, Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Midwest Office, Illinois
Yesterday I talked about writers conferences and their importance to your writing career. Once you’ve identified the one(s) you plan to attend, follow these action steps to prepare for a productive experience.
- Follow through by registering as soon as you can. Not only does this solidify your commitment, but it also spreads out your financial expenditure, which will help your budget. Start putting money aside each week. You might even suggest to family and friends a contribution to your conference fund for your birthday gift this year. Attend as many conferences as you can—for all the reasons listed in yesterday’s blog.
- Research the editors and agents who will be serving on the faculty. Become familiar with them and the genres they specialize in. Visit their websites to get a sense of their personalities and what they value. This will help you relax as you converse with them. Also, comment on their blogs frequently so they will recognize your name when you meet with them at the conference. Prepare a list of editors and agents with whom you want to meet.
- Allow plenty of time to spruce up or create the proposal for your current work. These are the main sections we at Books & Such want to see in proposals—
For a novel:
- A synopsis (5-6 pages double-spaced) in which you tell us the basic plot and introduce us to your main characters.
- Your biography, with an emphasis on your qualifications for writing the manuscript and a list of previously published books and articles.
- Your marketing plan—ways in which you will help to market your book, including quantification of your social media.
- Ideas for a series (if applicable).
- The first three chapters of your book (about 50 pages of the work).
- Details of who the readers for your work are and why you believe the work will attract significant readership.
- Your biography.
- List of current titles that would compete with your book for readers. Many writers don’t spend enough time on this section. It reveals your professionalism as a writer in how you have, or have not, written a manuscript that attracts an established audience and also fills a niche not covered by the others, i.e. what your book has that the others don’t offer.
- Your personal marketing plan—how you will market your own book.
- Ideas on how a series could be developed (if applicable).
- Annotated chapter outline
- The first three chapters (approximately 50 pages of the work).
There are great resources available to help you write an excellent proposal. Google books on writing book proposals or check your library or local bookstores. With your proposal completed, you will be ready to send it immediately to editors or agents who request it after the conference.
Now you can write your “one-pager” that you will present to the editor or agent in your meeting. The one-pager at a conference serves the same purpose as your initial query letter or email any other time. Here is what you need to include:
- Genre and subject of your manuscript, its unique elements, and target audience.
- Highlights of your marketing plan and your writing experience.
- A tagline, if you have identified and refined it. This is a short phrase that immediately identifies what you write (life-changing fiction, edge-of-your-seat suspense). Check out established authors’ websites for a sampling of taglines.
- A photo of yourself. This will help the editor or agent to remember you and connect you with the manuscript you pitched long after the conference is over.
- And obviously, keep your one-pager to…one page.
Before the editors or agents listen to your pitch and scan your one-sheet, they will take in their first impression of YOU. Is appearance important? Yes, in that you have taken time and effort to present a professional look and friendly smile. If you have done your homework, you will be able to relax and project a warm confidence that will communicate you are current on trends and new technologies in the industry and would be good to work with. Among the dozens of aspiring authors they will meet with at the conference, you will be remembered as an informed, professional writer who is committed to your career.
What conferences are you hoping to attend this year, and why? What areas do you need to work on to improve your proposal and knowledge?