Projecting Confidence When
It's happened. You're stuck in an elevator
with the senior editor of Random House and to kill time, he's asked you to tell
him about your book. Or, you receive a call from the editor at Parents
magazine--she loves your article and would like to know if you could handle one
twice that size.
Time for some antiperspirant and a strong
dose of confidence. For many writers, even established ones, choosing between
Secret and Degree is a lot easier than finding confidence. It would be nice if
they sold it on the shelf at Wal-Mart, but since they don't, here's a few tips
to get you started.
1. Do Your Homework:
If you are going
to be any place where you might meet with an editor, a famous author, or even a
writing peer, take some time beforehand to find out what you can about that
person. For editors and agents, Jeff Herman's
to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents has neat interviews that
include likes and dislikes. If you have any pre-conference materials, be sure to
read them over.
2. Dress for the Occasion:
what kind of event you are attending, wear business or business casual clothes.
It is a lot easier to feel confident when you are dressed professionally. Plus,
it makes you look professional in the editor's eyes. "I always carry my nice
leather-bound notepad, on which I try to jot down bullet points of key points I
want to cover in every meeting," says writer Elissa Sonnenberg. "This projects
that I'm organized and efficient, as well as confident in my abilities.
3. Stand Up:
I know, it sounds stupid,
but it really works. When you are on the phone with an editor or agent, get to
your feet and talk. Mentally, this puts you in a position of power and helps you
feel controlled. Tape a smiley face on your computer to remind you to smile.
That smile will translate across the phone lines.
4. Write it Down:
If you have some
forewarning that you will be meeting with an editor or agent to pitch your idea,
jot down some notes on your book. Have the "backcover blurb" ready, which is
really a 30-second commercial for the book, and then make a few notes about the
plot and the character development. If you are querying on articles, keep your
queries in an organized file near your desk or in an easy-access folder on your
computer so you can call it up when needed.
5. Believe in Yourself (Even if You're
Pretending): "When I want to project confidence, I pretend that I am
my worst competition. I envision myself as the most qualified, beautiful, and
well-spoken candidate for the job," says writer Sheri Wallace. If necessary,
talk to yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a good writer.
6. Don't Be Afraid:
This is easier
said than done, I know. However, when that editor at Parents calls and wants you
to research a huge article on car seat safety, go ahead and say yes, even if the
thought of such a big project is daunting. It never hurts to spread your wings
once in a while. If you do run into trouble, call on your writer friends for
Before you go to a big
event like a writer's conference, practice what you want to say with a friend.
Run through your backcover blurb a few times; have the friend ask you some hard
questions about the novel. Know your spiel inside and out, then prepare a few
responses for "spontaneous" questions.
"When I'm meeting with an editor, especially
for the first time, it helps me to rehearse what I'm going to say, even
small-talk kind of stuff, as I drive to the meeting," says Elissa. "It's fun,
it's free and I can always pretend I have a hands-free cell phone if other
motorists give me the "she ought to be in a straightjacket" look.
8. Have Some Small Talk Ready:
have been numerous times when I have run into an editor or agent at a social
event or while waiting in line at a booksigning. I always try to strike up a
conversation about something--the signing author, the facility, anything but me
and my projects. The point isn't to turn it into a commercial for me, but rather
to make a contact.
Finally, realize that everyone feels nervous
at one time or another. Some famous authors are so unnerved by informal contact
that they become almost hermits. Many editors are rattled by conferences because
they have to talk to so many writers. You are not alone in feeling terrified,
but you can take steps not to show your fear. When you are met with an
opportunity to talk to someone in the business, grab your Secret, take a deep
breath and believe in the power of you.
Shirley Kawa-Jump, author of
How to Publish Your
Articles: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publication Say Yes,
published her first article at the age of 11 and has sold more than 2,500
articles to national and local publications in the ensuing years.