Tag Archives: editor

How To Choose a Writer’s Conference

*This article originally appeared in the GFWWriters June 2013 Newsletter*

CoWritten by author C. A Szarek.

So you want to attend a writer’s conference? First time? Even BETTER!HowtoChoose

There are so many great ones out there. Before you make any decisions, make sure you do your research, talk to others that have gone; listen to what they have to say.

Most conferences have their agenda listed with plenty of time to review it beforehand. Read over it carefully so you can plan your conference experience.

What do you want to accomplish? If you’re attending to socialize, you’re not maximizing the resources writers’ conferences offer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with meeting other authors, but it probably wouldn’t be beneficial if this were your main attendance goal.

Authors attend conferences for many reasons, but here are a few main benefits that draw people.

*Pitching: This is a fantastic opportunity that is rather unique to writers’ pitchingconferences. Personal, face-to-face contact with editors and agents who want to give you a shot. Believe it or not, they attend conferences for some of the same reasons as authors, but the positive thing here is these particular editors and agents make time because they are actively seeking quality work.  No waiting in that pesky slush pile email box.  Here are tips on how to create a perfect pitch.

Sometimes these are what we would consider big deal editors from the coveted New York Houses that you don’t get into without an agent. This is a major benefit of a conference. On the same token, agents are not always easy to sign. Speaking to one face-to-face, whether from a big agency or not is a great opportunity. Even if your current project isn’t right for them, your impression can make them remember you.

This alone can be a great reason to attend a conference. But make sure you research well. Some conferences charge extra for this perk, though most don’t.

If you’re a conference virgin, even the thought could have you shaking in your boots, but don’t. Editors and agents are people, too. They enjoy talking to you. Just think of it like this: You can practice your pitch all you want, but if it’s not natural, it can lose appeal even if your words are awesome. So speak to an editor or agent as if you’re telling your best friend about your book. No one knows the book better than you.

Don’t let nerves make you miss out on this conference-unique opportunity.

*Workshops: Most conferences have a variety of sessions that cover everything from craft to marketing to industry trends. This should be a deciding factor in which conference you choose. No matter what stage your career is in, whether you’re pre-published or have several books out there, you never stop learning as an author. The more you write, the better you get.

So, look at the agenda (most will have it available beforehand) and see which would benefit you most. You shouldn’t have any ‘free’ blocks in your schedule. There should be so many interesting classes you just have to attend, how can you possibly choose between them. Research the presenters as well: are they experienced in what they’re presenting? Have they given it before and have others found it helpful? Workshops can be one of the best reasons to attend a conference.

*Book Signings: A perk of many a conference is a book signing that’s open to the public. Hopefully this won’t be your only reason for attending a conference, but it can be a nice experience as well. You get your name and your book(s) out to authors as well as the general public. Here are tips on how to have a successful book signing.

If you are going to take part in a signing at a conference, ask questions. Will they have a sponsor? Will you have to be your own cashier for the books you sell? Will sales benefit a charity? (This is very common at conference book signings) and research what turnout they usually have, if the conference is annual so you can plan the number of books and swag you need to bring.

*Networking: Another awesome reason for attending a conference! Read thevintage-social-networking brochure/agenda to see what headliners will be at the conference of your choice. Then, make it a point to speak to these people. Yes, you really can talk to famous authors! Just like editors and agents, they’re people, too! You never know what kind of friends you could make—for life.

Let your inner social butterfly come out and shine! It pays to talk to people. Writing, like any other industry can depend on who you know. So make contacts! Get business cards and keep them handy. Write down their email addresses or website, and get their Twitter handles.

Other authors, editors, agents, you never know who can be around the corner, at a meal, even hanging out in the lobby at the conference. Make use of free time by being observant. Read name badges. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors what they write. And remember, when someone asks what you write—they really do want to know.

You could end up with a fantastic critique partner or some awesome new reads.

Other factors to consider in choosing which writer’s conferences to attend are:

*Genre Specific: Make sure you pick a conference that includes the genre in which you write. If your stories are mainly thriller or science fiction, then attending a romance based conference won’t be as helpful. There are plenty of conferences that are more specific to a particular genre to which gears many of their workshops and key speakers. Pay close attention to those. But of course don’t disregard the broader conferences like the Writer’s Digest Conference, where many big editors and agents always attend, looking for new talent for their lineup.

*Budget: How much can you spend in a given year on these conferences? Between registration fees, airfare, hotels, food, books, contests, and other miscellaneous items, the endeavor can get expensive. The best conferences are those that do not charge extra for pitch sessions, specific workshops or even parking. Make sure you choose one that has all of those included (unless you don’t plan to pitch your manuscript).  Another tip is to choose conferences that are geographically close, saving you the cost of airfare and/or hotel. Or if you have several friends all attending, split the costs by sharing a hotel room and make a road trip out of it. Most conferences offer an ‘early-bird’ rate, so book early if you can. Some conferences also give out ‘scholarships’ to help ease the cost to a few individuals who present a financial need.

*Attending Agents/Editors/Authors: If you’re pitching a novel or just want to meet the experts in the industry, make sure the ones you’re really interested in plan on attending. Conferences will always list the names of presenting authors, agents and editors on their websites in advance, especially those that will accept pitches. They often include the kinds of stories the experts are actively looking for. So research the editors and agents attending and see if they cover your topic/genre. If you’re spending this much money, make sure it’s worth your while.

Conference Etiquette

~Dress appropriately. No one is asking you to wear an uncomfortable suit or dress or three-inch heels for an entire day of workshops, presentations and pitch sessions. But be professional. Don’t show up in ratty jeans, tank top and flip-flops.

~Don’t stalk agents/editors in the bathroom or just before they present. They are clearly focused on other things and they won’t give you their full attention. And it’ll annoy the hell out of them, and that’s not the kind of impression you want to leave.

~Networking is a must, but monopolizing conversations with constant reminders of your story is a turnoff. Give others a chance to talk, and LISTEN.

What to Bring

~Business cards with your email address and contact info (write the title and genre of your current work on the back)

~Notepad or Notebook and a good pen

~Synopsis/Query Letter

~A prepped 1-line ‘elevator pitch’ of your story.

~A small messenger bag to carry the ‘goodies’ you’ll get

~Cash- for buying books, the cash bar, raffles, tips for housekeeping

~Light Jacket/Sweater- you never know how powerful the air conditioner will be

~Extra Luggage Bag- to cart home the extra books and stuff you’ll get (if you’re flying, and if you don’t leave extra space in your original bag)

~Snacks- if you’re staying at the hotel overnight, do you really want to pay hotel prices for a bag of chips or granola bars?

What to Leave

~Laptop (leave it in the hotel room)

~A copy of your full manuscript. If agents ask for it, they all prefer email. (Why would you want to cart around the extra weight, anyway?)

~Shy or Wallflower Tendencies- this will kill your experience at conferences, and the whole point is to network and meet people who will help advance your career and/or skills

Hopefully this will help you in deciding which conference(s) to attend and how to prepare. More than anything else, remember why you write: what keeps you going back to that keyboard or notepad? Everything about a conference is supposed to help make you a better writer and be more successful. Good luck and keep writing forward.

I Will Be Published… Happy Dance Time!

Five years of learning my voice and writing style.

Four manuscripts- either waiting in the wings or on my laptop.

Eight months of writing  and revising this particular manuscript.

A year of querying and rejection.

Fourteen full or partial manuscript requests from either agents or editors.

What do all of these equal?

I will be a published author!!

Yes, folks. I received ‘the call.’ Or in my case, ‘the email.’

I sold AUDREY’S PROMISE to The Wild Rose Press.

No release date yet, but as soon as I have it I’ll announce that.

And for anyone who knows me, they know what comes next:

Happy Dance time!

PeanutsDanceWhoseLineDanceNow

Happy Dance

Happy Dance

celebrateeverybody-dance-now_Aladdin

Sweets and Sours

I have some interesting news, potentially awesome. But I don’t want to jinx it. As soon as I have more info, I’ll share it.fingers crossed

But it’s been a good few weeks as far as writing goes. In a business full of rejection, and the lovely habits of swallowing those rejections week after week, it’s good to know my story and voice has reached a few people.

A few people who are veterans in this business.

But I can’t let this get to my head. I must get back to writing. As often as I can, with the lovely trials and challenges of every day life.

For those of who who’ve asked, the family situation I alluded to earlier this year has still not been resolved. But we’re closer. One way or another, I’ll make it happen and we’ll be the better for it. Even if I must set some things aside, and change a few goals, I can do it. And I know my writing will be there waiting, no matter where we are.

 

Deceiving the Reader is Bad

Putting on my reader scarf for this post. Just forewarning.

Deceiving a reader is good in suspense or mystery novels. Not with reprints.

I ran across a few books this month that looked intriguing. Beautiful covers (yep, I fell for it), an author I hadn’t read before and I was excited when I sat down to read them.

And was immensely disappointed.

Found out it was a republished novel from the author’s backlist. And not just from 5 or 6 years ago. From 1989.

If it was a relatable story with vivid characters, it wouldn’t have bugged me. But this was clearly an outdated story, with un-relatable characters, completely unrealistic plot and an old writing style.

All the author did was recreate the cover and slap a new copyright on it.

This is deceitful in my opinion. Nowhere on the book or the website did this state it was a reprint. I had to find out on Goodreads afterwards (shame on me for not doing my research before I bought it) that this was a 23-year-old book.

And because I’m that kind of reader and feel deceived, I’m not buying any more of that author’s books. And have sworn off that publishing imprint entirely.

I understand an author trying to send out their backlist again… on e-pubs. With proper identification of it as such. But only if it’s relevant to this time and not outdated. An old plot or characters =  huge turnoff. It’s like picking up a ‘contemporary romance’ where the hero uses a typewriter or a massive brick-like mobile phone.

Come on. They should have at least revised the manuscript before sending it in. And shame on that editor for letting it get through without a necessary re-haul. And backlist stories shouldn’t go into reprints. Physical books. At least not series or category romances. Stick to e-pubs.

The deceit feels worse since I bought a physical book, one that takes up space on a real shelf. (Not mine- I’ll toss this sucker away). The author lost a reader for anything they do in the future because of this sneaky trick. Was it worth it?

Well, chalk this up to a lesson learned on my part. Be more careful to research before I buy. And it’s a practice I won’t participate in if I’m ever published.

Changing Face of Publishing, Including Romance

My mind has been preoccupied for the last 2-3 weeks on one overwhelming thought.

I’m not certain I’m writing in the right genre anymore.

Everyone knows the face of publishing across all genres is changing. Dramatically. With the boom of e-publishing, closing of independent bookstores and distributors and the profit squeeze for authors, agents, editors, and publishers (everyone, really), it’s inevitable.

But more specifically, the genres themselves are changing. Not just ‘vampires are on their way out, dystopias are one their way in’ blah blah blah. But the face of romance and it’s intensity has changed.

Just in the last 3 years, I’ve noticed a dramatic swing of editors looking for spicier, hotter, and more descriptive love scenes. Things that a decade ago would have been considered in the erotica lines, but are now mainstream.

I recently had an in-person pitch session with an editor for a newly launched romance line. Half way through my pitch, she stopped me.

“This sounds more like a suspense story than a romance. How much of your story is the romance?”

My reply was 60-70%.

The look on her face told me her answer without another word. But she explained anyway. (Thank goodness).

Their line, as well as most other publishers, are now looking for romance to have 90% or more of the pages be strictly the romance. All thanks to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey craze.’

(Raise your hand if you just rolled your eyes).

Though my story sounded extremely interesting to her, she couldn’t use it for her line.

Another dear friend of mine received a similar response from another publisher, claiming she didn’t have enough ‘romance’ in her romance novel, though hers was dramatically spicier than mine, both in content and frequency.

I’ve been baffled ever since.

I don’t think my writing fits the genre anymore.

I have too much romance to be considered a suspense, or even general women’s fiction. And I have too much suspense to be considered a romance. At least today’s definition of ‘romance.’

So now I’m left wondering: do I change my style to fit what publishers want, or do I keep my style and voice and hope it finds a home somewhere… eventually?

I know I’ve read this same situation on dozens of other blogs and interviews. Particularly with science fiction and fantasy writers.Too much romance to fit in strictly sci-fi or fantasy genre, and too much sci-fi or fantasy to fit in romance genre.

Why can’t there ever be a happy medium? While the romance is important (showing that relationship between two people), but I also relish a good plot. Not everything is about sex. Why can’t I write that in my novels?

Query Status: Eternal State of Waiting

Audrey’s Promise (Contemporary Romance)

Queries Sent: 10 (and 2 contest entries) to mostly agencies

Rejections: 5 (all form letters)

Partial Requests: 1 (Synopsis sent to agent, and since rejected)

Full Requests: 2 (both from Publishers, still pending)

I’m doing it the smart way. I send out 3-4 at a time and wait for responses. If I need to tweak my query letter or pitch, I do (with the help of great friends!) and submit to 4 or 5 more. If I don’t get nibbles, then I know I need to revamp the letter again. Querytracker.net is a great place to help me keep track of all this. As well as the ones I want to query, but need to wait or do more research. Meanwhile, I keep entering contests online. We’ll see where this goes!

Query Time and Tax Season

It’s that time in my career again… Queryville.  Which inevitably conjoins with Reject-o-season. Much like tax season. It’s painful. ‘But necessary.’

Thanks to some help from dear friends, I had a query letter and synopsis written up fairly quickly and sent out to an agent whom I’ve followed for years. And after a glorious week of anticipation, tax season showed up.

It hurt. I won’t lie, my hopes were built up on this one. I thought it was a perfect fit for them and this manuscript felt better than any of my others. But I have to be grateful I received a response at all. Many people don’t hear anything back when rejected.

But that means I simply have to query out to the masses as I did before. Semi-slowly. Four or five at a time and wait for a few weeks. Which means I need to bust out querytracker.net again and rifle through all the profiles and submission guidelines.

But at this point, I think I’ll take Queryville and Reject-o-season over the horrible season called Presidential Election campaigns. Publishing is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed school girl compared to the upcoming attacks of the political Olympics.

Burning Bridges Clouds Your Path

The smoke from the fire you create with your words will always cloud your future. One way or another. And who wants to walk through the world blind, choking on smoke?

I recently read a blog post from a literary agent (whom I respect and follow regularly) that disturbed me.

He had attended a few conferences where he’d overheard several writers bash him and/or his agency in one way or another. Combined with a few other factors, he decided to close his agency to new submissions until further notice.

I think this a bit of an overreaction, but at the very least extremely disappointing.

Granted, publishing is subjective and everyone has his/her opinion. Not everyone is bound to agree all the time. It’s just the nature of the business. Heck, that’s human nature.

But even if you have a disagreement with an agent or editor, you at least need to be civil in parting ways and (more importantly) how you carry yourself in the future. This includes the comments you make about someone to others. AKA- gossip. (It’s so high school, and even when I was in high school, I hated gossip. So adults should definitely not partake.)

Remember the phrase:

“Be mindful of the toes you step on today, for they may be attached to the ass you must kiss tomorrow.”

Trust me- this will happen. It may take a week, a year, or ten years. But it will eventually happen. Be honest with yourself: don’t you remember something hateful someone said to you when you were in high school? Middle school? College? Your first internship? And don’t you agree the next time you see them you’d have those comments in the back of your mind?

If you’re in complete denial with the statements above, at the very least you should be mindful of the golden rule you should have learned in kindergarten:

“Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

I remember the first Author Workshop I attended several years ago where the author spent the first half-hour bashing her former publisher, cover artist, editor, and anyone under the sun having anything to do with her experience. And my take away from that workshop: I won’t be buying any of her books.

Not because she turned me off to the publisher, but her bashing gave me a horrible impression of her. I refused to support someone who was so negative and had no care with the words she chose.

These are just my thoughts on how you create relationships, professional or personal. Granted, ‘keeping silent when you have nothing nice to say’ is easier said than done.  But I always remember that I don’t want to have smoke covering my path going forward.

Cautiously Optimistic Happy Dance

 

Time for another happy dance, folks…

Yes, I love Steve Carrell

I need to celebrate the little milestones, although this one isn’t so little.

I received a FULL manuscript request from an editor. And of course, the minute I saw it, I started my own little happy dance around my kitchen island. Then called my hubby, parents, posted on Facebook, and texted a few folks.

I know I got a little ahead of myself. This isn’t a request for representation yet or a publishing contract (if only!). But I’ve only had 1 other full manuscript request in my life, so I have to grin about this!

I entered an online pitch contest, where I had 35 words to entice editors to want more. That’s it. 35 words.  ACK!!

Do you know how hard it is to create an entire book blurb in just 35 words? And not just that, but to make the editor/agent drooling for more. I thought writing a 1 page query was tough.

I submitted the pitch, along with 199 other people, thinking that at best I would get a request for the first chapter or ten pages. But a FULL? Sweetness!!!

Granted, there were at least 20 people who received full manuscript requests, but I’d expect that. Because I read through a lot of the other pitches and they were excellent! Really intriguing stories that had me drooling. Clearly, writing a 35-word blurb was easier for them than for me.

And congrats to all the other folks who received requests, as well. This industry is freakin’ tough and anything like this that gives us opportunities, I’ll rave over.

I’ll let you know if anything comes of this. For now, I’ll do my little happy dance and keep on writing.

 

Protesting a Book, In My Own Subtle Way

Bad editing of a promising book is like finding out your favorite food

Just in case you were hungry, now you're not

is made of dog crap.

I’d expect a few mistakes on a debut author, particularly if it was self-published or an e-book. Sometimes the formatting on E-Books can be the Devil, no matter how many times you proofread it before you hit ‘Submit.’

But this was a Hard-Back book from a major publishing house, written by a New York Times Bestselling Author. (I won’t name the book or author, but its a name every romance reader knows). I read it several months ago and vowed never to pick up another one from them. Then I walked thru the bookstore the other day and found a new release from her. And I scowled. In the middle of the aisle, in a brick-and-mortor bookstore, with other people around me. Actually scowled.

I could have written a better manuscript than what she submitted, but this woman keeps getting more and more contracts, and clearly doesn’t care about the quality she submits. And what’s even worse, the editors don’t even care to call her out on the mistakes. Maybe they don’t even bother reading it. It’s so frustrating. Particularly for someone who’s trying to break into the publishing world.

The book I ended throwing across the room had serious mistakes. Entire paragraphs repeated. What newbie editor doesn’t catch that??? Repetitive phrasing throughout every chapter. I wanted to puke every time I read the words ‘pleasure.’ She used it 3 or 4 times in a single paragraph. Imagine that, EVERY OTHER PARAGRAPH throughout half the story.

Personally, I think that editor should have been fired. If she isn’t going to take the time to respect her job and the publishing industry, then I don’t want to take the time to read anything that crosses her desk. And as for the author, it was clear she didn’t care about the story at all. She was probably so pressed on a deadline and was so far behind, she just vomited words on the page and clicked ‘Send’ in her email. She stopped respecting her own profession. Thereby, I’ve stopped respecting her books.

I guess that’s how I protest things I disagree with. I don’t purchase their products. Just like I don’t buy gas from Exxon Mobile or Citgo (7/11’s). (Exxon Mobile is a horribly unethical company and Citgo is a Venezuelan company and supports Hugo Chavez. Just in case you care to join in my protest.) I don’t buy Lady Gaga music, and anytime Chris Brown songs come on the radio, I change the station.

Before you click away from this posting claiming here’s another liberal, sign-toting, picket-line enthusiast, I’m actually not that liberal. I’m a conservative. Personally, picket lines are pointless. You should be spending that time at your job, or protesting in a more productive way, like donating money to the cause, or even better, taking money away from the target. Nothing is more effective than hurting the pockets of a controversy.

But alas, that means I must add another person/company to the list of stores/products that I will not purchase in my own subtle protest. This one just hurts a little more because someone is succeeding with crap in a business that’s close to my heart.

How about you? How do you react to a bad book? And take it a step further: how to show your disapproval for companies or products that disappoint you?