Archive for 'Bob Mayer'

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Best and Worst Writing Advice I’ve Received

The best writing advice I ever received was actually reading a lot.  I think that’s absolutely the best way to prepare to be a writer.

I never took a creative writing course.  It wasn’t a big subject at West Point. When I was there, everyone got a BS.  With no major.  But we did have a concentration and mine was in psychology.  I feel psychology is the best subject for writers to study, because you have to create realistic characters.  The hardest part of developing a character is having a character’s blind spot be realistic.  Something about them that’s wrong, but they are blind to it.

My first draft of the Novel Writers Toolkit was 11 pages long.  Everything I knew about writing after publishing 4 books, fit into 11 pages.  Consciously knew.  What I had to do was move stuff from my subconscious to my conscious as well as learn more.  I just rewrote the Toolkit this past year with the latest.  I’ve learned more about writing in the past two years than in my first 20.

I don’t have an MFA; I have a Masters in Education.  My first writers conference was in 1995 and I was a presenter with four books published.  I took some writing courses.  I even took some graduate levels writing courses.  In one, the esteemed visiting writer came in.  He told us to take out a piece of paper and write what we felt.  I wrote:  “I feel like I’m wasting my time taking this course since you haven’t taught us anything.”  Needless to say, that didn’t go over well.

I’m actually not a fan of critique groups. Often the blind leading the blind.  And egos can get in the way.  Also, a novel is too big for most critique groups.  I’m a fan of beta readers.

I’m actually not sure, off the top of my head, what the “best” advice I received was.  I actually think it’s more important that I’ve had an open attitude and been willing to learn and change.  After teaching writing for two decades the biggest problem I see is that you can give the “best” advice in the world, but if someone isn’t willing to listen and change, it’s worthless.

I think we have to take every piece of advice we get by factoring in who is saying it.  Also, to be honest, writers often lie.  Hmm.  That was a weird sentence.  But I’ve heard keynote speeches and I’m thinking to myself “bullshit”.  Most of my work is sitting at the keyboard, staring aimlessly into space, with some drool coming down the side of my mouth.  Thinking is work.

The worst advice?  That part of my brain that tells me constantly I’m crazy to be writing for a living.  It’s an insane business.  It’s better now that I’m indie, but I also have to work two jobs now.  I saw on an informal list where I was one of 22 indie authors who’ve sold over 200,000 eBooks at Self-Publishing Success Stories.  I’m actually up to around 600,000 now.  That’s not many indies who are selling a lot.  It’s a tough job and if I had had any common sense, I’d have done something different.

But it’s the best job in the world.

Also, I don’t understand those people who let what someone says discourage them.  I love the classic story, told in various formats:  The young man wanted to be a great violinist.  The master came to town and the young man wrangled an audition with him.  He played his heart out.  When he was done he asked the master what he thought.  The master said:  “Not enough fire.”

The young man was crushed.  He quit the violin and pursued a different career.  Many years later he met the master at a function.  He told him about the audition and the result.  The master was surprised and said:  “I tell everyone that.  If my saying that was enough to stop you, then you really didn’t have enough fire.”  No one can stop you, but you.

What about you?  What’s the best thing you’ve heard and the worst?


Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Learning the Craft of Writing Over Time

My first novel was published in 1991.  It doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but I suppose it is a while. I wrote my first draft of The Novel Writer’s Toolkit in 1994 after four books published.  It was all of 11 pages long.  That was the extent of what I consciously knew about writing a novel.  In 2009, I wrote my first draft of Warrior Writer, a book designed to teach writers how to succeed as authors after my frustration over the lack of education for writers and all my experiences.  I still have not had a single response from an editor or agent showing me what their formal training program is for an author they sign or contract with.  In today’s fast moving marketplace, writers can’t afford to learn like I did—the hard way.

Over the years, I rewrote the Toolkit every six months, adding all I was learning about writing.  The Toolkit ended up being 80,000 words long and was published by Writer’s Digest in 2001.  It earned out in less than six months and had a great run.  I got the rights backs and re-wrote it one more time, adding all I have learned since 2011.

Last year I updated both books extensively, partly because I’ve grown as a writer. But also because today’s publishing environment has changed and with that change has come the ability to update books to meet the changing needs of today’s successful writers.  The Novel Writers Toolkit now focuses 100% on the craft of writing.  I removed the business section because that belongs in the other book, formerly Warrior Writer, which I renamed Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author.

One key thing I added in the Toolkit was a section on Conflict, especially the Conflict Box.  I have to say I believe I’ve learned more about writing in the past two years than in my first twenty.

In the Toolkit, I teach how to answer key questions about your book including:

Can you state what your book is about in one sentence?

Do you clearly have conflict lock between protagonist and antagonist?

Do you know where your ‘camera’ is when you write each scene?  i.e. Point of View?  Do you know when you’ve done a cut?

Do you know all your characters’ primary motivations, their motivation levels, and their blind spot?

Write It Forward is the sum of what I’ve learned in 20 years of traditional publishing and two years as an indie author and publisher.  I made many mistakes over the years and I wrote this book to keep others from making the same mistakes.  I’ve included where I believe publishing is now and where it’s going.  I also focus on helping writers sort out their own path to Oz, given that each of us are starting from a different place and our vision of Oz is unique to each of us.

For example, can you answer these questions, which Write It Forward poses as exercises and then teaches you how to answer:

What is my strategic goal as a writer?  Where do you want to be in five years?

I’ll do anything to succeed as a writer, except don’t ask me to do . . . . ?

My greatest fear as a writer is?

How high is your ‘imposter syndrome’ as a writer?

Are you in command of your writing career or are you counting on an agent or editor?

Do you know where you stand on the three P’s: Platform, product and promotion?

Both books focus on building the complete writer:  one who masters the craft of writing into being an artist, and one who develops their work into being a career writer.

A writer just can’t afford to learn things the “hard way” by trial and error.  It’s also grossly inefficient.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Amazon Book Reviews: Democracy in action, ignorance or bullying?

I used to make it a point to not read my reviews on Amazon.  There were several reasons for that:

  1. As any student of sampling knows, the people who post reviews are not a fair representative of the reading public.
  2. Anyone who has ever purchased anything from Amazon can post a review, but that doesn’t mean they purchased the book they’re reviewing.  That makes it the Wild West.
  3. Some reviewers spam all of an author’s books.  Excuse me, but if you didn’t like one book, why go paste in that same exact blistering review on all the books that author has had published?
  4. Some authors spam other author books as a means of promoting their own book.  These people need to grow up.
  5. Customers unhappy that a book hasn’t yet been published on Kindle often post one star reviews of the print book, as a form of protest.  All that does is hurt the author, who often has little control over when and what form the publisher releases the book.
  6. One star reviews seem to carry more weight than Five star reviews.

As a publisher, I now I force myself to go over the Amazon every once in a while and check the reviews, especially to see if there are any formatting, editing or other fixable problems.  We see a definite correlation between lost sales and scathing reviews, but not great reviews and positive sales.  One aw-shit seems to outweigh one atta-boy.

Some suggestions:

  1. Only people who buy the book, and that version, have the right to review it.
  2. Reviewers should not be anonymous.  This prevents the bullying and spamming that is prevalent.  It also allows the author/publisher, to address the problem if need be, such as technical problems or downloads.  And thank readers who really enjoy something.  The future of publishing is an author-reader relationship, but we can’t relate with people who aren’t identified.
  3. Allow people to recant their reviews if technical problems have been resolved.

A final suggestions: If you really enjoyed a book, go, review it. Review the format you bought it in. Remember, a typo is different from bad formatting and bad formatting isn’t necessarily the fault of the author, or even the publisher. Technology does fail at times. If it’s a self-published eBook or from a small publisher, take the time to go to their web site and contact them.  You might be surprised at the positive results.

The future of publishing, as we note in Write It Forward, is wide open.  And readers, more than ever, are going to determine the success of failures of books.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Bob Mayer
A Writer’s Enemy: Feeling Like A Fraud

We get paid to invent stories.  How cool is that?  We invent something from just our imaginations.  Amazing.

So why are writers squirming masses of insecurity?

A lot of it is external:  little validation, an uncertain business, isolation, bears.

But deep inside almost ever writer is this feeling that what we do, what we produce, isn’t real.  That we are perpetuating a fraud on the world.  That we’re ‘fooling’ everyone.  We believe we got where we are via luck and contacts.

When I teach Write It Forward the #1 fear of writers is feeling like a fraud.  The word just keeps coming up, over and over.

How To Deal With Feeling Like A Fraud.

Writers aren’t the only creative people who experience these feelings of being a fraud or concerned the world will found out they are an imposter.

“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeiffer

“Sometimes I wake up before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me. I’m fat. I’m ugly . . .” Kate Winslet.

It’s important to realize everyone has doubts. What’s debilitating is if you feel like you are the only one. You’re not. Studies of people who are identified as feeling like frauds range in percentage, but the overall number is high. In fact, studies show that many of the most successful people feel it the most. The higher up the ladder one goes, the greater the fear is of ‘being found out’.  The higher the stakes become.  The more people are watching.  And, honestly, the more people who want to see you fail.  Thus those magazines at the checkout counters in supermarkets.  The headlines don’t scream:  Actress Has Great Day And Loves Husband.

Doubts can be good: they can inspire you to become better. If you combine your doubt with your passion, it can motivate you to great success. Studies have shown that women who score high in the area of feeling like a fraud tend to compete harder to compensate for their doubts. Interestingly, men who scored high on feeling like a fraud, tend to avoid areas where they feel vulnerable to avoid looking bad.

There is a thing called The Imposter Syndrome. It’s when you difficulty internalizing your accomplishments. All those things they’ve achieved: degrees, promotions, publication, best-seller lists, etc. are thrown out.  The more you agree with the following statements, the higher your Imposter Syndrome:

I can give the impression I am more competent than I really am.

I often compare myself to those around me and consider them more intelligent than I am.

I get discouraged if I’m not the ‘best’ in an endeavor.

I hate being evaluated by others.

If someone gives me praise for something I’ve accomplished, it makes me fear that I won’t live up to his or her expectations in the future.

I’ve achieved my current position via luck and/or being in the right place at the right time.

When I think back to the past, incidents where I made mistakes or failed come more readily to mind than times when I was successful.

When I finish a manuscript, I usually feel like I could have done so much better.

When someone complements me, I feel uncomfortable.

I’m afraid others will find out my lack of knowledge/expertise.

When I start a new manuscript, I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish it, even though I’ve already finished X number of manuscripts.

If I’ve been successful at something, I often doubt I can do it again successfully.

If my agent tells me I’m going to get an offer on a book, I don’t tell anyone until the contract is actually in hand.


Women who feel like imposters tend to seek favorable comparisons with their peers.

Men who feel like imposters tend to avoid comparisons with their peers. Often, they work hard so other people won’t think them incapable or dumb.  It’s called spinning your wheels faster even though you aren’t going anywhere.

People who feel like imposters are constantly judging their success against the achievements of others rather than viewing what they do as an end in itself. For writers, this can be very dangerous, because there will always be someone who is doing ‘it better’ or ‘is more successful’.  I’ve seen bestselling authors fall into this trap.

A technique to fight feeling like a fraud is to use a version of my Warrior Writer HALO concept on yourself. HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening parachuting.  The technique is to start from way out, and work your way in with an open attitude to try to see things differently.  Most of us see thing from our inside out.  Reverse it.  When I approach a company or team where I know nothing about what they do, the HALO concept allows me to see what they’re doing very differently from the way they see it.

Basically, the HALO approach starts from way outside yourself, diving in until you can see things clearly. Step outside and view things as if you are a stranger to yourself.. Look at your resume. Look at what you’ve accomplished in life. Ask yourself what kind of person would have achieved these things? Could a fraud have done this? When I query a conference to teach or apply to lead workshops or do keynotes, I have to send my bio. Sometimes I stop and read it and ask myself: what would I think of this person, if I didn’t know them, but just read this?

Focus on positive feedback. However, don’t ignore constructive negative feedback. The key is not to let the negative overwhelm you. I don’t look at Amazon reviews or rankings any more. First, you have to realize that only a certain segment of the population posts reviews on Amazons. It’s not a true sample of the population. Also, the motives for posting reviews often have nothing to do with your book.

One way of dealing with ‘feeling like a fraud’ is to internalize more of your accomplishments via real, external symbols.  In the military, we always joked that everyone had a “Look At Where I’ve Been And What I’ve Done” wall in their home, covered with photos, plaques, flags, etc. Those walls serve a purpose, though. (In our A-Team room, we had to wire down all the knives, hatchets, edged weapons that were usually on the plaques because people might start using them after a few beers.)

I have all my published books in my office on the top of two bookcases, all lined up. The row is over three feet wide. I look at it sometimes to fight the feeling that I can’t write another book, that I can’t get published again.

I love this quote from a Python:

“Talent is less important in film-making than patience.  If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.”  Terry Gilliam


You’ve got to actively work on building that tough outer shell around your creative self. Have a bizarre belief in yourself even in the face of apparent reality.  You’re being bombarded  with negative messages about publishing.  It’s so hard.  The odds are against you.

You have to believe in yourself. If you’re unpublished, walk into the bookstores and don’t let all those published authors overwhelm you. Use them to motivate you. Tell yourself you belong there. I always look and say: “Hey, these people got published, why can’t I?”

List your accomplishments. They can range from a picture of your family, degrees achieved, awards won, whatever. Put them where you write. Use them to remind yourself that you are not a fraud. YOU ARE REAL.


Oh yes. FREE eBooks. We’ve got five books going free on Amazon starting today:

Atlantis Bermuda Triangle through Friday.

Area 51 Legend—just today and tomorrow.  This is a standalone book even though it was the last one published.  It’s actually a prequel to the story.

Bitter Moon Lane by international bestselling author Colin Falconer is free all week, ending Friday.

The Templar’s Seduction by bestselling romance author Mary Reed McCall through Thursday.

The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Victoria Martinzez through Friday.

Write It Forward!

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
My Reading Habits

I tend not to read much in my genres any more.  Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on in thrillers and science fiction.  Once I started writing, though, I find it sometimes muddies the water.  Actually, I don’t really consider genre when I read.  I follow Stephen King’s advice to read better writers than I am.  I just finished Defending Jacob and was blown away by the author’s use of point of view.  I’m usually not a fan of first person, but it fit this story perfectly.

I read a lot of nonfiction.  Mostly research.  I call my ‘genre’ factual fiction.  I take a lot of facts and add a fictional element and I’m off to the races.  Duty, Honor, Country, A Novel of West Point and The Civil War is historical fiction.  It goes from 1841 at West Point, through the Mexican War and ends on the first night of the battle of Shiloh.  The fictional element are two characters who travcrse that history with the real people.  Sort of like HBO’s Rome miniseries.

My Area 51 series rewrites the entire history of mankind, but uses facts, just giving a different explanation.  I have the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid, Easter Island Statues, the Great Wall of China, Temiltepec, Qian-Ling, Jack the Ripper, Stonehenge, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Area 51– you name it, I’ve got it.  I just add a fictional reason for a lot of those things.  My Atlantis series uses famous battles such at Little Big Horn, Islandwha, Gettysburg, etc. but for an entirely different reason.  So to write those books, I have to do a lot of reading.  I’ve found that while the internet can be a great source of information, reading books is much better because books give you a deeper picture and add details that you’d have to really dig for on the internet or might not find at all.

I also read for craft.  To see how other authors do things.  I got a deeper insight into using omniscient point of view re-reading a bunch of Dennis Lehane novels.  I also– and this will upset some purists– watch a ton of TV.  My wife and I sit in bed with our two yellow labs and watch hours and hours every night.  Except she has the remote and it’s her DVR and I watch everything she puts on.  We watch old movies (just re-watched Suddenly Last Summer), comedy (Daily Show & Colbert & Family Guy and a new one:  Key & Peele), various series, mini-series (if you haven’t seen The Wire, you haven’t seen nuthing), and lots of nonfiction, especially what we call the murder and mayhem channels.  There’s a lot of information in those shows and also great story-telling.

I really believe I should be able to tax deduct my cable bill, but my accountant says no.  Sigh.  However, I believe all of life is learning for a writer.


Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Writers Conferences: How To Spend Your Time

It’s that odd day, the 29th of February.  Happy birthday to those of you who only have birthdays every four years.

This is an excerpt from The Writers Conference Guide: Getting The Most of Your Time & Money


After registering and meeting at least one new person, go to your room and unpack.  Check your plan against the final conference schedule, as sometimes workshops and presenters change at the last minute.  Dump all the extra stuff they give you in the conference packet/bag and repack your bag for the conference with the material you’ll need. Don’t haul around forty pounds worth of stuff.  You’ll have a lot of papers that you can deposit in the room.

Then leave your room.


Our Rule

Every day when you leave your room in the morning, you don’t go back to it until you are done for the day (with one exception, covered shortly).  Way too often attendees hide in their room.  You’re not going to learn anything in your room and you’re not going to network in your room.  It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but get out there.

Even if you’ve registered and there are no workshops for a while, go to the lobby and wander about.  Check where all the rooms for the workshops you will attend are located.  This is essentially doing a reconnaissance of the venue.  Sometimes certain rooms are difficult to find and you don’t want to be scrambling trying to find that one key workshop with just two minutes to get there.

Once you have the site down, hang around near the registration desk.  Talk to people.  Get a cup of coffee in the lobby.

The more people you meet right away, the more people you’ll know on the second day.  Some people take two or three days to feel comfortable enough to chat with others, but by then the conference is winding down.

We recommend spending the first few hours of the conference after registration as the time to set up meetings with your social media friends or other writers you have meet on-line, but have not met in person. We’ve been at conference where twitter buds all wear a purple ribbon on the name tag so they know they are a twitter bud. As more of you gather, there is less of a chance you will ever be by yourself at the conference.

The Workshops

Every conference is run differently and offer different types of classes, workshops, etc. Jennifer will be teaching a 3-day track at the Philly Writers conference on Romance Writing. The participants sign up for the tracks they want to take and the presenters are told ahead of time how many will be attending.

Bob often teaches pre and post conference workshops along with doing keynote presentations and workshops. Each type is a little different and depending on size will depend on the actual interaction during these workshops.


Presentations and Keynotes

Keynote presentations are generally inspirational speeches given after meals. Presentations are large lectures (often given by the big names or as a pre or post workshops) where the presenter(s) give information and there is little interaction.  It depends on the conference size and the group size in the room.



Often times it is difficult to decipher the difference between a presentation and a workshop. The key is really size. Most conferences know which topics and which speakers are going to draw the most attendance, so they plan accordingly. When Jennifer taught at the Dallas Fort-Worth Conference this past February, her class on Synopsis writing was in a double room and turned out to be standing room only. It was more of a presentation than an actual workshop. Her class on Upping the Stakes was in a smaller more intimate room and she was able to interact with the class and get them to talk about their current work-in-progress.


Panels are a group of people who sit at a long table, usually with a moderator.  Usually, attendees are told to ask questions and each member of the panel answers the same question.

We’re not big fans of panels either as presenters or attendees.  Figure out how many are on the panel, how much time is allocated and you’ll often see that each presenter will get X minutes of time.  Often, panels are pretty generic.  Once you’ve attended your first editor/agent panel, the second one won’t be much different.

Arrive Early

If it’s a workshop you’re on the fence about, and there’s another that is your second choice, sit in the back near the door so you can make an exit as easily as possible if it turns out the workshop is a dud.  Otherwise, sit near the front.  When it comes to the larger conferences, most presenters understand people will wander out and wander in, partly due to editor and agent appointments and partly because it didn’t meet the needs of the attendee. As presenters, we understand this and generally don’t take offense, as long as when you leave or enter, you are respectful.

Size of Workshop

If you walk into a workshop/presentation/panel and there are few attendees don’t assume it’s because it won’t be a good workshop. You picked it based on your goals. The presenter(s) have something that you want or are discussing a topic you feel is important. Often times, the presenter is against a ‘big name’ to whom every other writer has flocked. Often small groups can be tailored more to meet specific participants needs.

If the presenter is using Powerpoint, make sure you are in position to see the screen.


If there are handouts, make sure you get one.  Often, they run out of handouts, which is another reason to arrive early. If there are not enough, ask the presenter if they can email you them later. Often times, they are more than happy to, but it usually entails you emailing them as a reminder.

Interaction with Presenters

TNWIFConference(6)We recommend against trying to chat up presenters before their workshop. Often the previous presenter is besieged by people and trying to pack up and the new presenter is trying to set up.  You could ask if they need help, which is a way to break the ice, but remember they are mentally preparing themselves for the presentation they are about to give you.

Recording the Workshop

Some people try to record the workshop.  Many conferences have a policy against this.  Many authors have a policy against this and it is important to find out ahead of time.

Some conferences actually do their own recording and sell the CDs/Downloads.  If that’s the case, you definitely cannot record.  If it’s not the case, at the very least, you should ask the presenter and respect their wishes.  What they’re giving you is their intellectual property for free if you do so.  If they do say yes, remember you can only use the recording for personal use, not post it or upload it.

Note Taking

Do take notes, but don’t take notes on everything you hear.  Often we see people who are so busy taking notes they’re not listening.  Only make notes on things that strike you, either good or bad.  LISTEN.  Absorb.  You don’t need a notepad full of rapidly scribbled notes that will make little sense to you later on.

Often it’s better to jot down your initial reactions and thoughts to the workshop immediately following instead of trying to get every word down. If they gave handouts, they gave them for a reason. It’s the highlights of their lecture. Those handouts are the points they are trying to make.

You can use your laptop to make notes, but try to be as quiet about it as possible.  As presenters, we’ve seen people checking their email in workshops.

One new thing we’ve seen a lot is writers’ tweeting from workshops as they happen. While people follow the tweets when they are not there, we appreciate the recap, but how much are you actually getting out of the workshop? One thing we do is make a list of the things we learned in the workshop and tweet about them when we are not enjoying the total conference experience. More often then not, we write a recap of the conference and post it on the Write It Forward Blog.

Jennifer did this with a panel she was on a the Dallas Fort-Worth Writer’s conference on Digital Publishing sharing not only the content of the workshop, but things she learned from the other panel members.

Bob went as far as to recap tweets from the Digital Book World and he didn’t even attend the conference. This is the power of social media.

Exiting a Workshop

If you have an editor or agent appointment during a workshop, you can let the presenter know ahead of time that you will be leaving. This is good practice in a smaller workshop so the presenter doesn’t assume it’s them or the material that sent you packing, but as stated earlier, if there is a pitch session, we understand that someone might have to sneak out.

As an aside, we recommend that you DO go to a workshop before and after your pitch. Often we see writers skipping valuable presentations to prepare for their pitch, which is at the end of the workshop. Take full advantage of the time.

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Writers Conferences: Editor & Agent Appointments

Excerpt from The Writers Conference Guide: Getting The Most of Your Time & Money

Now that you have absorbed the lessons learned from Johnny Cash in the movie Walk the Line and developed your elevator pitch through the original idea you don’t need to worry about your editor or agent appointment. And really, you don’t.

Prep at Home

We often see writers who have well developed pitches, get to the conference, start having group ‘pitch practices’ and before they know it, they have no idea what they are pitching anymore or it has become so rehearsed the excitement has left the building.

If you have your original idea, you have the foundation for your pitch. Take that, sit down with your fellow writers and brainstorm it out. When you hit the perfect idea, the entire group will feel it.

Take a Class on Pitching

Many writing groups have monthly meetings where they bring in speakers. Jennifer often volunteers her time to a couple local groups right before the summer push for National Conferences to work on pitches. There are on-line groups, such as many of the workshops we offer at Write It Forward.

Bob spends a good portion of his Novel Writer’s One-Day Workshop and in his Write It Forward Workshop developing Idea and Pitch.

We also recommend that you attend a pitch workshop at the conference, although we highly recommend that you don’t go stressing over your pitch and start reworking it. It might be a good idea to take this workshop during a conference where you are not pitching.

Also, it doesn’t have to be a pitching class. Workshops on developing idea, character and plot can be helpful to developing the perfect pitch.

The Pitch is Really a Conversation

TNWIFConference(6)Remember, your editor or agent appointment is a two-way conversation. So, after the introductions are done, and you give your one-sentence, pause. Take a breath. The one sentence you worked so hard on with your group is meant to entice, intrigue and make the person on the receiving end want to know more. At this point, the editor or agent might have a question.

If not, you move on. This is where Jennifer’s idea of having at least five sentences that, while they are not a rehearsed pitch, they are a natural progression in the conversation comes in.  It’s also good practice for back cover copy writing and the foundation for the rest of your query letter. One thing always leads to the other.

For example:

  • What if your mother hadn’t been murdered, but she was alive and well and living sixty miles away?
  • Katie Bateman has spent her entire career finding lost love ones for other people, but she can’t find one missing body, her mother’s, and give her a proper burial.
  • Now the man accused of murdering her mother is out and Katie’s world is turned upside down by a rash of break-ins, threatening letters and a mystery woman who has the same red hair and green eyes that Katie has.
  • Could Katie’s mother really be alive? If so, then why did her uncle go to jail, almost willingly for a murder he didn’t commit.
  • As Katie unravels a legacy of lies she must choose between the mother she always wanted the uncle who gave up his life for her.

If Jennifer were pitching this story, she would start with the first sentence, and then pause. If the editor did not ask a question, she would continue, pausing after each sentence.

Nine out of ten times, we don’t have to go past the one-sentence because when we pause, the person to whom we are conversing with often asks us something. Answering a question is always easier than having to ‘tell’ someone about your book.


Know your Genre

Understand the type of book you are writing and which publishing houses would be interested. This not only helps in picking who to pitch to, but often editors and agents want to know you have a good handle on the industry and know your genre.

Have Questions

Often writers view editors and agents as the be all end all of publishing and they are an important aspect of the publishing business, but this is YOUR career. Bob has had 4 agents and Jennifer has had 2. The agent/author relationship is a business relationship and you have to make sure the person is the right agent for you.

Some of these questions might not be appropriate during the actual pitch session, but some will be. If they request material (and they most likely will) you need to know how to get it to them. Many have moved into the digital age and want only email submissions.  How long does it take to respond to a partial? A full?

Often you can find these answers on their websites, but it doesn’t hurt to discuss them face-to-face. While they are deciding if the book is something you can sell, you are deciding if this is a person you can do business with.


You are going to be nervous. That is a given. The editors and agents know and understand this and try to make you feel comfortable. They want to find the diamond in the rough. They want you to be the one they buy and say “I met this person during a pitch session at such and such a conference.”

When you are in line, waiting to go to your pitch session, help ease your mind, and the mind of other writers by asking other authors who they are pitching to and about their books. It will help you relax before your pitch. This is the only time we give you permission to practice at the conference.