Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

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Teetering on the Edge

Posted by Ben Erlichman on September 16, 2010

Within 18 hours from the time I post this, I’ll be in Indianapolis. 12 hours after that, I’ll be at the downtown Indy Hyatt for the 2010 ACFW Conference Early Bird Session with James Scott Bell. As soon as six hours after that, I could be meeting editors and others from publishing companies who may be interested in my book. Time is running out, and I feel like I’ve got more to do before I’m ready to take that great leap into conference mode.

I’m pitching two books this time around, one more than last year. I’m not sure if that will actually help me get published sooner or not, but they’re very different, so I should be able to reach a broader range of editors than last year. Plus, I learned a lot at last year’s conference, specifically about what editors do and don’t want to hear.

My plan is to convince one editor to request a submission from my agent at the conference. Then I can leverage that tidbit of information to get other editors interested and also request submissions. I probably don’t have to explain the psychology behind that, but I will, briefly.

Basically, if Editor B hears that Editor A (who is from a competing publishing house) has requested my manuscript, the news sort of lights a tiny fire under Editor B’s rear-end and makes them slightly more inclined to ask for mine. That way, the sooner Editor B gets it, the sooner he/she can determine if he/she wants to offer me a contract before Editor A has a chance to.

In other words, I want to try to create a buzz. I kind of succeeded in doing that last year, and I guess the end result was that I ended up signing with a literary agent, Les Stobbe. I didn’t have a definitive goal last year aside from getting an agent (which was more than I thought I’d achieve). This year, it’s different. This year, I have three goals.

Goal #1: I want to convince at least one publisher to request a proposal (or more) for my first novel, a compelling action/adventure story.
Goal #2: I want to kindle a growing interest in my second novel, a historical action/adventure Western, among editors. I’m not expecting any submission requests, but I’m still hopeful, as I have at least 1/5 of the book done, I’ve proven I can finish a manuscript (via my first novel), and I have a detailed outline of this second book I’ll be pitching.
Goal #3: I want to kindle a growing interest in me as an up-and-coming author, specifically by reigniting connections from last year’s conference.

You might have noticed that I did NOT mention winning my division of the 2010 Genesis Contest as one of my goals. That’s because I genuinely have no idea if I’m going to win or not. I know my entry was solid, but I have no clue as to the quality of the other entries, so therefore I can’t gauge my chances. Truth be told, as much as I’d like to win, I can’t say it’s a big priority, but rather a further affirmation that this is a part of what God wants me to do with my life.

I also didn’t say I wanted to leave the conference with a contract in-hand. That’s a totally unrealistic expectation, one that is virtually impossible. Not to mention it would be totally irrational on the part of an editor to offer me, an unknown, unpublished (well, kind of unpublished) author a contract without even seeing the entire manuscript and taking it into an acquisitions meeting back at his/her office. And frankly, I don’t think I’d sign any such contract without both of us knowing full-well what we’re getting into.

Instead, I need to convince publishers that I’m a skilled author with long-term viability in the ever-changing business of publishing. Hmm…that sounds pretty good. I think I’ll steal that from myself for the conference when I’m pitching. That’s really what I think it comes down to: pitching. Sales. Presentation. I’ve done a bit of that in my day, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve charmed my way into some great success before, but this conference will be a true test of my sales abilities.

And this year I’ve got a secret weapon: my dad.

I am blessed to have parents who love and support me enough to get me to the conference. But this year, my dad is actually coming along with me. He hasn’t written a darn thing that he’d ever consider pitching at a Christian Fiction Writers Conference (though he’s got stories inside him that I hope he puts on paper some day), but he does have something I don’t have nearly enough of: experience.

He’s been in business for decades, specifically in sales, and now he has his own telecommunications company which works to save businesses money by making their telecom infrastructure more efficient (it’s a pretty good idea, especially in this economy). He told me today what he’s planning to do at the conference. He wants to serve as my “legal and business counsel,” and he’s going to tag-team sell my book for me. That means I’ve got twice the odds of getting published as anyone else there (if you look at it on a base person-to-person ratio, which is inherently flawed in its simplicity compared to the intricacies publishing world).

It also means I can cover twice as much ground as last year because I’ve got two people doing the work for me, and we’re both good salesmen. Well, I’m good, he’s great. What I lack in experience, I make up for with powerful storytelling. What he lacks in knowledge of my stories (especially the Western), he makes up for with sales experience. I will be very surprised if something great doesn’t happen as a result of this conference.

But for now, I’ve got other work to do. I’ve got my one-sheets printed for both stories (including a new one I created today for the completed novel), new business cards printed (though I need to print at least another thirty cards tomorrow), and sample chapters printed for both stories. I’m not bringing any proposals because my agent has those, and he’ll send them out upon request or at his discretion. So it really comes down to working on my pitches for the two books. I’ll probably brief my dad on what he needs to know about the two stories on the plane to Indy, but in order to give him his “product training class,” I need to finish writing the curriculum first.

Business Card Front Side

Business Card Back Side

So that’s what tomorrow will be for: writing the pitches, practicing them, and printing off some more business cards. In less than 18 hours, I’ll be in Indy. Within 12 more, I’ll be at the conference’s Early Bird Session with JSB. And six more after that, I could be networking with editors and folks from publishing houses. Time is running out, and I’m teetering on the edge, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be ready when the time finally comes.


2 Responses to “Teetering on the Edge”

  1. Sounds like a winning plan. Don’t forget to have a good time!

  2. TerryPalmer said

    Ben, good for you. What you are describing is the makings of a business plan, something I don’t see mentioned in ACFW. A business plan sets goals, outlines markets and a sales strategy for each, acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, with a strategy for each; as well as sales goals, charts of expected vs. real, and etc. Hmmm, I’m glad to see that dad is helping. Nothing like experience in sales. Let me know how it turns out. Terry
    p.sp. I’ll be praying for all of Scribes 225 and Reflections people that I’m aware of. Have a great conference.

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