I’m an independent gal. In college, I went to England on a student teaching exchange program which instilled in me the confidence to handle 99% of what life tosses my way. I go to movies by myself, I don’t mind dining out by myself (I always have a good book for company), and I feel I can tackle almost any problem by myself. As a result, I feel I’ve earned the right to have a little swagger.
As a result, most of the publishing journey hasn’t been terrifying. It’s been painful, it’s been hard, and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun, but not terrifying.
Except this one time…
When I first finished by book and revised it the best I could (which wasn’t very well, by the way), I decided I was ready to take the Publishing World by storm. So instead of starting my querying process from the safety of my pants-free desk, I hopped a plane to NYC for the New York Pitch Conference.
The NY Pitch Conference is a small workshop focusing on — you guessed it — how to pitch; you don’t share any of your manuscript. You spend a full day working on your pitch, then 2 more days pitching to editors and getting feedback on how to improve. That’s it. It’s intense, but by the end of the workshop, you have a firm grasp on the process, a realization that editors are people too, and maybe even a request or two. It was a great experience and I’m still friends with my group leader (the ever delightful and talented Ann Garvin) and several other writers from my group.
However, when I made the pilgrimage, I didn’t know any other writers, I didn’t know anyone in New York, I had never been to New York, and no one outside my family had read my book. If I had been any greener, I would have been Kermit the Frog. And now I was going to be pitching my book, in person, to four different editors from big publishers. I was terrified.
My body shook so violently while I pitched to the first editor, my voice quivered and I stumbled over my words. It was awful. But by the time I presented to the last editor on the final day, I was a cool cat (it helped that my final editor didn’t publish my genre of books, so the pressure was off). I could comfortably tell anyone what my book was about, and answer questions on the fly. I left having a firm grasp on how to sell my book and even had a few requests, too. The entire experience was very much a trial by fire, but I came out dancing on the other end.
So, dear reader, what can you take away from this tale of terror? Have the guts to dive in. Publishing professionals, be they agents or editors, are people too. They know you’re nervous, they know you prefer a pants-free existence, and they are often very generous with their advice. Be yourself. And maybe dance more, too.
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