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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ACFW Conference 2009 - Pitching With Success

To all of my regular readers, I am interrupting the usual author spotlights to post about the upcoming ACFW Conference in September this year. There is a spotlight for today though, so be sure and check it out.

Many know that I'm a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). It's the premier Christian fiction organization, and I owe a great deal of thanks to the members for helping me get published. Every year, they hold a national conference, and this year it's just about in my back yard. Denver, Colorado is only about an hour away. That means over 500 writers, authors, editors, agents and other industry professionals will be coming to the great state of Colorado to teach, learn, pitch, listen to queries, network, meet each other and have a grand time.

To help promote the conference and get folks excited about all that's going to happen, a lot of members have offered to post on our blogs and spread the word. The tour schedule is at the bottom of this post.

Since the ACFW Conference in 2003 is where I first pitched my novel that received a contract in 2006, and since I've received requests from all others to whom I pitched, that's the topic of my post today. For anyone who is attending ACFW (or any other conference), here are some tips I hope will prove helpful to you:

  1. Before you make your appointment, study the needs of the publishing house or agency and what they are looking to publish or represent. Present yourself as a well-informed professional who has done your homework. The worst mistake is to sit down and pitch something only to have their eyes glaze over because your story isn't what they are looking to find.
  2. Remember that any editor or agent is looking forward to meeting you. They wouldn't be at the conference if they didn't want to hear about new stories and discover new talent. You just might be the reason they're there.
  3. Practice your pitch with someone who will be honest with you. They can give you valuable feedback on what to cut or change or even give you the extra encouragement you need to feel confident.
  4. Dress appropriately. Appearance counts just as much as what you say. The old adage proves true. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Appear professional.
  5. Be confident. Sweaty palms or a case of nerves is normal. But you have to believe in yourself and your work before you can convince someone else to buy it. So, be proud of your writing.
  6. Start off the meeting with an icebreaker or small-talk. Perhaps mention someone else who recommended this meeting, or why you chose to meet with this person. Oftentimes, the editor or agent will set you at ease and start it off themselves. If not, have something casual ready.
  7. Choose your words wisely. Keep your pitch to 25 words or less. This is often also called the "elevator pitch" or what you'd say if you were riding the elevator with your dream editor/agent. You want to catch their attention right away and don't want to take the entire 15 minutes to get to the main point.
  8. Know the main conflict of your story and highlight it when you pitch. Be ready with more details when asked to elaborate.
  9. If there is anything unique about your main characters or your story, work that into your pitch. Editors and agents hear hundreds during conference season. You want to make yours stand out.
  10. Study the editor or agent as you talk. They might be looking for what you have to offer, but you want to make sure this person is the "right" person for you. Prepare some general interview questions for them instead of waiting for them to direct the entire meeting.
  11. Be mindful of the time. When your 15 minutes comes to a close, wrap it up. Don't keep the next appointment waiting or the editor/agent from getting to the next aspect of the conference.
  12. Conclude in style. Thank them for their time and ask for a business card if they are open to you submitting to them. Offer a handshake and a smile, and confirm a request to submit if it was offered, or reaffirm a referral if it was given.

These tips only brush the surface, but I hope they give you a starting point to help guide you as you prepare for whatever meetings you have. The faculty who are selected to be on staff at the ACFW Conference are top-notch. Many of them have remarked about the quality of the manuscripts or ideas they've received each year. And each year, they return, knowing they're going to find the cream of the crop.

You just might be the one person the editor or agent has come to that conference to meet. Be confident, relaxed, proud. Most importantly, be yourself. You might end up with a successful story to tell!

Visit the other blogs on this tour:

June 15: Christa Allan: Evolving Conference Experiences

June 15: Ane Mulligan: A Few of My Favorite Things...

June 17: Margaret Daley: Enhancing Your Conference Experience Through Volunteering

June 18: Trish Perry: ACFW Conference Friendships at all stages of writing careers

June 21: Megan DiMaria: Finding restaurants at conference (visit often for multiple postings beginning June 21. Megan will be posting weekly so check back often for her eye on the best eateries and how to save money eating out as well as how to impress your business associates with excellent food.)

June 27: Sharon Lavy: Prayer Room

June 30: Kathleen Fuller: Amish fiction, historical romance tracks

July 2-10: Amish Hearts: Group blog with various conference posts

July 5: Jeannie Campbell: Why I chose the ACFW conference: A newbie’s perspective

July 12-19 : Linda Kozar and the Internal MonoBlog- Group blog with various conference posts. (Each blogger will post at least once. One a day until the group blog has all had the opportunity to post.)

July 19: Tiffany Colter 1: Long-term return on investing in a writer’s conference (multiple posts)

July 22: Tiffany Colter 2: Investing in your professional development (multiple posts)

July 25-31: Writer’s Rest Group Blog: Trusting God to use conference (multiple posts, each blogger please post at least once. One a day until your group blog has all had the opportunity.)

July 28: Jennifer AlLee: The Value of Face-to-Face Networking in a Twitter & Facebook World

July 31: Angie Breidenbach: Confidence at Conference

August 2: Deb Raney: "What if I Can't Come to the Conference?"

August 3: Lena Nelson Dooley 1: Uplifting worship

August 3-10: Writing By Faith Group blog: 6 authors, 1 great God.
Aug. 4th is Angie Breidenbach: Professionalism 101

August 6: Lena Nelson Dooley 2: Connecting with publishers

Aug 9: Ane Mulligan: A Few of My Favorite Things...

Aug 12: Jill Elizabeth Nelson: TBD

Aug 15: Cara Putman: First Timers and Calm Nerves


Barbara Curtis said...

Thanks so much for this advice, Tiff! I might actually be able to attend this year!

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

That would be awesome. You can come and visit my beautiful home state. :) We're hoping we can make at least 1 day.

AngBreidenbach said...

Thank you! I have your post up on our ACFW blog too. Great info.