By Grace Hitchcock
Three years ago, I attended my first writers conference and I cannot tell you how nervous I felt! Doubts flew through my head: I’m a poser. These men and women have so much more experience than me and I think I can write? I just finished my novel three weeks ago…. I’ve never pitched to an agent before! What am I doing sitting at a table full of seasoned authors? If I duck away now, I can escape before it even starts and before I embarrass myself silly in front of an editor! Yup. You could say I was nervous. And yes, while I did embarrass myself once or twice, the important thing was to learn from the mistakes, move on and hopefully not commit the same mistake again!
With the conference starting *happy dance* THIS WEEK, I want to encourage anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or nervous about taking this huge step in furthering your writing career with a glimpse of what to expect.
Sitting at the tables for mealtimes. Okay, I know it sounds simple, but I have to admit that I did skip out on my first meal because *gulp* at conferences one dines at round tables and must choose which region to sit with, which agent, which editor, which writers, etc. In summary, it can be intimidating.
If tempted to bolt, remind yourself of the prose (hehe get it?) and sit down. Some at the table are probably just as nervous and you can help one another feel more at ease by chatting. If the writers next to you aren’t nervous, chances are that they are veteran conference goers and you should pick their brain! Mealtimes are a great place to briefly share your stories with each other and practice elevator pitches. I cannot tell you how many kind conference attendees have encouraged me and helped me with my pitch.
I have made some great friends and contacts through sharing meals at the round tables! When my husband and I re-located to Colorado for his job, I already had a friend close by that I met at the ACFW conference at, you guessed it, the round tables! (*Waves* Hi Deanna!)
Meeting with Agents/Editors. Do your homework and have your proposal and one-sheet ready. You should know that the first time I submitted a “proposal” to an agent, it ended up as an example in that agent’s highly trafficked blog as a post of why you should do your research before submitting a proposal. To name a couple delightful errors, let’s just say I thought my “full-length” novel was completed (even though I was about 40k words shy of an actual full-length novel) and its targeted demographic was everyone. While I was mortified at the time, I now call it a learning experience and laugh.
I’ve found that the best way to calm the nerves is to prepare yourself by researching each agent/editor ahead of time, practicing your elevator pitch and having your one-sheet and proposal printed and ready for your meeting. Don’t let nerves, which are inevitable, stop you from meeting with the industry professionals. Pitching is difficult, but after a day or two (or in my case having a blog post written about your inexperience), you start to get the swing of it! It just takes a lot of studying the craft, practice and, of course, courage ?
I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to those doubts about becoming a writer and I want to encourage you to not allow fear to keep you from pursuing your dreams. Keep writing, friends, and I’m looking forward to seeing you this week!
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Grace Hitchcock is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray and is the author of three novellas in The Second Chance Brides, The Southern Belle Brides, and the Thimbles and Threads collections. The White City is her debut novel, releasing March 2019. Grace holds a Masters in Creative Writing and lives in Louisiana with her husband and baby. Visit Grace at www.GraceHitchcock.com, or www.GraceHitchcockBooks.com or on Twitter @grace_hitchcock.