“Come on, Pricey, buck up.”
That’s what I said to myself right before I got up to give the closing keynote speech at the Florida Writer’s Conference. I’ve given a ton of seminars over the years, but a keynote? Nevah. My knees shook as if some mad scientist had sucked all the marrow out of my bones. My hands shook, and my stomach threatened to hurk out breakfast.
“Be cool,” I said to myself through quivering lips. “Act like you’ve done this before and you know what you’re doing.”
Yah. Sure. In reality, I *did* know what I was doing because I do a lot of public speaking, it’s just never been on that scale. It was the closing keynote, and most people had probably beat feet for home. At least that’s what I concluded after taking a quick scan of the banquet room during breakfast. BoOya! A small crowd in which to make an utter ass out of myself. The Literary Gods were still with me – albeit taking bets on how much I’d suck.
I carried the memory of many keynote speeches I’ve heard over the years and how they scored on the Suckosity Scale. This was the last sentient thought I had before taking the stage. I looked out over the meager audience…wha’ the?? Holy Crowded Room, Batman, where did all these people come from?
I was toast. I felt it from the hallows of my grumbling intestines. Not only would I suck, but I’d suck in front of a lot of people.
Fake it, Pricey.
And I did. I noticed that my voice didn’t quiver, and my dry tongue didn’t stick to my cheek, and most happily of all, my knees didn’t buckle due to some mad scientist sucking out all the marrow in my bones.
As writers, we do a lot of faking it or acting like we know what we’re doing because we don’t want to be exposed as a noob – someone who doesn’t know what they don’t know…and doesn’t care. Even though we may be debut authors, we want to give the impression that we’ve learned how to present ourselves and our books in accordance to what editors and agents need to hear.
There’s faking it and then there’s faking it, which means you take the time to research whatever it is you’re hoping to aspire to rather than going in full steam without the slightest idea of what you’re doing, or how well you’re doing it. I see many writers who haven’t done thing one in learning how to present their books, and they immediately expose their brand of faking it – which results in an instant rejection.
- Query letter says, “I have a nonfiction novel…” There’s no such thing. It’s either nonfiction, or it’s a novel (fiction).
- “My memoir is 15,000 words…” Right away I’m thinking your life wasn’t very fascinating if you could only squeeze out 15k words. This isn’t a book, but a pamphlet.
- In the body of the email: “I have attached my query letter.” You should never, ever make your query letter an attachment. It belongs in the body of the email. Period.
- Proposal says, “Once the book is published, I will create a web page and FaceBook page in order to establish my platform.” It’s too late. It takes a long time to establish a platform. Secondly, putting up a webpage and FB page doesn’t establish a platform. A platform equates to how people know you and are willing to listen to what you have to say. A website or FB book doesn’t establish an author as an expert in their field, it simply means you know a little bit about social networking.
The point of all this is to help writers become more successful and to pinpoint how easy it is to derail those attempts by not doing your homework. It’s ok to admit that you’ve never done this before, so you’re faking it. The key is to act like you know what you’re doing.
A classic example of this is our fabulous author, Kim Kircher, author of The Next 15 Minutes. I had the pleasure of meeting Kim at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference during the editor/author sessions. I could tell Kim was nervous (she later told me she was quacking in her boots), but I could also tell she had done her homework. She knew exactly what information I needed in order to get a clear idea what her book was about. Ah, the art of effective faking it.
Whether you are looking for an agent, a publisher, or getting ready to talk to a crowd for the very first time, you want to be successful and give the appearance you know what you’re doing so people remember you for all the right reasons.
In listening to the fabulous interview that Kim gave the other day, she said something that really resonated with me. She talked about how skiers have to be wary of finding themselves in a tabletop slide because that top layer of snow will sweep them away if they are standing in the middle of it. What a great metaphor. How many times do authors find themselves in the middle of a tabletop slide in the publishing process and get swept away because they didn’t know what they were doing?
It’s okay to fake it, but be sure to know what you’re doing. Go out and be brilliant!