I always find it difficult to find new clients. I'm not an assertive person, so it's always challenging for me to market my services. But the opportunity presented itself at a writer's conference I attended on May 28 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
I was really looking forward to hearing Jacquelyn Mitchard (author of The Deep End of the Ocean) give the keynote address. She did not disappoint. She was down to earth, comical, gave good writing advice, and spoke of her challenges in writing.
The three breakout sessions I attended were extremely helpful to me. The first one, on personal essays given by Victoria Zackheim, was informative. She spoke about getting to the "heart" (emotion) of your essay and read a few examples from her new book, The Other Woman. Some of the questions raised were about how to prevent getting sued when listing someone's name (her advice was to change the name or let the person know what you're writing about so there are no surprises later) and how to find an editor (I turned around to see who asked that question so that I could talk to her later. I did manage to talk to her after the session. I gave her some leads and gave her my business card.).
The second breakout session I attended was called Fictional Seeds. It was given by Lisa Lenard-Cook. She defined fictional seeds as fleeting thoughts and impressions. She suggested writing your thoughts or ideas in a journal, on a piece of paper and place it in a bowl later, or in a computer file. She suggested that when you start writing, keep saying (or thinking), "and then...." She discourages outlining for fiction and stated that contests are a good idea. She announced that she has a new book called The Mind of Your Story that discusses some of her suggestions. Of course I bought it!
The third session was "Ask the Literary Agents." Four agents answered questions from the audience. Following are some Do's and Don'ts that they discussed.
* Be passionate about your work when making a pitch.
* Send query letters to agents you have thoroughly researched.
* Go to an agent's Web site for guidelines.
* Make sure you're a good fit with your agent.
* Love your material. Ask yourself, "Would I pay $25 for my book?"
* Keep queries short (what is your book about and why is it important or relevant to you as a writer).
* Ask your agent questions. There is no licensing board for agents. Do your homework. Shop around.
* Get bogged down in detail for your pitch.
* Be nervous when making a pitch.
* Be too specific in your query letter.
* Call it literary.
* Mention that everyone in your family read it and loved it.
* Send a query letter as an attachment.
The agents said to pitch a memoir, write a book proposal, do a competitive analysis on memoirs that are similar yet different from yours, and send an outline and a sample chapter. Memoirs need to be different. Ask yourself, "Is my story that compelling?"
They stated you can have more than one agent for different genres, but you should focus on one you're good at. An agent also stated that when agents take on a new client, they usually do a five-year plan.
I came away with so much information, and many of the sessions confirmed what I already know: keep writing, give it your best, and put your heart into it.
I was able to make several contacts from talking to people throughout the conference. I handed out my business cards, gave advice on editing, gave people leads if I wasn't able to help them, promised to review a book proposal (free of charge), talked about editing to those who didn't understand the editorial process or know why a book has to be edited (yes, there are some who believe that!), and gave a recommendation to send their work out for critique. It felt good. I felt empowered and confident that I can market my services! And all with little effort or anxiety on my part.