Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making Your Bid

by Julie Coulter Bellon

For the past week and a half we have been getting bids to have our cupboards and countertops redone. We finally chose a company to refinish our cupboards and they came yesterday and removed all the doors and took them away. I honestly didn’t realize what that would do to me. With no cupboard doors, my kitchen was naked. There was nothing to cover my stuff! And boy, I had a lot more stuff than I thought. I mean, you know how a black skirt and a cute jacket can cover and hide any “extra” stuff you might have? Yeah, cupboard doors do the same thing. For example, with no cupboard doors I can easily see that I have two toasters crammed in one cupboard. And one entire top shelf that I never look at has about fifty scented candles on it. It’s a stuffapalooza that is driving me crazy to look at. I can hardly sit here and concentrate with all this stuff staring at me. Which is sort of odd, because it’s not like my desk is that organized, but I can still work with a pile of papers right next to me. Yet, cupboards with no doors has made any and all work-related actions come to a grinding halt. (I was going to take a picture and post it, but then I decided it would probably affect all of you, as well, so I will spare you having to actually see it. I’m sure you can visualize your own kitchen with no doors. Wouldn’t it freak you out, too?)

Anyway, I did have a writing tip to go along with my cupboard/counter story. You see, we had ten bidders come to bid on the project, (five for the cupboards, five for the counters), and each bidder was completely different. I never knew what kind of person was going to show up at my door. One bidder came in shorts and a t-shirt with an old beat-up truck, another came in a full suit with a really flashy car. One spent ten minutes measuring things, barely spoke a word, wrote a few figures on a paper and left. Another spent an hour and a half telling me how great my kitchen would look with brown and gold accents and how his product is unique to the entire NATION and I would be lucky to have it. Some had presentation packets with samples, others just referred me to their website. None of those things really bothered me, however, I just thought it was interesting to see the contrast between different individuals and companies. I did have a few pet peeves come up, though, when people were late to their appointment and didn’t call (one guy was over an hour and a half late. Very unprofessional in my opinion.) Another one wore his muddy shoes into my home and tracked all the way through it as he measured our counters. Yeah, I was a little bugged. But, overall, it was quite an eye-opening experience in how many different companies there are out there who do this sort of thing, and how many different approaches there are to selling said company and product.

What does this have to do with writing you ask? If you think about it, writers are sort of like bidders. We are representing our work to agents and publishing companies and how we present ourselves matters. For our kitchen, we needed a company that could refinish our cupboards and our stair railing. We made that clear when we asked these companies to come. But one company, knowing they didn't do stair railings, came anyway, and really wasted everyone's time. As a writer, are you giving your bid to the right agent or company? I mean, if you write YA and you’re putting your “bid” to an agent who only represents romance, then you’re wasting everyone’s time like my one bidder. It’s important to know who exactly you are giving your bid to and what they are looking for.

We were also getting bids for granite countertops, but one of the companies that came out had a full line of solid surface and quartz as well. We hadn’t really thought about those materials, but suddenly, we felt like we had some options. As a writer “bidder” do you have any other options if the agent or publishing house wants something else from you? Can you give them options when it comes to you and your work?

There also is the matter of presentation. Once you have your bid ready to go, are you the kind of person who is following the submission guidelines every agent/publishing house has? Or will they feel annoyed because you didn’t follow common rules like my bidders who were late and had muddy shoes?

You also want to decide what sort of person you will be representing to these agents/publishing company. Are you the casual guy in the shorts and beat up truck? Or are you the full suit guy with a flashy car? Your presence and how you present yourself matters to both the agent and publishing company because once you are published, you will be selling yourself as well as your writing. If you are shy and have a hard time talking, it can be a little off-putting, like my bidder who didn’t speak a word, was for me. Writing is such a solitary business until you are ready to do marketing. And then it’s important to be able to express yourself in public, with social media, blogs, etc. Be prepared for that. Have your presentation ready, and be enthusiastic about it. I mean, the guy who spent an hour and a half telling me how great my kitchen would look with his product believed every word he spoke. Or he made me believe that he believed it. I was excited about what he had shown me after he left. But the guy who said "just look at my website," made me feel a little let down. Be the guy who is enthusiastic about your writing. Be able to sell it.

Of course, once your work has sold, the real work begins and the cupboard doors come off. Your mettle as a writer will be tested as you move to the next phase, and it’s up to you whether you stick it out and see it through, or crumble under the pressure. Be the kind of writer that I wish I could be at this moment. One that isn’t stuck in their chair, staring at mounds of unorganized stuff. Gather yourself. Gather your strength and write no matter what is staring you in the face.

As for me, I will have to stop and organize the stuff so I can stop looking at it (and my children will stop bringing their friends over to stare at it. We're sort of a neighborhood sensation right now.) Ooh, and I can apply that little gem to writing, too. Hopefully your book, will be a neighborhood and beyond sensation! See! It all ties together.

And with that, I will “bid” you adieu, my fellow bidder/writers so I can get back to my naked kitchen. (Can we say naked on this blog? I forgot. If we can't, pretend you didn't see that and substitute another word.)

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!


At 3/18/2011 12:35 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I shudder to imagine what my kitchen would look like with the cupboard doors missing. It's messy enough with the cupboard doors closed!

Enjoy your brand new kitchen! Someday . . . someday. Our house has a giant to-do list.

At 3/18/2011 12:42 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

My house has one item on the to-do list. Get built. Anything other than that is just gravy. ;)

At 3/18/2011 4:14 PM, Blogger Tamara Hart Heiner said...

great analogies! I only have a few I don't think anything is hidden at the moment!


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