Last time on My Journey to Publication, I shared how I began to write the first draft of my book.
It was early June 2011 and I just found out that I would be attending my very first writing conference in late July. The conference was called She Speaks and would be held within driving distance of Alabama - just seven hours up the road in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was excited, nervous, anxious, and hopeful all at the same time. Receiving my confirmation e-mail of being registered at the conference made this whole experience come alive. I was admitting to the world that I wanted to be a writer and a speaker. Like, for real.
After I registered, a wave of panic hit me. There was so much to do and so little time to do it. The lady in charge, Sheila, probably thought I was nuts. I had no idea what I needed to do to prepare for the conference. I received some e-mails that gave me an overview of what to expect while I was there. I would be attending sessions for both speaking and writing while also meeting with some editors for Christian book publishers. I needed to sign up for which editors I wanted to meet with. As I surveyed the lists that showed their pictures and information, I felt so small. How would I ever impress these people enough to make them want me? One literary agent stood out to me because she was an Auburn graduate. I told Sheila that I wanted to meet with her, the editor from Zondervan, and an editor from Thomas Nelson's self-publishing department.
Sheila called me back and sweetly asked me if I had a platform. A what? In college, when I was the campaign manager for a friend running for SGA president, we worked on his platform which was all about what he wanted to do if he was elected president. I guessed she was asking me what my book was about so I stammered out a response about how my twins were born premature and I wanted to share our story to help others. Then, I quickly said, "I have no idea what I am doing. I am so embarrassed. Will you please tell me what I need to do?" She was so kind to me and gently told me that a platform was more about my reach/audience. How many people followed my blog? How often did I speak? Did I have a radio show or another outlet that attracted a lot of people? (Here is a helpful blog post that I found on platforms). I gave her simple numbers and answers to her questions and we determined that I was not ready to meet with Zondervan or the literary agent from Auburn. I understood Zondervan but I was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to meet with the agent because I just had this feeling that we might hit it off. Weird, I know. She also asked me if I had any interest in publishing my book on my own. That was not my end goal so we decided that I should meet with some other editors instead. Finally, I was signed up to meet with editors from Discovery House and Standard Publishing.
I began to do research on the editors I would be meeting with. I found past interviews and scanned their publishing websites to know what types of books they published. I had a whole list of facts about them but had no idea what I would say to them about me. I was sent a really helpful document that gave me tips on how to prepare for a book proposal interview. I learned that a book proposal was kind of like a really long resume that stated what my book was about, who I was/how I would be able to market the book through my platform, and a sample of two or three of my chapters. I ordered Michael Hyatt's guide to writing a book proposal and it was my Bible for the next three weeks.
As I mentioned in part three, I had begun to write my book. By June, I had two chapters left to write. It was very important to me that I finish writing the first draft before I went to the conference. I remember not being able to sleep one night so I went upstairs and stared at my computer screen. As the sun began to peek through my tiny office window, I had finished writing my very first book. In front of me were 100 pages documenting the story that unfolded just one summer before. I sat astonished at the work. I took a moment to thank God for letting me finish such a big task. I knew that there was SO MUCH work ahead of me but at least I had all of the details recorded in one place of our rollercoaster experience in the NICU.
I went to Kinko's later that day and printed off two copies of the manuscript. It was the week before our trip to the beach for the 4th of July, and I wanted to review it for errors and also pick out my top five chapters. Raleigh was the first person to read the manuscript at that time. He was helpful but was not as fast of a reader as I was, so I knew I needed outside help. When I came back from the beach, I asked three trusted friends if they could read five chapters and critique them for me. These friends gave such great advice and helped me narrow my choices down to my top three chapters that I would present in my book proposal.
Another helpful thing that I did to prepare for the conference was listening to two conference calls: one on writing and another on speaking. The writing call was led by Jeannie Burlowski and it was a life-saver. Here, I learned 11 elements to a successful publisher's meeting. One element was your elevator pitch. I changed this at least ten times. Rachelle Gardner has a helpful blog post about this too. She also went into great detail about a one-sheet. Basically, this is a piece of paper that should represent your book. It's gotta look pretty - your picture, graphics, the works. She gave the name of a designer that makes one-sheets but I decided to go with my husband because I knew he could make me something just as good as anybody else. Raleigh really helped me fine-tune my paragraphs about the book and he did an excellent job making the one-sheet. Here is how it turned out:
While I was at She Speaks, I signed up to be part of a speaking critique group. Micca Campbell led the conference call about this and it helped put me at ease. I would be sharing my testimony the first night for 3 minutes and then I would present a "Teaching Talk" the next day for 5 minutes. She gave helpful advice about structuring our talks, staying within time, and the all-important question about what to wear. It was difficult at first to get my testimony under three minutes but I practiced like crazy. I decided to use some of my notes from my Fearless speech at girls' retreat for my five-minute talk. I timed myself, practiced in front of the mirror, and shared them both with Raleigh until I felt confident.
Preparing for She Speaks was a lot of work, but I knew that this was my first shot at meeting with people who could change my life. I prayed so much during those final weeks before the conference. I knew that I had to look at this experience as a learning opportunity but I hoped that maybe...just maybe someone would be interested in what I had to share.
Next time on My Journey to Publication I will share the details about my first writing conference. I met people who did indeed, change my life.
Question: If you are a writer/speaker, do you have any helpful tips for preparing for a writing conference?
Till next time, let your light shine!
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