Good morning, Seekerville! Mia Ross here, cruising in from Upstate New York, ready for some writing stuff.
With the ACFW Conference coming up, you’re probably all getting LOTS of advice on what to do while you’re there. Don’t approach editors and agents in the bathroom. Don’t talk with your mouth full. And, for goodness’ sake, sit up straight so everyone can read your nametag. As with most things, though, preparation is the key. I’m not talking about practicing your elevator pitch so you can recite it in your sleep, or about making sure you can pronounce the name of the editor or agent you have an appointment with. I’m talking about your product.
Whether you’re an established author or trying to break into the business, there’s a basic idea you have to wrap your head around at some point. Your eventual success (or failure) depends mostly on the quality of what you have to offer. Think of yourself as an inventor who’s come up with a great new idea. The concept isn’t enough. You have to design and make whatever it is, introduce it to consumers, and then hope people want to buy it. Because failure is expensive, companies test the market for their new wingding ahead of time. If it’s not immediately popular, they tweak it to make it more appealing.
For writers, our product has two facets: our book and ourselves. Nobody has a sure-fire formula for making that work, but there are some things we can do to improve the chances that editors, agents, and readers will like what we’ve worked so hard to create.
1. Before you submit your work to a pro, ask critique partners and writing friends for feedback. Just be careful to take their comments with a grain of salt and blend them with your own instincts. Too many cooks can spoil the unique soup you’ve put together.
2. Go the contest route to get unbiased input. Brace yourself for this one, because unlike your friends, many anonymous judges won’t try to spare your feelings. But if you consistently get low marks for grammar, figure out why before you send your book to a pro. You’d hate to see your wonderful project get rejected because the manuscript required too much effort to fix its basic grammar.
3. RWA’s Golden Heart Contest might be perfect for you because you’ll be up against the best unpubbed writers in the business, and only the highest-caliber manuscripts get through to the editors in the final round. You don’t have to worry about judges’ comments because there aren’t any, just a rank of 1 to 9. For these exact same reasons, the Golden Heart might not be your cup of tea. As Obi-Wan told Luke Skywalker, it all depends on your point of view.
4. Finish your book. I know about the whole 3 chapters and a synopsis thing, but you just might have a stellar interview with an editor who says, “Send me the full when you get home.” So, really, finish your book. You’re going to have to do it eventually--why not now?
5. Finally, and most importantly: Be nice. Online, in person, on the phone, at the grocery store. In this hyper-connected world, you never know who’s listening or watching or reading what you’ve put out there. A consistently positive message will reflect well on you, now and always. Negative things will come back to bite you at the worst possible time. Follow the Golden Rule while you travel the high road, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
Okay, I kicked things off, and now it’s your turn. Help us all out by adding your own items to this list, asking questions, whatever. Three commenters will get a free autographed copy of Circle of Family, the second book in my Sawyers series for Love Inspired. If you’d like a peek first, head over to http://www.miaross.com. Have a great day!