Ask BHP: What Should New Writers Know Before Going to a Conference?

This month’s Ask BHP Question is from an aspiring writer: “I know one of the best ways to meet editors like the ones at Bethany House is attending conferences. I’m planning to go to my first one in the fall of this year. Anything I should know about appointments with editors?”

Here are some tips from one of those editors you might be meeting with. Raela Schoenherr is one of our acquisition editors and an all-around fabulous human being. Here’s how she answered this question:

  • Trust yourself. You know your story better than anyone, so don’t focus on whether you’re giving the “wrong” answer or pitch. If you’re confident in what you’ve written and your goals for it, that will be apparent to agents and editors.
  • Remember that agents and editors are regular people just like you, no matter how intimidating they may seem at first.
  • Stay positive. Agents and editors are taking pitches because they hope to find something that will be a fit for them. Remembering that they’re looking for opportunities to say “yes” rather than “no” will help you keep a positive perspective.
  • Listen to the advice of others and apply what makes the most sense for you. If you’re trying to do (or not do) everything anyone has ever told you, you may have a hard time staying focused on the main point. And you may end up feeling that your pitch wasn’t authentic to you.
  • An appointment is your time to speak with an industry professional, so take initiative to start the conversation and the pitch. Don’t make them drag details out of you.
  • Do your best to answer their questions as well as you can, but if a question surprises you and you don’t have an immediate answer, don’t worry. You don’t want the entire appointment derailed because you panicked over not having an answer to one question. You can gracefully ask for a few moments to think or acknowledge it’s a great question and say you’ll need to jot it down and spend some time thinking and researching when you return home.

Raela also made what I called a “red flag checklist.” It’s a quick, bullet-point list of some common mistakes that immediately brand a manuscript as not yet ready for publication or pitching at a conference. Here’s what she put on it:

  • Confusing point of view
  • Head-hopping (randomly changing point of view in the middle of the scene)
  • Uneven or slow pacing
  • Overly clichéd or predictable
  • Breaks genre or sub-genre standards
  • Word count too short or too long for publisher’s standards
  • Author doesn’t know or understand readership

Those are all great things to look at as you’re preparing a manuscript (or preparing yourself to pitch one).

I’m not an editor, but I am on the team that looks over proposals from new authors in our pub board, so here are a few tips on conferences and manuscript proposals from my perspective.

  • Research the basics. Good news! There are resources all over the Internet about how to put together a book proposal, one-sheet, or cover letter. The proposals we’ve gotten from new authors all have some things in common (like the word count of the completed manuscript and a synopsis), but they don’t ever look exactly the same. Different elements/sections are included in each. That means you can find out what your materials should look like, but you don’t need to stress over matching any template perfectly.
  • Think about what would make you or your book stand out to a marketing team and include that in the proposal. You may not be a megastar or have a huge platform, but if you have connections with author friends, a unique area of expertise, or some great ideas for promoting your book, be sure to mention that in your proposal.
  • Use the conference as a way to connect with other writers. Besides being enthusiastic fans who can spread the word when you do have a book out, talking with author friends and following them on social media will give you great marketing ideas and help you get a better sense of what your readership is interested in. This may end up being more valuable to you than the appointments.
  • If an agent or editor isn’t the right fit for your project, don’t despair! That was the main point of last month’s post of published authors talking about rejection. Be open to feedback, don’t take a “no” personally, and keep on writing!

Hope that’s helpful! If there are any seasoned writers out there who have gone to a few conferences, feel free to add your tips in the comments.

July 2018 New Releases!

This month, we’re celebrating four fantastic summer reading releases. Take a journey through the pages to find romance, suspense, and page-turning plots. As always, feel free to try out a new-to-you author by clicking on the cover to read an excerpt. Happy reading, all!

The Best of Intentions by Susan Anne Mason

Plot Summary: In the aftermath of tragedy, Grace hopes to reclaim her nephew from the relatives who rejected her sister because of her class. Under an alias, she becomes her nephew’s nanny to observe the formidable family up close. Unexpectedly, she begins to fall for the boy’s guardian, who is promised to another. Can Grace protect her nephew . . . and her heart?

 

Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey

Plot Summary: Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

 

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Annalise knows painful memories hover beneath the pleasant façade of Gossamer Grove. But she is shocked when she inherits documents that reveal mysterious murders from a century ago. In this dual-time romantic suspense novel, two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their town before it’s too late.

 

In Dreams Forgotten by Tracie Peterson

Plot Summary: After her parents’ deaths, Judith Gladstone travels to San Francisco to find her last living relative. Her unrequited love, Caleb Coulter, helps her search, and when his connections lead Judith to a wealthy, influential family, she learns shocking truths about her heritage . . . and finds herself in danger from someone who wants to keep the past hidden.

What’s on your summer reading list this July?

Prayer for Authors: July 2018

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in July:

Susan Anne Mason
Tracie Peterson
Dani Pettrey
Jaime Jo Wright

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.“—Psalm 90:14 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For renewed joy in the writing or editing process in whatever they project they are working on.
  • For times of rest in the midst of the busyness of release month.
  • For readers who need to hear the message of a particular book to pick it up at bookstores or libraries.

Once again, we’re very grateful that you take time (some of you every month) to remember our authors in prayer. That means a lot to them…and us!