A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference to teach the Major Morning Track on Painless, Purposeful Publicity. (I have a love affair with alliteration.) Austin Boyd taught the Early Bird portion of the conference, during which he shared one of the keys to publishing success that I’ve ever heard given to writers. It’s a secret that works wonders in every area of life, including publicity.
Any idea what it was?
Nope, it wasn’t that.
Honestly, the advice didn’t resonate with me until one man – more intent on telling everybody and her sister about his project than he was about learning or listening – snagged me just as I was heading to my room for a break.
“Hey, you’re Rebeca Seitz, right? My roommate said I need to tell you about my project.”
I get that folks have shelled out a lot of hard-earned cash to be at conferences. As faculty, I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can to make certain people leave feeling they got their money’s worth. So, though the pads of my feet were burning, my throat felt like the Sahara just before twilight, and the pounding in my brain made my vision a little blurry, I smiled. “Sure.”
“Okay, you’re gonna love this–
And off he went with – I am not kidding – a three minute monologue. Want to know the fastest way to make three minutes feel like an awkward three hours? Talk for three minutes straight to one individual who is standing less than 20 inches from you.
His idea, though, was good. I liked it. I knew at least one agent and one editor at the conference who might take an interest in it if his writing was ready. So, as soon as he paused, I asked if I could see the writing. He handed it over. I nearly finished the first sentence before monologue #2 began.
I do a lot of writers conferences. I’ve almost perfected the ability to listen with one ear while reading with one eye. Almost.
At his next pause, I told him which editor and agent might be good for him to target and affirmed that his writing looked good to me. I felt genuine enthusiasm for his project, if not his presentation.
And then came monologue #3, after which I again praised his original idea and noted that Agent X and Editor Y could be good contacts for him to make.
On to monologue #4.
And #5, which ended up being the magic number that killed my enthusiasm for and desire to be involved with his project. We’d been standing for over 20 minutes. I’d made a decision about his project five minutes after meeting him. If only this man had taken that key piece of advice from Austin, I might still anticipate working with him.
What was Austin’s advice?
Beautifully simple, thrillingly succinct: Shut Up.
Two little words that can be the difference between an agent/editor uttering the magical words, “I want to see the manuscript,” instead of thinking, Time investment I cannot make right now. A duo that can prompt sweet words from a producer’s mouth, “Send me more info on that. Sounds good,” instead of, No way that will work for my show.
Sometimes, it’s all about knowing when you’ve said enough. What do you think?