Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hot Tips for Writer's Conferences

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of over thirty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press.   A five-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Read­ers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her at:

Are you attending a Writer’s Conference this summer?  Are you going to pitch your book? A few tips from award-winning author Susan May Warren, founder of My Book Therapy, the craft and coaching community for writers!

A writer’s conference is a great place to pitch your story. But it can be daunting to sit across the table from an editor or agent and sell them on your story.  Here’s a few tips:

You’re not really competing
Huh? I know the world might say otherwise, but for believers, if you truly believe that God has your life in His hands, then you step forward with your faith and He’ll move the mountains.  He arranges every appointment, every moment in the elevator or food lines, every accidental editor meeting – all of it.  So, don’t panic.  He’s got this.

Be Yourself
Remember that a great writing voice is personality on the page…so your personality as you meet people and pitch to editors and agents gives them a clue as to how you write. 

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of pitching

First, when you pitch, you should have already done your homework to know which agent or editor to pitch to.  Every house/agency takes different manuscripts and you don’t to waste anyone’s time.  Know what other books they have published that are similar to yours, and know how yours are different, also. But you have some answer as to why they’d be a good fit in that publishing house.  And agent might even ask you where you see this book being published.  Do your homework and give them an informed answer. 

Then, if you are in a pitching appointment, 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 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 made a list in high school because she saw her best friend crushed by love when they were teenagers, and she never wanted that to happen to her.  And then, tragedy happened.  Her mother was killed in an auto accident and died in her arms.  Fear took control of her life and she became agoraphobic.  She’s trapped in a tiny radius around her home.  But she has a national talk show and no one knows it – 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?”
            “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 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!

The difference between the 15 minute appointment and the elevator pitch is the amount of time you have to sell your story 
In an elevator, or in line to eat, or even at dinner, you have one sentence.  If they like it, then go ahead and offer your premise.  If they ask for your card before you get off the elevator, then you’ve done your job. 

But the 15 minute appointment is designed to let you sell your story, your way.  Yes, use your pitch, use your premise, and hopefully by then you’ll feel comfortable enough to be yourself and weave them into your story. 

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.

Now – if you’re serious about having a great writer’s conference, we have a special offer for you.  The My Book Therapy Staff has put together a manual for attendees to help them chose, budget, prep and attend a writer’s conference with success. 

How to choose a conference
Budgeting for a conference
How to prepare professionally with business cards and pitch sheets
Choosing the right workshops
How to handle appointments
Organizing your time and information
Standing out in a positive way
Conference Etiquette
How to pack for success

And even how to network to after the conference is over!

And, for readers of Novel Rocket, we’re offering 25% off the cover price, hard copy or ebook version!  To get your discount, sign up HERE:  (
(Launch date: August 10th, 2012!)

For more hints on pitching, check out the My Book Therapy blog –

See you at a conference!
Susan May Warren


Ane Mulligan said...

Great advice, Suz! And our readers thank you for the cool discount.