In October, I had the honor of accompanying a client to New York City, where she met with her editor and publisher. In person. Face to face.
Digital Connections: Intimate or Distant?
In the digital age, face-to-face interaction is becoming more and more rare. Apps and programs make it possible for us to sit in our houses and reach out to the world with the click of a button. This is amazing and makes me happy to be a working writer in the 21st century. However, those same apps and programs can lead us to a false sense of connection—they convince some of us we no longer need to bother with meeting people in person.
I’m guilty of thinking that way. My life is full, so I prefer to run meetings from home. It’s easier, cheaper, and I can wear pajamas if I want.
Why Bother with Face-to-Face?
As a teacher, my client knows the importance of face to face. That’s why she made it happen, at great expense of personal resources.
In fact, she landed her contract as a result of “in real life” interactions. She attended a conference where she met a representative from the publishing company. They discussed her project and she was invited to send her proposal, which allowed her to bypass the slush pile and land directly into a gatekeeper’s email inbox.
In other words, before scheduling this trip to NYC, my client had already made face-to-face contact which led to her already securing a contract. And she had already turned in her manuscript. Why bother with another face-to-face when she’d already gained all that a writer would want?
She wanted them to hear her absolute commitment to the book’s success. She wanted to learn more about their marketing plan and get a feel for the requested changes. She wanted to thank them. In person.
So she asked if they would set aside a few minutes for her, and they did. They were glad to meet with her. We sat across from the publisher and chatted with him. We moved to the conference room to discuss the manuscript and marketing with her editor. We toured the offices and went out to lunch.
As a result, her editor now has a face and voice to go with her name. He’ll be able to hear the tone in her written words each time she shoots him an email. She’ll picture him as he requests changes. The publisher got to experience her dynamic personality—confirmation they were smart to sign her.
You Become a Person
Face to face is how we become more than words on a page. It’s how we connect as human beings—as partners in the work. It’s how we build trust.
This is why I encourage writers to attend conferences where literary agents and acquisitions editors offer one-on-one pitching sessions. When you’ve fully developed your book project, find those events. Sign up for the one-on-ones. Meet with people in person and let them hear your passion for your project. Look them in the eye and thank them for listening. When you get home, write handwritten notes.
I know it’s not always possible to make this happen if you’re limited on funds and time. But one day, when your project is ready to pitch, try to find a way to connect with gatekeepers in person.
Learn to talk about your project concisely and with enthusiasm. Practice with your family and friends. You’ll gain greater clarity and confidence expressing your ideas and convincing people your story or concepts are just what the world needs to read.
If you’ve been working with an agent or editor, travel to their city and take them out to coffee. Thank them for their work. Ask how you can best serve the project. Find out how often they’re comfortable hearing from you and if they prefer phone calls or emails. They’ll appreciate your desire to communicate in a way that’s convenient for them.
I Hope You Make It Happen
It costs to meet people in person. But sitting by my client during those meetings, I saw the publisher obviously thrilled they signed her. I heard her editor compliment her work, impressed with her writing. She exuded energy, confidence, and gratitude.
Later, as we walked through Times Square on our way back to the hotel, I assured her she nailed it. She was right to act on her drive to meet with these people face to face; she was wise to make it happen.
I hope you get that same opportunity. I hope you find people you can sit across from—people you can smile at and look in the eye who will hear your pitch and ask to hear more.
I see now that it’s worth the stress and expense, because you never know where it will lead.