Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to Promote Your Work Without Being Pushy

Hi, friends! Laurie here. With conference season upon us, it's time to start thinking about pitching, so I thought this older post would be rather appropriate right now! <3

For many, the primary goal at a writer's conference is to get their work in front of agents and editors. There are usually first-come-first-serve appointment slots available, and there are also more organic opportunities to meet these professionals, as well. Ashley wrote a fantastic post about pitching, and I wanted to expand on that fine line between promoting yourself and being pushy.

Let me put it out there that I know all of our Alley readers are decent human beings with the best intentions. But sometimes nervousness and introvert overcompensation can cloud our judgment, and my hope is that we can find a healthy balance between the natural tendency to undersell ourselves and giving our work the visibility it deserves.

Allow me to demonstrate (pretty please).

At my first conference, before any of us were agented, some friends of mine and I approached an agent to thank him after a really informative panel. None of us even had the intention of pitching to him at that conference, but he ended up talking with us for at least thirty minutes at the bottom of an escalator about several different things, including what we write. It was such an excellent conversation!

And then this woman we didn't know approached, eyes zoned in on the agent, hovering uncomfortably close to us for a few minutes until he finally--reluctantly--made eye contact and she felt it okay to interrupt. This is not the way to get someone's attention. In fact, this is pretty much a surefire way to get an agent to tell you to email an assistant at best and flat-out reject you on the spot at worst.

In my experience at conferences, working commission retail, pitching authors to media outlets, and even what I learned mattress shopping tonight, there are better ways to promote your work than being pushy. Because I want you to be bold and own your talent without banishing yourself to no-man's land.

1) Form some kind of relationship before you begin to sell. Whether you get seated next to an agent at a conference meal or you're meeting the professional for the first time at your 15-minute appointment slot, briefly talk about something else to break the ice. A favorite book they edited, a client they represent, something he or she said in a class or panel. Anything to ease into the conversation and calm your nerves. Don't wax poetic and waste half of your allotted time, but don't immediately launch into your pitch without silently establishing that you respect this person as a human being and not just a means to accomplish your goals. Rule of thumb: remember to consider it a conversation.

2) If you have to be negative about something else to sell yourself, you're doing it wrong. Remember that authors, agents, and editors are often friends with each other even if they've never worked together. It's a very small world in publishing, so make sure your focus is on the positive aspects of your work and what you have to offer them. Make sure you're not stepping on someone else's face to get a leg up. Or else you're no better than the political candidates spamming your mailbox with hate mail every election season.

3) Use discernment. Pay close attention to nonverbal cues, tone of voice, posture. I'd venture to say that generally you shouldn't pitch to someone unless it's invited. Though chance pitches are successful occasionally -- my critique partner got a full manuscript request from her agent at the hotel bar -- it's best not to catch a professional off guard, engrossed in something else, or when he/she is clearly clocked out for the day.

4) Remember that your pitch sets the tone of what kind of person you'll be to work with. You can show them you're serious about publication and confident in your work without being arrogant. Take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the key, sellable aspects of your book with boldness. And make sure to keep it real. Agents and editors have heard about many life-changing, ground-breaking, sure-to-be bestsellers, so that aspect alone will not sell your book :)

A gracious, confident conversation will, on the other hand, give you the best chance for success!

Have you had successes or failures pitching to an agent or editor at a writing conference? Will this be your first time? Let us know in the comments!


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a two-time Genesis Award winner, and the runner-up in the 2015 Lone Star Contest's Inspirational category. 
Her debut contemporary romance novel will release in 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie here:
Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Unknown said...

Hi Laurie: Your post is very interesting and I'm certain will help many who are attending the upcoming Conference. I believe you 'have it', regarding the ways, often times at the very least, we can be annoying and at times, at most, quite inappropriate due to our inexperience, nervousness and attaching our self -value to whether or not an agent is interested in our ‘Work’. Your post brought the term ‘cold calling’ to mind. As a business owner, although I empathize, with people doing this knowing that they need work as well, I am quite annoyed by this practice. In turn, I don’t like to and basically don’t practice this ‘art’ as well. I believe that your suggestions to those seeking acknowledgement and possible connection and contracts are all very important.
Thanks for taking the time to share this Laurie. It gave me food for thought and gently ‘tapped’ me, causing me to think, ‘hey, Mary remember to be patient and tolerant to all those who approach you regardless of how annoying or inappropriate I may initially experience them , because there is more going on’.

Teresa Tysinger said...

Laurie, an excellent post. I think it's so important that, while scheduled meetings with agents are a sure-fire way to have a one-on-one conversation, we remember that they are only a moment in time. If we treat them like the only shot for our possible success, the pressure is sure to get to us. The best advice I heard before doing my pitches last year was to remember that agents/editors are PEOPLE first and foremost. They are PEOPLE who've left family at home to be there. PEOPLE who are employees with their own pressures. PEOPLE who may have had a rough day before meeting you. I try and remember this when encountering all people, every day. But it helps so much to remember we're all human and still on the same team. Say hello and ask "How are you doing? Long day so far?" Let them know you SEE them before you treat them like a pawn in your game of publication. :) With that said, I love your reminder to look for organic opportunities everywhere when at a conference. You never know who you're talking to. Best of luck to everyone!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ Mary - Such a good reminder and love that our value is in so much more than others' interest in our work :) Thanks for commenting!

@ Teresa - YES! They are definitely not the defining moment by any means! There is always another book or open door or chance to rework and revisit. <3 <3