by R.C. Lewis
2012 turned out to be an eventful year for me. I signed with an agent in late May, and she sold my book just a couple of months later. The agent-getting part involved five agents offering representation, so I had The Call five times—three of them in one day. With submissions, I talked to two offering editors on the phone.
The phone is not my favorite thing in the world.
It makes me feel awkward, and like I have to really concentrate to catch every word as well as every nuance of tone since I have no body language and facial expression to cue off of. And my agent (bless her!) let me know I had some bad habits.
See, once upon a time (when I was a teenager—no, I won't say how many years ago that was), I had a friend who would talk on the phone for hours. Usually some kind of teenage drama or another that she wanted to rant about. If I didn't say "uh-huh" on a fairly regular basis, she assumed either I wasn't there or didn't agree with her stance of being outraged at the situation. So I got used to a lot of, "Uh-huh, I'm still with you."
I also have a mother who can't always find the word she's looking for. Somehow, I almost always know what that word is, I provide it for her, and we continue the conversation. It's just how conversation works with her.
But you know what? When you do either of those on the phone with strangers, it can be kind of annoying and off-putting.
Not exactly the impression you want to give prospective agents and editors, right?
Honestly, I was always listening and paying attention to what the other party was saying. (How could I not? Agents and editors!) But I learned that it's important to sound like you're listening by not saying anything at all. In my case, I learned to wait until a direct question was asked or there was a full second of silence—more than just taking a breath—to take my turn at talking.
And I'm definitely glad my agent was direct and honest enough to train me up on that before my editor calls.
So, when preparing for The Call at any level, definitely get a list of questions ready, things you need to know by the end of the conversation. But also take a hard look at any bad phone-talking habits you might have.
You know what they say about first impressions.
Do you have any tips or tricks for successful phone conversations for a phone-phobic person like me? Any strategies for handling the inevitable nerves that come with high-pressure phone calls?
R.C. Lewis teaches math by day and writes YA fiction by every other time. Her YA sci-fi novel Stitching Snow will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Summer 2014. Meanwhile, you can find her at Crossing the Helix and on Twitter (@RC_Lewis).
From the Write Angle will be taking next week off. Happy Holidays to all our readers, and Good Writing in the New Year—break a pencil!