I’m pleased to welcome back one of my favorite authors, longtime Romance University follower SONALI DEV.
My third book just hit the shelves this week and I’m actually writing this on the plane heading to New Orleans for NOLA StoryCon. If not for the fact that I had to mend my daughter’s homecoming dress in the car at 5AM when my husband drove me to the airport so she would have it for her dance tomorrow (which I’m going to miss), I would say being published feels more than a little like a dream. It is in turn madly social (during conferences and signings) and madly solitary (during deadlines, drafts and revisions). I, fortunately, love both faces of this dissociative business. I’ve always loved going to conferences. I love the rush of connecting with readers and hanging out with my tribe of authors, where no translation is necessary for the mess inside my mind that friends and family outside the business don’t always fully comprehend. And of course I love the solitary joy of getting lost in the words and the worlds.
I believe that both parts of this business are important and while all of us do well with loving the solitary part (we’re writers, we write), the conferencing and the social aspect doesn’t make everyone giddy with excitement, if not downright traumatize them. Unfortunately, this blogpost isn’t about helping you love going to conferences. I’m not qualified to change natural dispositions and I don’t believe that you should even try to. But if you are a writer who is looking for a book deal in traditional publishing, what I do feel qualified to do is share with you my guidelines for making the best of conferences and events by coming away from them with requests.
And here they are in no particular order:
1) Pitch every chance you get: This is often a matter of gathering your guts, every last one of them. I pitched to my editor in the middle of a spotlight and it was such a terrifying experience that it’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a heart attack (think explosive heartbeat and near total lung failure).
For those of you new to writers’ conferences, Publisher Spotlights are presentations where a publisher sells themselves to writers. They tell you what they bring to the table for their authors and why you should query them. It’s essentially the reverse of a Pitch appointment.
At a pitch appointment you tell them what you have and they tell you if they’re interested. At a spotlight they tell you what they have and you decide if you are interested.
Of course you aren’t supposed to pitch your books at spotlights. And I’m definitely not suggesting that you do. My ‘pitch,’ in fact, was a question. A relevant question about whether or not a book as off the wall as mine would be something they’d be interested in. And it so happened that they were and so we went from there. My point is: go to spotlights, listen, ask questions. This is your chance to know if this publisher is for you. And if they are, you seek out the editor and you pitch.
2) Don’t forget to pitch: While we writers might go to conferences to socialize, be inspired, fan drool over our idols, and hunt chocolate in goody rooms, I think it’s safe to assume that editors and agents go mainly because they are looking for business. Which means they’re looking for writers with stories they like. So, really, they’re looking for you to pitch your work. Now, as in all things, grace and discretion are key, and creepy stalking is different from smart and skillful stalking and the difference between the two is that one is entirely undetectable and harmless.
So if you see an editor or agent you’re interested in and they do no give you a please-don’t-approach-me-I-need-these-five-writer-free-minutes look, go talk to them. Tell them how much you love their latest book (my personal preference is that you don’t lie, but hey, if you can pull it off, I’m not judging). Ask them if they’re interested in Bollywood romances, or cowboy vampires, or radioactive spiders, or whatever it is you write and then tell them about your book. Chances are fifty fifty that they’ll ask to see it. And those are great odds.
3) See that you pitch: Most conferences will let you make one pitch appointment. But many people make pitch appointments and then don’t want them anymore. One of my writer buddies decided on the morning of her appointment that she wasn’t ready. I was, and I asked her if she was okay with me taking her appointment. Of course she was, writer friends are the best. But I had to ask to know that.
Keep your eyes and ears open and don’t be afraid to dive in when you see an opening (gracefully and sensitively, please). In two days this will be over and all the editors and agents will be out of diving range. And if you embarrass yourself a little bit by having someone refuse you, you’ll have your pillow to sob into and a Walgreens near by with an endless supply of chocolate.
Seriously, I wish I had more varied advice than this. And I’m in no way suggesting that you should spend your entire conference in a state of desperation hunting for opportunities to pitch. Of course you should have fun too and go to workshops and shake your favorite author’s hand and hope the genius transfers though contact. But it is my firm belief that the only way to sell a book to a publisher or an agent is to pitch a book. And I use the blanket term pitch to cover all opportunities to obtain a request. Because really, when you query, you are essentially pitching via email. So, if conferences give you the hibijibies, then send out queries in droves. That totally works as well. My point is don’t go to conferences and the be afraid to do what you went there to do.
Obtaining requests is an awful, horrid, nerve racking process. But requests are your keys, and to open that locked door you so very badly want to open, you have to collect as many keys as you can. Because truly, it’s the only way to find one that fits.
Have you pitched a story (or stories) before? Did you pitch at a conference or another type of venue? Share your pitch stories with us in the comments.
Author ELIZABETH BEMIS joins us on Wednesday, October 5.
Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.
Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus’s lists of Best Books of the year. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance 2014, and is a RITA® finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. She was hailed by NPR.org as a ‘stunning debut’.
A CHANGE OF HEART (Now Available)
Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.
Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.
Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy. She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.
Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.
See a review of A CHANGE OF HEART here: http://happyeverafter.usatoday.com/2016/09/29/heidi-cullinan-damon-suede-sonali-dev-change-of-heart/