“So, what do you write?” she asked over a bite of salad.
I froze, the fork of ranch-covered tomato hovering in midair. “Uh...” I mutter intelligently. “Paranormals,” I manage to spit out and immediately shove the food in my mouth to prevent me from having to elaborate. Truth is that I write a lot of things. My current work is paranormal, although some might say it isn’t a classically dark paranormal. Too much info, however, the lady just wants a straight answer, so I leave it at that.
“What’s your current book about?”
“Uh,” I say again, trying to swallow so I don’t talk with my mouth full. How do I describe it without it sounding cheesy? It isn’t cheesy, but when I say it, it sounds cheesy. At the same time, I feel weird talking about my books to someone I don’t know. It’s ‘catastrophizing’ as Counselor Shelley would say, but I have images of a new bestseller hitting the shelves with a picture on the back of that woman and a cover blurb remarkably like what I told her.
“It’s about two vampires searching for a way back to the mortality that was stolen from them.” There. That sounded intelligent and brief.
It is at this point that the person nods with faux interest and takes another bite of salad before turning back to their friend, ignoring you for the rest of the meal.
Adapt this to an elevator ride, small talk before a workshop, standing in line for a book signing or to get into the dining room. It doesn’t matter where, its always the same. People pretending to be interested in your work in an attempt to fill dead air space. They’ll graciously accept your business card, smile and nod, but I never get the feeling that anyone cares. Maybe its just me and my ‘sincerity meter’ needs to be recalibrated. Maybe, as people have to rudely pointed out, I’m just lacking the social skills in that area.
Why, then, is it that I stress so badly over my answer when it seems people are just being polite? I guess it’s that one in a hundred chance that the person asking is an editor or agent not wearing their ribbons or nametags. I will never sell a book over a one line blurb at a lunch table, but what if I end up face to face with them at an appointment later that day. I don’t want them eyeing me and thinking “oh, it’s that girl that doesn’t know what she writes.”
So, what can you do to be better prepared when that question comes around? Playground standards include an arsenal of the following:
- A one line elevator pitch - this is what you'd throw out for the dreaded question. If you work it out in advance, you'll be in much better shape that if you make it up on the fly.
- A full editor pitch - this is a paragraph that hits the high points of your book that you can read off of a notecard during an editor appointment. Sure, it'd be great if you could just memorize and recite, but you've got enough to worry about. Just read it off the card.
- A partial (2-4 page synopsis and 3 polished chapters) - have one of these ready before you leave. You don't need to have printed copies with you, but if you get a request, you want to be able to go home and mail it right away. Have one ready to go.
Anyway...any of you folks in CyberSpace going to be headed to Atlanta next week? If so, maybe we can practice our small talk together.
(PS. I can’t post my word count this week because I’m in Texas without a computer and WHO KNOWS what I’ve hand written. I’ll post this weekend when I get back, if its even changed! I'm inclined to let these two weeks go by and pick up my book when I get back. Of course, when I get back, I'll have gone to enough workshops to think by book is garbage.)