By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
I was watching The Next Food Network Star once, and one of the challenges was a great example for writers wanting to get published.
The contestant chefs had to present themselves and their food in 60 seconds on-camera and give their culinary perspective. In a way, this is a lot like an elevator pitch where you describe your book in one or two sentences. You have to know your story and be able to convey it clearly and quickly.
Some chefs did great, others fell flat on their faces.
The NFNS has been on TV for a while now, and the challenges and things asked of the chefs are fairly similar per season. If you're trying out for that show, I'd imagine you'd want to watch every episode to see what you were getting yourself into and to start thinking about how to deal with it. You'd practice your presentation skills, maybe even film yourself to see what you're doing wrong or how you come across on camera. You know being on camera and talking about yourself and food is going to be part of it, because the whole show is about getting your own show on the Food Network.
I'm always shocked at how many folks seem utterly surprised when asked to present on camera. They know they have to do this. They know they need a culinary point of view for the show, because that's what their show will be about if they win. Yet they go into it blind, and act like "I love to cook and I want to be on TV" is enough.
Well, it's not. And it doesn't matter how well you can cook if you can't engage an audience.
This isn't any different from a book "I love to write and I want to be published" isn't good enough. You have to know your story and be able to present it "on camera" so to speak. You need to know the challenges you're going to face and prepare yourselves to beat them.
Like writing a dynamite query letter.
And a synopsis that captures the story perfectly.
Like knowing your genre or market and what's been done.
And have a basic understanding of how publishing works.
Now, you guys are here reading the blog, so odds are you're already preparing yourselves for the challenges. But so are a lot of other writers, and many of them as just as good or better than we are. While we're not competing for one spot, the number of books published every year is limited, so why not do everything you can to better your chances?
I also want to mention that where you are in your writing journey matters, too. If you're actively submitting or close to submitting, start thinking about it as a professional. But if you're thinking about submitting "one day" then this isn't anything you have to worry about yet. Your focus is better spent developing your voice, working on your craft, honing your storytelling skills. Get yourself close to (or at) a professional writing level, then start working on that professional mindset. (Though there's nothing wrong with doing it earlier if you want to. Just don't feel pressured to do so if you're not ready)
Writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and books are a product. Just like the chefs on the NFNS, a little preparation on how to best present yourself and your work, and to do it in a way that says "I'm marketable" goes a long way. While you certainly don't have to know everything, practicing the skills a professional author needs can help you come across as a professional.
And sometimes, that little edge is all you need to win.