by Laura Drake
It's conference season! This is the first in our new series, where we will each focus on a different aspect of attending conferences, based on our own strengths/preferences.
I’m probably the biggest ‘conference virgin’ of the group, having attended exactly one. But it was the Grand Dame of them all – RWA National, three years ago in Washington, D.C.
I was lucky enough to attend with my amazing fellow WITS bloggers, who kept me from any major embarrassments. If you have the opportunity, room with a friend and do conferences together. You not only have someone to defrag with at the end of the day (can you say, SLEEPOVER?!) But we attacked the conference in a systematic way; each choosing different sessions to attend, and swapping notes. It allowed us to gain so much more.
Did I mention the fun we had in our jammies at night? OMG, it was legendary. We giggled like high school teenagers on a full load of Boone’s Farm (only our booze was much better.)
Man, I can’t wait for this year’s RWA conference in Anaheim!
But I’m wandering off the subject here, which is...PITCHING!
You may not know this about me, but I tend to be a bit – um – zealous.
I had a novel to pitch at the conference in D.C. -- a completed, shiny new novel. The conference experience would be wonderful, but the pitching was my major purpose for being there.
Was I nervous? I was. Visibly shaking knees nervous.
Was I afraid? Fill your pants afraid.
Could anyone tell? Nope. This was a ‘fake it till you make it’ moment. I donned my monkey power suit that morning, spending more than my usual ten minutes on makeup, praying for a good hair day.
Oh yes, and don’t forget your titanium panties.
But let me back up a minute - how did I get hold of those titanium panties??
The work of that day was put in the month before. My wonderful home chapter, OCC, devotes the meeting before conference, getting the unpubbed prepared. I’d walked the gauntlet of practice pitch sessions, with published authors playing the part of an agent. I’d listened to every bit of advice anyone who’d been to a conference could give me.
I’ll share some of that with you here:
- Relax. Yeah, I know, I couldn’t either. But if you do your homework and choose an editor/agent who reps your genre, they’re going to ask for a partial. It’s what they do. It helped me, knowing that as long as I didn’t throw up on them, they’d ask to see my novel.
- Make yourself memorable. In a good way – not the crazy-author-stalker way. I chose a photo that I thought well represented my novel, and printed it, in color, on the back of my sheet of notes, so the agent would see it while I read. Did it help? I don’t know. But it gave them something to look at, and I’m sure it was memorable. In fact, I referred to it when I sent the partial, so they’d remember me, among all the authors they met.
- Pitch, Pitch, Pitch! You’re there. You’re dressed. You have a book. Why not pitch to the widest audience you can? Yes, I know, they’ll allow you only one or two appointments. BUT. There are a lot of cowards less stalwart people than you out there. They chicken out. Almost every session had the monitors calling for people who wanted to pitch to this or that agent. So I volunteered. Five times. Did all of them rep my genre? No. But they had coworkers who did. They gave me their card to include so the person would know I was referred to them.
Did I sell that book? No. Not then (though it has sold since.) But it was an amazing experience. If nothing else, I walked away confident in the fact that I could DO this. I’ll never be that afraid to pitch again.
Put yourself out there. Will you succeed? I don’t know. But I can guarantee you'll have a better shot than if you don’t!
Do you like to pitch or hate it? What do you remember about your first conference? Any tips for this year's conference "virgins?"