Blogger: Mary Keeley
You reach a milestone when your manuscript is finally “perfect,” and you are now ready to pitch it to agents. Then it dawns on you. “Whoa, I’m actually going to have to TALK to these people.” Yes you are, and if you haven’t already developed the art of productive communication, now is the time, before you send your next proposal or schedule appointments with agents at conferences.
Don’t invest all your hard work and long hours getting your manuscript publication-ready but then forget to address the impression you will create of yourself, the author. You are a vital part of your whole writing brand and the first impression an agent will have of your work.
Agents evaluate your communication skills in the process of deciding whether or not to offer you representation. If you feel you should merit it solely on the quality of your writing, let me explain two realities of the business. First, agents know that your ability to interact with other professionals will be a factor in getting you a contract. And second, the way you conduct yourself reflects directly on your agent and eventually on the publishing house that contracts you.
I receive loads of proposals and hear many pitches at conferences throughout the year. It’s easy to spot those writers who haven’t prepared themselves to interact professionally. Productive communication involves a plethora of skills such as direct eye contact, firm handshake, and so on, but I want to focus today’s conversation on a trio of intangible skills all writers need throughout their careers.
Emotions in check
Don’t let your emotions rule your words or your subtle—or not so subtle—attitude. Always pray for a right perspective when you’re unsure of yourself or sense negative emotions rising to the surface and then “sleep on it,” as my mother would say, before reacting to negative feedback. This way, you will be in the right frame of mind to communicate your thoughts professionally.
Being prepared is the surest foundation for building confidence. Everybody knows that, right? It’s key to productive verbal communication in your pitch meetings. Confidence is expressed by using assertive action verbs in written proposals. Check yours, and change any passive verbs to active verbs.
Make a lifelong habit of celebrating all your little, as well as the big, achievements to continually replenish a humble confidence. Maybe it’s meeting a deadline or finding the perfect word you need in a scene or finding a way to add more tension where you manuscript sags.
You’ll need to be ready with a confident attitude whenever you communicate with the marketing and PR teams and the sales reps. It will translate to their increased enthusiasm for you and your book.
A friend once shared an unfortunate experience in which someone had communicated poorly to him that he wasn’t chosen for a job. It was apparent the friend was hurting from the experience. Yet I was impressed as the friend described the forthright but grace-filled manner in which he conducted himself in his follow-up meeting with the person. Christians, especially, should consider grace a non-negotiable as we conduct ourselves in our professional lives.
Describe a productive communication you’ve had with a publishing professional. What made it successful? What did you learn from a not-so-successful conversation in a professional setting?
Three intangible skills that every writer needs. Learn about them here. Click to Tweet.
Writers, learn how the art of productive communication helps your career. Click to Tweet.