WIP Coaching Update: I don’t have much to say about WIP Coaching because now I’m putting Gabi to work. We spoke this week about my ‘homework’ and went over some questions I had. Now she is going to critique my first fifty and let me know what some of my big problems are. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.
So onto selling yourself.
Last week I attended the North Dakota Society of Professional Engineers annual engineering conference. I rode up early with my dad, who had a meeting to attend. I had one full day to myself with nothing to do and no kids around. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing writing stuff. (Stuff being writing, editing, blogging…) Then I met with a college friend and her kids and had a great afternoon. I wish I had more days like that.
The annual conference was a day and a half and consists of a business meeting, a banquet and lots of seminars. Licensed professional engineers renew their license every two years (at least where I live) and one of the requirements is 30 hours of continuing ed.
At one of the seminars, I had to write a pitch… for myself. Or a personal branding statement as the speaker from Dale Carnegie Business group called it.
And she only gave us five minutes.
That’s not long enough and I struggled. I don’t do much engineering work so how could I put into words a way to sell myself? There were some questions to help you develop your statement.
*What qualities or characteristics do you have that cause you to stand out from others in your field? Umm, I’m a woman. That’s all I came up with. And by the way, there were only three women attending this conference out of fifty people, so I think that qualifies. But since I haven’t worked full time since my son was born 7 years ago, I don’t have a specialty I’ve developed.
*What would your colleagues or clients say if your greatest strength? You mean my kids; I suppose they’re my only colleagues. I make a good mac and cheese, maybe.
*What do you do that adds or brings remarkable, measurable, distinctive value to other people and organizations? I’m a good listener. (But how does that relate to engineering?) Most of my projects have been fairly standard and unremarkable, so once again, I had nothing.
What I came up with was pathetic. And luckily, I got to read it to a total stranger because the DC session was very interactive. I’m not a fan of interactive sessions, especially when the speaker can call on you. The other guy’s was very good and he admitted he’d done this all before, but it made mine look all the more sad.
So what I already knew was that I’m no good at selling myself. This will have to change when I become published because writers need to promote themselves and their books. But for some reason, selling my book doesn’t seem as hard as selling my engineering skills. Maybe it is, I guess I’ll find out when I get there.
Are you good at selling yourself or your writing?
I’ve been working on a few things. One is my pitch.
A pitch is a description of your novel in about 35 words or less. Usually in one sentence, but sometimes two.
And let me tell you, it’s not easy.
I entered a pitch workshop where my pitch for Frosty and my first 150 words were evaluated by one of three women. See Shelley Watter’s Site to see my pitch.
You have to be 35 words or under. You have to get your story across. You have to make it interesting.
And I repeat, this is very difficult.
I’ve revised mine several times—trying new things. I think my very first pitch explained the story to a T. But unfortunately, it was dry and probably wouldn’t grab an agent’s attention. So I’m trying to spice it up.
This opportunity was a workshop to improve my pitch. (The same woman had a pitch contest a few weeks ago that I entered.) Pitch contests don’t seem as common as query contests, but they’re still out there. Usually a pitch contest will be with an agent and if they are interested, they may ask to see your manuscript. So it’s important to get your pitch right.
The next thing I’m working on is my query for When The Mist Clears.
A query letter once again is what you send to a literary agent, hoping that they’ll like your story and want to see your manuscript.
Even though I’m only editing WTMC right now, it’s important to get that query ready because when I am done with my editing, I want to be ready to query and not wait two more months as I get my query figured out.
Query writing is hard too. But you have about 250 words to do it instead of 35.
Once again, you have to explain your story enough, but leave a little question as to what happens at the end. It shouldn’t be a synopsis, but should give them enough details of the story. It needs to have voice. It needs to grab the attention of the agent. It needs to be perfect.
Therefore, once I get my query ready, I will submit it to websites like Agent Query Connect or Absolute Write Forums where other members will critique it.
One thing I worried about a while ago was that I didn’t want to reveal the details of my story on the internet. But 99% of the people on these writers’ forums are honest and are not out to copy others. So I no longer feel wary of this. And it really is the best way to get help.
My entry for Brenda Drake’s Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch? Blogfest Contest.
Contemporary young adult
Sydney, a troubled foster girl, resents her wealthy classmates. Learning that the privileged kids’ lives are not so perfect thaws her cold exterior, but it may not be enough to open her heart to love.
Snow swirled and wet hair lashed at my face as the wind whipped through my worn coat. My ears tingled from the frigid air, but I stayed outside. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me… relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside—those were the rules.
My nerves were calm now and as I finished my second cigarette, Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool—none of my former foster families were wealthy.
He must have left Lana at home, along with Brooke, the daughter I hadn’t met. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. I just needed to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and then I’d be on my own.
On Sunday I am participating in my first pitch contest.
A pitch is a brief (one or two line) summary of a book.
This contest is put on by Brenda Drake, a ya/middle grade writer. On January 15th, you post your pitch and first 150 words of your manuscript on your blog. Then you jump around to the blogs of other participants and comment on their pitches.
At the end of the 2nd day, you may revise your pitch and the next day a literary agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, will review them. If she likes your pitch, she may request to see your manuscript.
By the way, summing up a novel in one or two descriptive and interesting sentences is not easy.
Speaking of contests, I have some other cool news. I won a blog contest put on by Gabriela Lessa, an editor, literary agent intern, writer and more. Her blog has good tips about writing and editing along with the occasional contest. I submitted my query and a few sample pages and she picked mine. As a winner, I get a 40 page edit and 30% off her editing services, which is huge. The 40 page edit is wonderful because it will give me a good idea of what might be wrong with my writing. I’ve very excited about it all.
That same day, another good thing happened. Some bloggers do contests/giveaways related to their blog, so of course you’ll often see writers doing book giveaways.
In honor of her first year of blogging, ya writer Monica Bustamante Wagner, did a contest/giveaway. All you had to do was post a comment, then say if you’d prefer the book or a 10 page critique. I didn’t win, but she decided to give 12 people the chance to send in their first 1000 words and she’ll do a critique. And I was one of the 12. A lucky day for me.
Remember when I talked about coincidences. Here’s another one. Of the two bloggers (Gabriela and Monica) I told you about, one lives in Brazil, one in Chile. Interesting, huh.
There are so many wonderful opportunities like this. Generous writers and agents who give you the chance to present your work. And even if you don’t win, you may still receive valuable feedback.