Give yourself a fighting chance

Ooo, it’s hard to come back from a week of play and irresponsibility. I feel somewhat naughty since I didn’t tell anyone I’d be incommunicado. The Daughter (who is home from college for a very short break) and I blew town for Palm Springs. Mom, Dad, we left your house standing. Barely.

Monday morning is beating me over the head since I have tons of emails to answer, cover art to have finished off before going to print, manuscripts to edit, manuscripts to read…blah, blah, blah. But what I did do is check my usual blogs before assuming the position of responsible editor.

Janet Reid’s blog post stood out because I was at the PNWA con last weekend and found myself nodding in complete agreement when she wrote this:

Sometimes you can’t see your own mistakes. If you’re getting a lot of “no” or a lot of silence (no response means no) take yourself to a writers conference and instead of pitching at a pitch session, get some feedback on your query letter.

Truer words were never written. You really can’t see the mistakes. Yes, you can have your query critted by fellow authors or friends. But nothing can take the place of the give and take of a conference.

While listening to a pitch, I knew a project wasn’t going to be right for me, but I made suggestions to the author about what I felt would be a clearer, more effective presentation of their book. I told them why I was making those suggestions.

Take bios, for instance. I know that agents don’t really care about the bios, but I do. I don’t care if you don’t have a publishing credit, but I want to know who you are because I’m looking downstream about how I can sell you and your book. You are a package deal. If you sit at home and gather navel lint, I can’t sell you. But if you work with young kids and wrote a book about getting lost, then I have something to sell to the genre buyers. It’s these little nibblets that authors pick up at conferences.

In some cases I suggested that perhaps an author’s book may be more marketable if they changed the concept because what they’d written appeared to be a tough sell.

Our main goal was to help authors become as successful as they could. This is the kind of thing you simply can’t get other than at a conference, where we are all on call the entire weekend. No, it’s not free, but I’d like to think that I and my cohorts offered a lot of great advice in order to enhance authors’ pitches.

So like Janet said, if you’re hearing “no” a lot, then it’s a sign that your pitch needs help. Really. Get thee to a con.

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