awesome Marketing Plan—Part 5: Cross-promoting and Events

One Thing Marketing LogoIn late 2014, we began a series on creating an awesome marketing plan for your novel’s proposal. The goal is not only to wow agents and editors with your stellar marketing expertise, but also once published to be able to take this plan and put it into action.

I took a wee break from these posts over the Christmas holiday but I’m back with Part 5 today. In case you need to catch up on earlier posts first, you can check them out here:

Part 1: Intro

Part 2: Media and Speaking Engagements

Part 3: Internet Presence

Part 4: Libraries and Launch Teams

Today, our growing proposal marketing plan is going to get bigger as we add both Cross-Promotional Opportunities and Book-signings/Events.

Cross-Promotional Opportunities

Okay, folks, if you want to prove you’re ahead of the marketing game, including a section in your marketing plan about cross-promoting is a great idea. And why wouldn’t you include this? Many of us already cross-promote without even thinking about it. We post links and share updates about our favorite books and authors. We talk with friends about recent book faves. As writers, we naturally gravitate toward others who write in our genre.

So your goal here is to let publishers know of any existing relationships you have with other authors and ideas for cross-promoting with those authors. For instance, two other Bethany House authors and I write the same genre and our books tend to release at the same time. So we worked together to create some fun romance videos which we released around the time of our book launches. Some other author friends and I have put together a series of giveaways in which we’ve featured all our books–we had more than 10,000 entries in our last one!

So if you have any ideas for how you might band together with other writers to cross-promote each others’ books, go ahead and include those ideas briefly here. OR if you aren’t to the stage yet of having connected with many other authors, it’s okay to let the publisher know it’s something you’re working on. Let’s say you write “foodie fiction”–women’s fiction or romance with “foodie” elements. You might say something like this:

I am currently building relationships with several other authors of contemporary romance, especially authors of “foodie” books. I would like to explore cross-promotional opportunities, including group giveaways or recipe exchanges to attract readers.

Book-signings/Events

It’s hard to get specific in a marketing plan about what book-signings and events you’d like to incorporate into your promotional efforts simply because, well, it’s hard to plan an event when you’re not sure when your books will be contracted and published.

BUT what you can do is let the publisher know you’re forward thinking and have though through the details of planning an event.

Warning: Events can be costly and the ROI isn’t always, well, awesome. I work in marketing for my day job and this is something we talk about often. Events are fun. They’re feel-good moments. They can be successful when done well. But they can also be costly and draining.

At some point, I will do a full blog post on events themselves, but when it comes to the marketing plan you include in your novel proposal, it’s great to simply let your publisher know if you plan to work on setting up book-signings. (Sidenote: They’ll often help with this!) If there are several high traffic bookstores in your area that regularly host signings, let the publisher know. If you’ve already built some relationships with local bookstores or libraries, include this information. And if you have a particularly good idea for a launch party at which you can guarantee a LARGE turnout, go ahead and include that. If I were to write this section for a new proposal, I might say:

In the months leading up to my book’s release, I plan to contact both local Barnes & Noble stores, two local BAM stores and two local Family Christian stores to schedule book-signings, if possible. There are also six independent bookstores–two of which are Christian–in my community, which I plan to contact as well. I regularly travel to Chicago, Kansas City and the Twin Cities, so I’m hopeful contacts in those places might be able to connect me with local stores there.

In addition, I will hold a launch party around the time of my book’s release. I can expect to draw 150-200 people, but in order to expand the scope of the event, I will pair it with an “online party” which will include a giveaway and newsletter signup.

That’s it for now! We’re winding down the marketing plan talk next week with a final post on Printed Materials, Bonus Materials and Endorsements.

Do you have any questions about cross-promoting or events?

Are you ready to Pitch your novel? A 7 question LITMUS test!

Are you ready to pitch your story?

With the ACFW Conference just a month away, many authors are polishing their pitches, proposals and pitch sheets. But…are they truly ready to pitch?  The fact is, you only get one shot to pitch your story to a particular editor/agent.

Here’s a quick litmus test to see if you’re ready to pitch your novel:

1. Is your novel finished?  First time novelists should have their novel completed before they pitch for two reasons.

  • It tells the editor/agent that YES, you can finish a novel.  And then, when you pitch an entire series of 3 novels, they have the confidence you can fnished #2 and #3.
  • It helps you understand the true external pitch of your story (and the internal storyquestion). Sometimes it takes the finished novel to take a good look at your story and understand the sellabe elements.
  • It allows you to send the novel off immediately to an editor/agent should they ask to see more (yay!)

2. Have you done your research to know with which publishing house your novel is a good fit?  Houses like to publish books similiar (but not the same) to novels they’ve had success with before.  Don’t try to sell your dystopian suspense to a house that only publishes Amish romances.  Know what other books they have published that are similar to yours, and know how yours are different, also. But you need to have some answer as to why your book would be a good fit in that publishing house. An agent might even ask you where you see this book being published. Do your homework and give them an informed answer.

3.  Do you know what is at STAKE in your story? Why does your story, your character’s external and internal journey matter?  Understanding this is essential for crafting the PITCH, the PREMISE and the Story Question.

4. have an external PITCH for your story?  This takes a bit of creativity, but you should have something you can easily rattle off in an elevator, in the food line, or when you sit down at the table.  In one quick sentence…what is your story ABOUT?

5.  Do you know the PREMISE of your story? This is a bit longer, and the follow up to your novel.  It gives the bigger picture, stirs the interest of the editor/agent and gives them a better picture of the marketing angle to your story.

6. What is the reader takeaway?  This can often be found in the Story Question – the internal journey of your character.  We’re not crafting message-driven novels, but we do want to ask big questions that work well for reader groups.  If you don’t know the Story Question of your novel, you’ll want to dig deep and ask: What is the answer your character is seeking? What do they learn at the end?  Or, what is the controversial topic in the story? (controversy sells novels!)

7. Do you have a PITCH SHEET?  This is a one-page overview of your story.  It contains your bio, your pitch, your premise, your storyquestion and contact information.  And, it should look professional – you might even want to hook up with someone like Matt Jones with http://joneshousecreative.com/ to help you craft it.

Now…how do you pitch successfully?  Here’s a sample scenario:

Then, if you are in a pitching appointment, go in, shake their hand, introduce yourself, smile and hand them your one sheet.

They’ll probably look at it and say “how are you today?” or something to break the ice. Go ahead and make friends briefly, and then segue into your pitch.

“I’m great, Mr. Anderson. I enjoyed your class, Writing the Bestseller. Intriguing. I’ve written a contemporary romance that I hope fits your best-seller category….A story about a talk show host to the lovelorn who has never had a date. Why? Because she is waiting for the perfect man. But when he moves in next door, will she recognize him? It’s set in small town Minnesota and is a story about being trapped by our fears and perfect love setting us free.”

“Interesting. Why hasn’t she had a date?”

“Good question – She’s agoraphobic – trapped in her house after she survived a tragic car accident that killed her mother.  She’s tried to escape through her a national talk show – broadcast from her home. But no one knows her true identity, including the new football coach who’s moved in next door – someone who drives her crazy. See, he’s got his own scars and secrets after being wounded in Iraq, and he’s hiding something too. When he starts calling the show, in need of help to befriend the neighbor, they begin to fall for each other online without realizing they are neighbors. But will their love last when they discover the truth? And what will their secrets cost them?”

“Interesting. Why would this make a sellable story?”

“Think You’ve Got Mail, set in small town America with a little of Friday Night Lights thrown in. It’s something I could see trade size at Tyndale or Waterbrook Multnomah.”

Now, here’s where they’ll pause. They might ask you more questions. They might ask how long you’ve been writing. Or if this is a stand-alone or part of three part series. They might ask you where you got your idea. They might offer ideas to tweak it. They might ask to have you send them a proposal.

Sometimes they might even say…”How can I help you with this?” Obviously, we WISH they’d say, “Hey I love this,” and pull out a contract right there. Not gonna happen. It’s wise to arm yourself with some sort of feedback question for that situation.

Be armed with an answer, something that allows them to give you real, usable feedback: “How can I make the story more compelling?” “How could I tweak this to make it more sellable?”

The key is to use this time to talk about your story. There is nothing worse for an agent/editor than to have an author pitch their story, then sit back and smile, and make the agent/editor fill in the blank space. You have fifteen minutes to communicate your vision for this book – use it!

And here’s a hint – don’t memorize your premise word by word. It feels canned. Let the story come out on its own, with enthusiasm. You know your story – just tell it.

If they ask for a sample proposal, then thank them, take their card and follow up in a week with the proposal package. For sure, regardless of their feedback, send them a thank you note for their time (email will be fine).

I talked to a couple agent buddies of mine about pitching recently. Here’s what they said:

Steve Laube (and you should read his blog on pitching!) said: “On the one hand is the person who tries to tell their entire novel with excruciating detail. That is either a case of nerves or a case of failing to practice ahead of time.

On the other hand is the person who is so precise that they sit down, smile, and hit me with their 25 word blurb. Then they close their mouth and expectantly wait for my reaction. As if that is considered a conversation!  That “interview” lasted for all of two minutes at that point…. and the silence is rather awkward.

The key is a strong balance between being over eager and talkative and the sterile precision of a practiced speaker. Remember, this is a conversation. I am not only listening to your pitch, I’m also listening to you. I am meeting you.”
Exactly.

Chip MacGregor had a great thought: “The one thing I wish they’d do is to have an experienced editor look it over BEFORE they pitch me. The majority of projects I see at conferences aren’t ready to show yet, and a good editor (even an edit by an experienced writer friend) would help most projects immensely.”

So…come prepared, polished, professional…and then woo them with your story.

Go! Write something BRILLIANT!

Susie May

 

PS – can I offer a suggestion?  My Book Therapy is offering their Pitch and Promotion seminar ONLINE and OFFLINE this year.  ONLINE this weekend – Saturday, August 23rd, 9-NOON.  Attend the webinar, get personal help and walk away with the tools you need to prepare your pitch, proposal and PITCH sheet.

Then, join us at ACFW Thursday, September 25th, 2-2:24 pm to PRACTICE your pitch and get the last-minute encouragement you need from your coach.  It’s time for you to get published…and stay published.  Check out the seminar HERE! 

Crazy Reindeer Specials from My Book Therapy!

Santa’s Reindeer have taken over My Book Therapy!
It finally happened.
The Reindeer have had it with Santa getting all the glory. We all knew the inevitability of the revolt after Dasher demanded his own Sugar Cookie break over Finland. And then Vixen said she absolutely, “wouldn’t fly over Prague without a mint-hot cocoa.”

The source of their discontent?  Santa’s sack of goodies.

“We’re the ones pulling the sleigh.  Why does he get to distribute all the gifts?”  Prancer said on the eve of the takeover.

The Reindeer assumed control of the MBT Warehouse during Thanksgiving, sneaking in under cover of night, cloaked as Moose.  (“After all, people confuse us all the time,” Comet said in an cell-phone conversation from inside the MBT HQ)

And now, they’re offering MBT Bundles of Reindeer Specials at CRAZY prices.

 

And giving away FREE STUFF! 

With these kinds of deals, it’s clear the Reindeer have lost their minds!

But, until MBT re-assumes control of inventory, it’s your chance to take advantage of these Crazy Reindeer Specials for Writers.

The culprits and their bundle offers are listed below…

(and Visit the MBT Marketplace to catch all their latest craziness!)

 The Beginning Novelist’s Starter Kit!

  • Inside-Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in You
  • Book Buddy: Your Manuscript Companion
  • The BIG 10: The essential elements to your First Chapter*

Regularly: $52.00
Starting at: 27.99* (PDF price)

Get your Story Prancing with this Basics and Beyond Kit for Novelists!

  • Inside-Out: Discover, Create and Publish the Novel in you.
  • Deep and Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques
  • The Book Buddy:  Your Manuscript Companion
  • FREE BONUS! 7 Secrets to Deepening your Character!

Get everything you need to go from idea to finished book, and beyond!

 

Regularly $76.99

Starting at $44.99* (PDF price)

 Do you want to write a romance?  This is where you start! Learn how to write a powerful Romance (or Romance THREAD)

  • Kiss and Tell: How to write a Romance (worktext)
  • 2 Part BONUS VIDEOs:  Cry Me a River – How to Create Character Emotions
  • FREE BONUS VIDEO:  7 Secrets to Deepening your Characters

 

Regularly $54.96
Starting at $31.99* (pdf. version)

The Sell your Novel Toolkit!
  • The Novel Proposal: How to create an outstanding Proposal
  • Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for writers
  • FREE BONUS Video/Audio Class:  Make your Story Matter using Story Stakes!*
Light a fire under your novel and sell it!
 
Regularly $94.99
Starting at $69.99* (pdf. version)

Can’t decide…and want it all?  Then it’s time to think about really investing in your writing journey with this amazing “Get the entire Sleigh-full” bundle!

  • Get Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you
  • Deep and Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques
  • The Book Buddy
  • The Novel Proposal

and EVERY SINGLE audio/video class…as well as more amazing lessons and webinars all year long by the award-willing, multi-published, best-selling novelists of My Book Therapy with your MBT Premium Membership.  Regularly $200/year, get it for $180 year….LIFETIME rate.  (Offer on yearly memberships only.)

 

Regularly $396.99
Starting at $289.99* (pdf versions)