Archives for posts with tag: how to publish your book

This weekend I attended the Atlanta Writers Conference at the Airport Westin. This conference is very basic in its layout, and if you sign up for the right events, you can get some really great industry feedback. I’ve attended AWC twice so far, and I’ve found that the most worthwhile events are the mixer, the query letter critique, and the pitch sessions.

The mixer is free with your registration for any other conference event, and the agents and editors are obligated to attend. For the cheapest access to the mixer, attendees can sign up for a 30.00 Q&A panel and pay the required Atlanta Writer Club fee, which is 40.00. That would get you into the mixer for 70.00. Yes, for just 70.00 you can spend 3 hours nursing a martini while mingling with 6-8 industry professionals. I’ve made more contacts, and I’ve gotten more requests at this informal event than I have at any other formal pitch event that I’ve attended. Not to mention, I’ve met some of my best writer friends at this mixer.

Another great event is the query letter critique. For 50.00, participants get feedback on their query letter, and at the end of the session, you can always ask your industry professional if s/he would like you to email them your revised query letter. If s/he says “yes,” then you’ve just tacked a successful pitch onto your critique. Way to kill two birds with one stone. Also, when I attended the query letter critique, there were two industry professionals present, which doubled my chances of getting a request.

Lastly, the pitch sessions can be helpful. I had a mixed experience with this event, as the written instructions didn’t match up with what the industry professional was expecting. The person who pitched after me had the same experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many others did as well. I’m guessing there was a miscommunication in the written instructions that we’d received. It’s really unfortunate to be in a situation like this, as it can sour the tone for everyone. Even so, the feedback from the pitch sessions is generally helpful.

On the flip side, I’ve talked with conference attendees who’ve expressed feeling disrespected or misinformed by their industry professionals during the pitch events. I’d imagine that this happens a lot at conferences everywhere. Think about it: A handful of weary, travel-worn agents and editors are in constant contact with droves of aspiring writers. Someone is bound to get cranky. It is unfortunate when feelings get hurt, and in my opinion, disrespect of any kind is inexcusable. But who am I?

There are some events at this conference that could benefit from improvement, namely the workshops. I usually pay for these because the titles sound enticing, but I have yet to be impressed by any of the speakers or the content.

I have never attended the manuscript critique, which is the most expensive event, at 150.00. I have nothing to say about this event as of yet.

I also have yet to attend the Q&A panels, but I’ve talked with other attendees who have said that the panels are helpful.

A word of advice to writers who are planning to attend an AWC event. You will maximize your time there if you research the industry professionals beforehand. Chances are that of the 6-8 editors and agents who attend, only 1-2 will be acquiring projects in your genre. I highly recommend studying their Twitter pages, bios, and any other relevant information you can find. Know thy audience, right?

Writing is one of the few professions out there in which rejection is an everyday–and sometimes every minute–occurrence. I figure that’s the tradeoff for getting to spend your days cozied up to a computer, tapping out tales. If that’s the case, then I’ll take my rejection and eat it too. But I’ve still got to deal with it. All writers do. The question is, How?

I hear lots of writers say that you’ve got to be thick-skinned to endure the deluge of rejection that litters your manuscript’s journey from hard drive to hard cover. I agree, as long as thick skinned means resilient. All too often, thick skin gets confused with a hard heart. That is, writers become so “tough” that they’re hearts become hard and they grow cynical. Cynicism takes many forms, like anger toward agents, a complete lack of faith in the publishing industry, and the despairing belief that one will never get published. How do I know this? Let’s be real. I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt. But I had to overcome all of those thoughts–and many others–if I wanted to truly become rejection tough.

I’ve found that the key to becoming rejection tough is to to let the rejection sting and to push through the sting. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, to let yourself feel any degree of pain. But it’s this pain from rejection that keeps you humble and, if you allow, it pushes you deeper into your pursuit. When experiencing rejection heartache, it’s important not to wallow. And NEVER allow feelings of rejection to keep you from writing. Keep going, and trust that the pain will fade.

Basically, make like an olympic ice skater. When you fall, get up, and keep moving to the music. You can cry when the performance is over, but you better show up on time for practice the next day if you’re going to try for gold again.

Remember, a feeling heart is necessary for any form of artistic expression, and fiction writing is an artistic expression for many writers. You can’t, and shouldn’t turn your heart off, no matter how much rejection you experience. As paradoxical as it sounds, if you want to survive in this profession, you’ve to get strong and stay soft.

Also, keep in mind that you’re not alone in your rejection. Here is a list of some of the most initially rejected best selling books of all time. Some of these books have 100+ rejections! Imagine if these authors had stopped writing at rejection number 99.

It’s been my experience that learning how to query an agent is almost as grueling as learning how to write a novel. Querying properly requires a lot of research and a whole lot of trial and error. If you haven’t figured it out by now, yes, I’m querying once again. This time around, I’m using a tactic that was presented at the New York Pitch Conference. At the conference, those of us who got editorial requests were instructed to query agents in small batches, small meaning three queries at a time. My knee-jerk reaction to this suggestion was “Oh, my gosh, this is going to take forever.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that small-batch querying might actually be an efficient tactic in the long run.

Reason being, each time you query an agent, you are more likely to get rejected than accepted. From what I’ve been hearing (from agents and writers. Take it or leave it.), many agents receive about 10,000 queries a year, and most of them sign 2-3 clients per year. Many times, they sign clients they meet at conferences, which means that odds of getting discovered via a query are something like 1 in 10,000. Don’t panic. Just accept the bottom line: these are bad odds, but patience, wisdom, and good writing can up your chances.

Anyway, each time an agent rejects a query, it becomes harder to re-query that agent, especially if you’ve sent sample materials. Yes, you can re-query the agent, but when you do, you’ll probably want to mention that you’ve queried before, and this may make the agent even more skeptical of you than s/he already is. Plus, you’re probably going to want to wait 6-12 months (and significantly edit your manuscript) before re-querying, which is a long time. So, sending queries in larger batches, though it may feel more productive than querying in small batches, might actually cost you more time and stress in the long run.

Also, as you target agents in your genre, you will realize just how small your pool of agents actually is. I’m writing middle grade fiction right now, and although many agents say they’re interested in working with middle grade writers, very few of them have. Maybe, they’ve sold a middle grade project here or there, but that’s the extent of their experience with middle grade. When I really dug into my research, I discovered that there are only 20ish agents who seriously sell middle grade titles. Querying in small batches means that I can polish my materials as I work through this list without burning up all twenty chances at once. If the first three agents reject me, I have the opportunity to edit my query for the next three, and so forth and so on.

Yes, the small-batch process is going to take a while, and it’s not always going to be clear when I should send the next batch, as many agents simply don’t respond to queries that don’t interest them. I may be wrong, but I’m going to assume that ten weeks without a response from an agent is a rejection.

Again, there is no formula for landing an agent. If there were, I’d have used it already. There are an infinite number of routes to the summit of the mountain. Plan, prepare, and think before you climb. Your chances of survival will be that much better. Oh, and do climb!