Thanks to my lovely neighbors deciding it would be a good idea to cut down trees right before my scheduled interview with Michelle Medlock Adams for the North Carolina Christian Writers Conference, the video had really poor feedback, so we decided to transcribe the video right here.
Hope: Today we have Michelle Medlock Adams. She is an awesome person, super hard worker, and very prolific. If you have a class with her, you'll walk away extremely inspired. Michelle, who are you and what companies do you work for?
Michelle: I represent Little Lamb Books, which is one of my publishers. They published my book "C is for Christmas." Rachel Pellegrino, who is a friend of mine, is the publisher there. When she can't be at a conference, I'll represent for her. Which means, I have no power, but if I like it, I'll pass it on to her. I also work with Bethany Jett from Serious Writer. We are partners in Platinum Literary, our premier writing services for ghostwriting, heavy editing, preparing proposals, marketing strategy sessions, there are lots of things we can do. If you don't know what you need right now, we're really good for that. We love to brainstorm with people. And I also work for myself. If you're a freelance writer who needs help or a children's writer who isn't sure where you fit in the industry, I'm good with that. I'm good at praying with you and to cheer you. I know writer's conferences can be overwhelming. I think at one point every writer asks, "Why did I do this?" Know you're not alone in feeling that.
Hope: We're already two minutes in, and I'm already inspired. Michelle wears a lot of hats and is very well-versed in a lot of areas in the industry. Michelle, what is something unique about you?
Michelle: I was trying to think about that. I've been in the industry a while, so people know a lot about me. I'm pretty much all out there . . . there are no secrets. There is the fact I was a sport's writer before I became what I am now. I was the only girl in the sport's writer for Times Mail. I was the AP stringer, covering movies and lots of things. I had this journalism career before I became this other writer. I'm a huge sports fan. I probably likes sports as much as any guy. Big Cubs fan, IU (Go Hoosiers). I love to bass fish with my husband. We practice catch and release. We're very kind.
Hope: So you mentioned you're representing Little Lamb. What are they acquiring.
Michelle: So I talked with Rachel a couple weeks ago, so I know exactly what is going on. They're a faith-based children's book company. Rachel is an amazing woman. She felt like this company was needed. There wasn't a company that just did faith-based books. I love what they've done. Every book they've produced have won an award. Their newest YA release just won the Realm Makers Award. My Christmas book won three awards. She does high-quality books. She doesn't want any lamb books. Everybody thinks that, but you can't imagine how many lamb books they get. They only do two holiday books a year (Easter, Christmas). It has to be faith-based and fiction. She wants strong stories that have a faith element in them. Not preachy, but it has to have an element of faith, picture books through YA, and she's open to board books. Know you can't just put Scripture in the front and call it faith-based. There actually has to be an element of faith in your story.
Hope: True! They're such a good company, so I'm glad they're winning awards and getting recognition.
Michelle: Their editorial staff is great, too. Because they're a small company, it's fun to be a part of it. Most publishers, I don't get to see illustrations until I receive my author copies. From the very beginning at Little Lamb, I have input on the illustrations. You get that input.
Hope: So when someone pitches to you, what is some of your advice?
Michelle: I actually teach a course called Pitch Perfect. I would suggest you take that. I developed that class because I had this pitch for one of my first conferences. I kept practicing the elevator pitch on the plane. I had it down, and I pitched it to an editor at Howard Books. He nodded and said, "That's great. It's not a fit for us. What else did you have?" I didn't have a Plan B! It was the longest most awkward 14 minutes of my life. He was so kind to me, and we chatted and outlined another book which won Writer of the Year. But I just never wanted to feel that awkwardness ever again. Go in with one idea, but be prepared if they want a Plan B. Have a list of 4-5, even if they aren't finished yet, and a short description for each. Two sheets of paper, one for them, one for me. I will give it to them, and they'll often like several of them. I'll walk away with interest in more than one thing. I also put their name on top of the paper so they feel special. If a divine appointment comes, say I bump into them in the hallway, I'll have that paper ready. Go prepared. Go armed with ideas. It's good to have a plan, but be open to God's leading. Sometimes you go in thinking, "It all about this publisher." But maybe that publisher can't be there because of a sudden family illness. Be open to know that God has a bigger plan. Even if that publisher doesn't make it, God has something else for you.
Hope: Are you looking for anyone to bring any materials if they come to pitch you?
Michelle: There are so many people who say, "Bring a one sheet. Bring business cards and a proposal." All of those are good, but if you don't have any of those, still come and pitch us. At my first writer's conference, I didn't know any of that. I didn't have a website, business card, anything. I still sold two books at that conference. Don't be afraid to talk to us. Faculty and editors . . . we put on our britches the same way you do. We wouldn't be there if we didn't want to help you. Business cards are great, especially VistaPrint.com. If you have a proposal, that's great. But if you just have a sheet about yourself and one book, that's good.
Michelle: Plus, with suitcases weighing so much we'd rather pack cute shoes than a bunch of papers. Most of us will ask you to email us the materials anyway. If you forget it, don't worry about it.
Hope: Thank you so much! We're looking forward to seeing you at the conference!