Monday, August 31, 2009

Freaking Out, Just a Little Bit

You all may know that I and several other bloggers are going to the ACFW conference in three weeks.

In preparation, I've been working on my pitch.

There's a little problem though.

I can write it fine, but when it comes to talking....my tongue messes up. When I'm nervous, I talk too fast, I talk too quiet, I use the wrong words or I *gasp* stutter over my syllables. Or worse, come off sounding as nervous as I am, maybe even arrogant. *cringe*

Have you ever verbally pitched someone? Does trying your pitch out on friends/family help? My hair feels like it may turn gray (I know the day is coming, blech). Any advice for this pitching newbie?

66 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Jess I don't really have any advise, cause I have never pitched a book. But I imgaine practise helps. The times I have had to stand up in public and talk (which was quite a few when I taught at an international school) I just remembered that most people feel nervous in front of others and that really nothing that terrible that I couldn't survive could actually happen. I am guessing the agents won't shot you if you stuff up. And I am guessing that they will see a good book idea regardless of how much you stumble or stutter. Good luck though. I imagine I would feel a bit freaked out too :)

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Done a lot of public speaking. Never pitched a book, but helped others prepare for it.

I'm always reminded that they are people just like me. I treat them like they're my good friends and I want to share some exciting news with them.

Breathe! That's important! If you say a sentence. Take a breath. It helps to keep you calm, focused and paced.

Practice helps too. Do it in a mirror, on your kids, your pets, your husband, the checkout girl at the grocery store!!

Praying you great success!

Jessica said...

Hi Tabitha,
Thank you! You're right, a great premise is a great premise, no matter how long it takes to come out of my mouth! LOL

Hey Donna,
I've actually had public speaking and really liked it. It's the one on one that makes me shudder. LOL Thank you for your advice! I think I will practice out loud to my family, though the thought feels really weird. Heh. Funny about the grocery store! LOL

Jody Hedlund said...

Ugh! I think I can empathize with your nervousness! The whole conference itself exciting but also nerve-wracking at the same time!

Remember that if you can hook them to look at your one sheet or proposal, then your writing is what will truely sell you. If your writing shines, then it doesn't matter if you stutter or anything else!

Katie Ganshert said...

AH! I'm right there with your, Jessica! My husband keeps letting me practice on him...and mirrors, I keep talking to mirrors. But it's all so AWKWARD!

Jessica said...

Thanks Jody.
I think I'm going to be a mass of nerves. Wah! My first conference I was too new to know to be nervous. LOL
I hope my writing shines... working on it. LOL

Jessica said...

LOL Katie! What a sweet hubby! :-) I hear you. I think I'm going to laugh if I try to look at myself in the mirror and do a pitch. *snort*
Great advice about trying on your husband though. I hadn't even thought of that.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie: My best advice is, slow down. Take a deep breath, remember that this person is there on purpose to connect up with you as much as you are with them. See yourself being relaxed and happy in their presence. Some of them are shy and nervous just like you, believe it or not.
If you look at it as an opportunity to simply be a blessing to another human being rather than your one big chance to make an impression, you will be your sweet and caring self, not a bundle of nerves.
Lastly, pray for wisdom and give them chocolate after your appointment...
You'll do great. Tell them I said to give you a contract that will clinch it for sure!!! LOL!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie: My best advice is, slow down. Take a deep breath, remember that this person is there on purpose to connect up with you as much as you are with them. See yourself being relaxed and happy in their presence. Some of them are shy and nervous just like you, believe it or not.
If you look at it as an opportunity to simply be a blessing to another human being rather than your one big chance to make an impression, you will be your sweet and caring self, not a bundle of nerves.
Lastly, pray for wisdom and give them chocolate after your appointment...
You'll do great. Tell them I said to give you a contract that will clinch it for sure!!! LOL!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oops; didn't mean to say this twice!

Janna Qualman said...

No advice, I haven't done one yet. But I wish you luck! Just say a prayer, convince yourself you're calm and you can do it, and then do it! (Easier said than done, right?)

Jessica said...

Oooh, Jeanette! Chocolate is such an awesome idea! I almost forgot. :-) Thank you! So I should do some visualization? LOL
Thanks for the advice. :-)

Jessica said...

Hahaa! Thanks Janna. :-) You're right though, it is that easy. *talking myself into calmness...*

Kristen Painter said...

Make some notes on 3 x 5 cards and take them with you. Most agents know you're going to be nervous and won't care if you read it. Just try to make occasional eye contract when you do. Practice it until you know it really well. You'll do fine. Agents and editors are people too, you know, and any of them who act like they aren't, aren't the kind of people you'd want repping you anyway.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

You've just described the story of my life. :D
My thoughts...find a way to say it naturally (even if it's not word for word to pitch).
~ Wendy
Go get 'em!

Jessica said...

LOL Wendy! Thanks! Yeah, it's the natural part I'm worried about. Sigh.

Jessica said...

Thank you Kristen. You're right. If someone is annoyed that I'm nervous, then they might not be the right fit. Great idea for the index cards. I think I'm going to do that.

Robyn Campbell said...

Jessica, my voice starts quivering (this is a dead giveaway to any agent/editor) and my palms sweat so much that water droplets fall onto my shoes, the carpet, and said agent/editor.

So been there and know how you feel. I'm puttin' you in my prayer book. That God would just help your last nerve to calm down. :) Good luck!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

You guys are all making me very nervous!! I really need to pull myself together and practice mine too.

I always pull out my one-sheet and end up just talking. I never get my pitch presented it seems, but I should this time!

Linda Kage said...

Ugg, I feel for you, Jessica. I've never pitched a story, but I have the same speaking apprehension. In college, when I had to take speech class, I learned the more I practiced and the better prepared I was, the better I did on my speech. So, I'd definitely practice as much as possible. Know every detail of your story upside down and come up with answers to any question they might pop at you.

When my friend pitched, she came right out and told the editor, "I have no idea what I'm doing." So, maybe it'd ease your tension and calm you down some if you let them know this was your first time.

Good luck. You'll probably do wonderful.

Jessie Oliveros said...

You are not alone. I know how you feel. It's hard, I think, because it's personal. If you were pitching someone else's book, it wouldn't feel so wierd. It's probably akin to describing to someone verbally how you look, and trying to convince them how hot you are.

Weronika said...

I imagine that, if I were attending a conference where I would have to pitch live, I'd persuade myself (with some work) that whatever happens, it's not the end of the world. And then I would practice. On everyone I know, especially those friends of mine who love to read.

T. Anne said...

Don't worry about verbatum memorization. Let it flow natural when you speak to someone. Only you will know the truth behind the mishandling of words lol! I am going to pray esp. for those of you who I know are going. I'm going to ask the Lord for an unusual calm for you, a great time among great friends (please take pictures for those less fortunate such as myself) and for representation to come of this. I'm so thrilled for you, I actually feel butterfly's too!!!

quixotic said...

I don't have any advice for you because I am exactly the same way. I'll just send you good luck vibes and a hug!

Cindy said...

I'm sorry! I know exactly how you feel. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law asked me the other day what my new WIP was about. I totally tripped over the answer. Blabbed on and on. And these are people I'm comfortable with! Ugh. I think I wasn't prepared. So I'm going to say be prepared and practice on anyone who asks or anyone who will listen :)

Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way said...

Hi, Jessica!

I've never pitched before, but I would recommend being prepared and trying to be personable (yet still professional). People relax when those they are around are relaxed. Be confident in who you are and what you have written, and I'm sure that will really help!

That being said, when it's my turn, please give me lots of advice from your experience and talk me down from any possible ledges....

Deb Shucka said...

No advice. Just sending you lots of hope for success and belief that you will be wonderful. If you believe in the material you're pitching, you can't miss.

Jessica said...

Robyn, do you also get a jumpy bladder? I sure do. LOL I would love to be in your prayer book. Thank you so much! :-)

Eileen, your way probably works too. I think I'm more nervous about meeting an editor in the hall or at the table and them asking that dreaded question and me unable to answer. Yikes. I wonder if anyone's fainted before? LOL Don't let us make you nervous. If you're comfortable with the way you do it then I think that's excellent! There's certainly no right way, besides politeness and clarity. :-)

Linda, It might make me feel better to say that. Sort of a disclaimer, right? Snort!

Jessica said...

LOL Jessie!!!! I can't even imagine describing myself and trying to sound hot! That's a hilarious analogy!

Weronika,
That is such a smart, practical point. You're right. It's not the end of the world and unless I'm completely offensive, no one is going to black ball me from their lists. Thank you!

Hey T. Anne,
Yeah, I don't want to memorize it. I can, but I'm afraid it would just sound so unnatural. Great advice about knowing my story inside and out. I hope I do. *crossing fingers*

Jessica said...

Katie, I love hugs! Thank you!!!

Cindy, I've SO been there. Ack. I'm going to work on this practicing thing, but honestly, that makes me just as nervous, even with my family. Sigh. Thanks for your story! Nice to know I'm not the only one who's done that! LOL

Kristen, Those ledges are scary places. I most definitely will share anything I learn and hopefully you won't climb out there. :-) Thank you for the advice. IT's true, relaxed, low-key people really can shape the atmosphere. I'll try to remember to breath deep and be calm. :-)

Jessica said...

Thank you Deb! Hope is wonderful. :-) I'm trying to believe in my story... LOL

Dara said...

I'm the same as you. I can't talk very well at all. Even when I'm not nervous I stutter and struggle for words :P

From what I've heard though, people have said that agents expect the nervousness. They won't look down upon you if you slip up on a few words. :)

I have another friend who's going to ACFW too--she finalled in the Mystery/Suspense category for the Genesis contest.

I'm hoping to go to ACFW conference next year--it's going to be in Indianapolis, which is only a 2 hour drive from me. Perhaps I'll actually have my book completed enough to enter into the Genesis contest for next year.

Genny said...

I talk too fast when I'm nervous too. What I've found with pitching is the better you know your characters and story, the easier your pitch is. Also, know how your story compares to others out there. i.e. This is like XYZ, but it's got a twist. Or, this is different than XYZ. Remember to believe in yourself too. Only you could write the story you've written, so know that it is unique, and have confidence! Good luck!

brenda minton said...

I can give you advice in what NOT to do. Don't PITCH, literally throw/pitch your manuscript at the editor.
Although she won't forget you, I don't know if its the best 'first impression.'
Yes, I did do that. When she said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Pitching my manuscript at you."

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessica, perhaps if you think about this as a short speech instead of a pitch, that will help, since you've had positive experience giving speeches. I find it also helps to remember that agents and editors are people too and that they want us to succeed. We're their job security. In my experience, they do all they can to put writers at ease. And you don't have to do all the talking. It's important to allow them time to ask you questions.

My biggest piece of advice is to remember to have a question for them in the event that your project isn't a fit for them at that time. When it became clear just a minute and a half into a ten-minute session that my story wasn't of interest to an editor to whom I pitched, I was glad I was ready with, "What are you and your house looking for?" I learned a great deal that way.

Jessica said...

Dara,
Congrats to your friend! That's so wonderful!! I hope you can go next year too. I'm not sure I could pass it up if it was that close to me. :-) I've heard editors are pretty nice too. :-) I just don't want to embarass myself. Ah well. LOL I'll just laugh if I do. Can cry later in my room, right? ;-)

Jessica said...

Thank you for that advice Genny! I'm going to think up a list of books that may be similar to mine.

Brenda,
That's too funny! Did you really do that or are you joking? I know, I bet you're one of those outgoing, funny people, right? I'll bet you made that editor laugh. :-) Funny thing, I just read Amelia Bedelia goes Camping to the kiddos and yep, she literally pitches the tent for her employer,right into the bushes. Heehee.

Jessica said...

Thank you Keli! You're right, I think it might be better for me to let the person take the wheel and start things off. :-) Also, I'm totally going to be asking what they're looking for. Did you hear about Camy Tang? She did that, they told her, and she subbed a proposal and got a contract (not her first, though) But still, excellent business strategy!

Stephanie Faris said...

Practicing over and over helps. Yes, I stammered and stumbled when I did my pitch...but the editors are all used to hearing that. They pretty much expect it. Just remember they aren't as focused on you as you are. They just want to hear your idea. You could try the old trick of picturing them naked to make yourself feel like you're at an advantage!

Danyelle said...

*hugs*

I can only echo the above. Practicing may take the edge off. You can do this, Jessica. Remember that fire that sparked the story in the first place. Remember what it felt like to have it done and polished. Remember why you want to share this with the world. :D

Nancy said...

Jessica, I have never pitched my story, but I have given speeches and going over them, either in a mike or to someone elso, helps a lot. Do it over and over. You will get confidence, I'm sure. Just think how much you love your "baby." Your passion will show.

Debra E Marvin said...

Jessica. I don't want to make this worse dear, but I don't think of this as THREE WEEKS. as of wed. it will be two weeks. No pressure though.

If someone else mentioned it, I missed it.

ElanaJ said...

I have never pitched my novel live. But I have talked with people I don't know about my book. And that's all it is. Telling someone you don't know what your book is about. You'll do fine!

Jill Kemerer said...

Saying my pitch out loud for the first time made me want to vomit. I quickly decided I needed to condense it and keep the characters' names out of the pitch in order to sound even remotely normal. I'm still not thrilled with the job I did, but it was way better than my first attempts!

Jennifer Shirk said...

My friend had her roommates randomly--and without warning--ask her what her book was about all throughout the conference. LOL!
By the time she had to present it, she was a pro. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I've pitched - and fallen flat on my face. The art form of pitching still eludes me.

I've tried to get away with shoving a dynamite one-sheet under an editor or agent's nose, but they insist you talk while they're reading it. Sigh.

Blessings,
Susan

Proverbs 27:19 said...

Make sure that you do not pitch your book proposal to a company that does not publish books!!!

I made that mistake at the conference I went to and how embarrassing that was!

smooches,
Larie

Krista Phillips said...

YOU and ME BOTH!!! Pitching is my LEAST favorite part of conference... but the biggest reason I think we all go.

I'm not huge into leaving links to my own blog on other's blog... (I feel way too stuck on myself if I do)but I posted a few weeks ago an excerpt out of my first and hopefully worst worst pitch ever.

So anyway, hopefully my flop might make you realize that ANYTHING is better than that! *grin*

Pen Pen said...

I think MOST writers are pretty "poorly functioning" when we speak--I think that's one of the reasons we live in the "written" world- where we can think before we have to speak and take as long as we need to prepare a query without someone staring us down.
-And I say practice! Even if you get stuck, you can fall back onto auto pilot for the pitch!!!

Jessica said...

Ha! You guys are awesome. :-)

Stephanie, you totally brought back a memory! I used to picture people naked when I did my first play. LOL I'd forgotten about that.

Thanks Danyelle, I remember the fire but I can't quite remember why I want to share this with the world. Oh, wait *grin* something about a paycheck and my name on the shelf. Heehee!

Jessica said...

Thank you Nancy! I hope my passion shows. I'll be practicing. :-)

LOL Debra! No, no one else mentioned it but I guess you're right! Wahhhhh. Just kidding. :-) Sheesh. I'm SO excited!!!!

Thanks Elana! Talking about my book...well, it's made me miss a turn, which made my dad miss his flight. LOL I might need to work on the whole talking thing. :-)

Jessica said...

Jill, your comment made me laugh. Saying mine makes me want to rush to the bathroom. LOL It sounds like you fixed it up though. I'm probably not going to use names in mine unless someone wants the longer blurb, or something.

Jennifer, What an awesome idea! That would def. make someone need to think on their feet. :)

Jessica said...

Susan,
Did you really fall on your face? You poor thing! Even though it seemed bad to you, I'll bet the person you were pitching didn't think worse of you. Like everyone else said, they know we're a mass of nerves. :-)

Oh Larie, that would be horrible!! Well, at least you go to practice on someone who won't care if you mess up. :-)

Jessica said...

Krista, thanks for the link! I don't mind at all because I know you and I also know that you have very informative posts. :-) I'm coming over to read that flop. LOL Misery loves company. heehee

Hey Penny, Yeah, I'm going to practice. Maybe even on my toddlers. *grin*

Terri Tiffany said...

LOL You sound like me!I would be so nervous! But I have heard too a One Sheet helps and also to practice and practice till it sounds like you and you can breathe:) that's my plan anyways. SO excited you get to go!

Warren Baldwin said...

Definitely practice beforehand, and try it on family. Just think about talking to a person, not an agent or book company rep. They are a person, and you just want to help them understand your work.

And I think people fret too much about sounding nervous. Even if you are nervous (and I would be), what is wrong with that? Nothing. So, use it for your advantage.
1) Talk a little louder - that helps burn up some energy
2) Use hand gestures and body movement. Thank conveys energy and conviction rather than nervousness.
3) Laugh. If you get tongue-tied, use the wrong syllables, stutter, etc., laugh. That uses energy and calms everybody down.
4) Tell them your nervous. I worked in sales in college and serveral times I was very nervous. I'd tell the person, "Man, I'm nervous. How am I doing." They'd usually smile and tell me I was doing fine. That usually helped me calm down.
5) Have fun. This is a big, exciting moment, kind of like going to Disneyland or a Colorado Rockies Game. Who wouldn't enjoy that?

wb

Jessica said...

Great advice Warren! Thank you.
:-) This will be fun!!!

Jessica said...

Hi Terri,
I need to practice. Just gotta work up the nerve. LOL
You have a one-sheet? Are you going? Did I forget? Eek! LOL

Kathryn Magendie said...

The best advice I can give you is to be sincere, and to be excited about your own work - show your love for your work ...let them know you are proud of it, believe in it -- a little stumbling or nervousness isn't going to make you look "bad" to them if you show them how much you believe in what you have . . .

Irritable Mother said...

Jessica, I have zero experience with verbal pitches. But when I began speaking publically the best advice I received was to practice, practice, practice in front of the mirror. And when I got comfortable there, yes, moving on to hubby and friends was the thing that really helped me!
Go for it, girl!

BTW, it was the post about the MC weaknesses that inspired my post today. When I commented about the wonder of a perfect, holy God loving me - well, that thought stuck with me through the day.

Lynnette Bonner said...

You've recieved some great advice here. I didn't have time to read all the comments, so someone might have mentioned this, but remember that the publishing houses need good authors. You don't want to be represented by a house that isn't just perfect for your book and they don't want to represent you if they don't feel your book is perfect for them. Try to look at it as sort of a job interview. You're just going into the meeting to see if you both are the right fit for each other. And if the first house isn't the right fit, there will be one out there somewhere that is the right fit. For me, that helps. To know that the person you are talking to is not your last hope.

Personally, I have found at conferences that agents and editors are very kind people. They understand that you love your baby, and most of them are very encouraging and caring.

You are going to do just fine. Just be yourself, and don't forget to pray before you head to your meeting.

I just said a prayer that the Lord will help you have just the right words to say as you speak to editors and agents. :)

AngeliStarr said...

in reference to your comment on my blog: It is a part to what would be a short story or a novel. Im not sure yet. If you click on the label "cant let go" youll see the complete story from the beginning. Thanks for the comment! =)

Jessica said...

Ahhh, okay. Thanks for letting me know. :-)

Jessica said...

Thank you Kathryn! :-) I just don't want them to think the story is as awkward as my mouth. LOL

Jessica said...

Hey Karen, Okay, gotcha. :-)
It is pretty amazing, but then he made us, right? LOL I love my kiddos, even when they're screaming and making me want to scream!!! :-)

Jessica said...

Thank you Lynnette! I'm ashamed to say that I haven't thought of praying so much, but that's def. what I need to do.
Thank you for the reminder. :-) I appreciate it.
Also, the interview thing... LOL I've only had one, for my very first job at a bank. It was nerve-wracking, but I got the job. LOL