Rejection – An Example of What Not to Do

snoopy rejection letter

So there’s this writer named David Benjamin who uses his blog to recap his latest rejections. I didn’t hear about him until he started trending on Twitter for his reflections post-meeting with Jennifer Johnson-Blalock from Liza Dawson Associates.

NOTE: He took the original down but you can find a copy of David Benjamin’s post on this blog.

If his blog post were an elevator pitch, it would read something like this:

Misogynist, ill-prepared, wanna-be writer meets with a no-nonsense, hardworking agent at a conference. After completing the list of “Things You Should Never Do When Pitching to an Agent”, he drones on and on about the unfairness of it all while throwing insults at the agent for good measure.

His plan involved schmoozing the agent by talking about her interests and then presenting her with his material, from his “extensive oeuvre, that matched her deepest literary heart’s desire.”

That’s where his plan went wrong.

When you meet with an agent at a conference, you have ten minutes to make a lasting impression. What this guy did is not the lasting impression you want to make. Don’t waste it talking about things unrelated to your book. If he wanted to touch on the agent’s interests, then he should have related it to the work he was pitching.

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock is a fan of the Gilmore Girls. If I were pitching to her I might use that to segue into my WIP, or work-in-progress.

I see you’re a fan of the Gilmore Girls. Hester, the supporting female lead in my WIP, is a bit like young Lorelai Victoria Gilmore. Instead of showing up at a hotel in Stars Hollow to live in the potting shed behind the Independence Inn, Hester shows up on the steps of a funeral-home-turned-bookstore where she….

By the time I got to the part about the demons, the loaded handgun, and the ex-girlfriend, we’d have a full six minutes left and the agent would be totally captivated. If she wasn’t, then I hope I would use the opportunity to learn something and not create a cringe-worthy experience like this guy.

The moral of this blog post is getting face time with an agent is priceless. Make the most of it. Practice, practice, practice so you don’t waste even a second. They want to hear about your book, but for them to get excited about it, you have to be excited about it.

Speaking of books, I’m heading back to the funeral-home-turned-bookstore to see if the antagonist revealed himself yet. Only finishing the manuscript will tell!

7 Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

Christmas time’s a-coming! If there is a book lover on your list, then you might be wondering what to get them. Lucky for you–and anyone else in this predicament, book lovers are easy to please!

How could we not want to go above and beyond to reward book lovers for their happy-go-lucky nature when it comes to receiving presents? Here are some ideas for the book lover in your list:

  1. Bookmarks – It might seem like the obvious choice, but we book lovers can’t ever have too many bookmarks. I use mine in both books I’m reading, and notebooks I’m using to jot down ideas for my next writing project.
  2. Book Light – Show me a book lover, and I will show you someone who stayed up reading past their bedtime. Clip-on book lights allow reading in the darkest of conditions, whether you clip it onto your book or your glasses.
  3. Notebook – A book lover can use a notebook to write down thoughts about their favorite books. And a writer can never have too many notebooks–just sayin’!
  4. Book Art – Sites like Etsy and Uncommon Goods offer unique gifts, a lot of which are handmade by up and coming artists. You can tickle the book lover in your life while simultaneously supporting creative arts.
  5. Gift Cards – I have never known a book lover to turn down a gift card. In the past my family has given me cards for shopping at Amazon, coffee shops, and local bookstores, and I’ve enjoyed them all with equal enthusiasm.
  6. Travel Mug – It’s easy to get lost in a good book, but important to stay hydrated. A travel mug helps solve the problem and if it gets knocked over then the lid means the mug’s contents are less likely to spill on the pages.
  7. Warm Blanket – Last year my mother-in-law gave me a blanket for Christmas. It is not only dog-themed, but it is also made from the warmest fleece I have ever felt in my life. When I curl up on the couch to read on a chilly evening, you can bet I have my blanket with me.

And there you have it! It is no coincidence that writers are also book lovers. If you have a writer on your holiday shopping list, then many of these ideas would work for them as well.

Do you have a different idea not listed here? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

What I Learned from Bouchercon 2015

On May 5, 2015 I found myself on the corner of Blind Faith Boulevard of Hope and Dreams Avenue. There I was, staring at the Bouchercon registration page. My information filled out, the only thing left was to hit the send button.

Flash forward five months and a few days. I found myself on the corner of Salisbury and Lenoir Streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was really happening. Not only had I drowned my social anxieties in enough Starbucks to float a pontoon boat, but I was also ready to mosey up to the Sheraton hotel to check in at the Bouchercon registration table.

The moment the volunteer handed me a swag bag filled with a wide range of mystery books, I was sold. Within a few minutes I found myself in the company of a couple of other Bouchercon newbies. Over the next few days I’d happily run into them again, making me feel more welcomed and included than I could have imagined.

If you’re planning to attend Bouchercon 2016, here are some things you should consider:

Arrive and check in a day early, if you can. There was no line on that first morning, but I skipped anything scheduled before about 10 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure I checked in smack dab in the middle of the Welcome to Bouchercon event, which would explain the lack of a crowd. Arriving a day early not only gives you a head start on checking in, but it also allows you to locate other essential locations, like the bathrooms and Starbucks.

Attend the Bouchercon 101 panel. Even though I won’t be a newbie next year, I still hope to attend this panel as it’s full of tips and advice specific to that particular venue, which is the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The dress ranged from very casual to business casual. Wear what is comfortable for you. I saw someone wearing a business suit and sneakers, and another person wearing a t-shirt, yoga pants and flip-flops. The fashion statements covered a wide range.

Take a refillable travel mug or sports bottle. The convention hosts do a great job of providing refreshments. During Bouchercon 2015, a few times during each day, hotel staff would bring snacks into the hospitality area. Coffee, water, and sometimes lemonade would remain available throughout the day. Take a travel mug or sports bottle that you can keep with you during panels.

Silence your phone. I can’t stress this enough. Some of the rooms where panels were held had horrible acoustics. Sometimes the microphones didn’t adequately amplify the speakers’ voices. And in one case, the speaker’s voice was naturally soft. A ringing cellphone is annoying under the best of circumstances. When other conditions apply, it’s worse.

Take your business cards – especially if you’re a writer or aspire to get published. I didn’t take my cards the first day because I didn’t want to look presumptuous. This was a huge mistake. Three people asked for my card – and I am pretty sure my path never crossed with two of them again. I met so many people, there’s no way I could remember their names.

Brush up your knowledge of Who’s Who at Bouchercon. I asked one person, “Are you a writer?” I mean, his name tag didn’t say otherwise. Turns out he was nominated for an Anthony Award. Smooth! He was humble enough not to mention it, and fortunately I figured it out later that day. You don’t have to know every author there, but you should at least know the Anthony Award nominees so you can wish them luck. (Next year I’m putting an alphabetized cheat sheet in my phone.)

I’d love to hear your tips for attending a writing event like Bouchercon. Let’s chat about it in the comments below!