Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It’s Conference Time Again!

In case I haven’t told you, I have a new addiction…writers’ conferences!

The first conference I attended was the DFW Writers'Conference 2011 and it was the best thing I could’ve done as an aspiring author. It’s been a little over a year, and it’s time to return to #DFWcon (follow the twitter feed to see what all the fuss is about).

Before attending DFWcon last year all I knew about the world of writing, querying, publishing, and networking, I’d learned online, and let me tell you…it wasn’t much. So if you’re not attending conferences and you’re an aspiring author, here’s why you should be…

The People!

Writers’ conferences are packed with likeminded people in all stages of their literary journeys. Publishers, editors, agents, authors, and writers…just like us. People who are happy to talk with you and share their advice and their experience, people who listen and can identify with your struggle and know firsthand how lonely and confusing writing can be. And who also understand the drive and passion behind the words and the burning desire to share them with the world. Book nerds united. It's awesome!

The Vast Array of Knowledge

Not only are writers’ conferences chock full of so many classes you’ll feel as though you should’ve earned your PHD in a matter of days, but what you learn outside the classes, is also a hidden blessing of brilliance. Mingle, mix and be merry. 

The Inspiration

Oh my gosh, the inspiration never ends. Hundreds, thousands even, of mega-creative minds whirling around you from sun up to sun down. Success stories abound, authors sharing how a short time ago they were sitting right where you are. Agents sharing how they found author X at a conference and publishers sharing the current trends in the market and predicting where the next big flux is headed. Soak it all in.

The Possibilities

Beside the incredible opportunity to pitch to agents and editors, aside from the mass amounts of learning to hone your craft and perfect your voice, there are other – maybe even more important – opportunities to be found at a conference…uplifting and always supportive friendships. Find them, nurture them. They'll lift you up when you're down and pop-the-cork when it's time to celebrate.

Last year I met four of the most amazing women/writers (in my opinion) ever. We met online (this is why you should visit #DFWcon) and donned purple ribbons to recognize one and other at the conference. We attended classes together, got humiliated at the Gong Show together, ate together and cheered each other on as we worked up the courage to pitch our manuscripts to agents (well, Sharla Lovelace [her book, The Reason is You] had recently landed her awesome agent Jessica Faust at BookEnds, so she wasn’t pitching, but she was the best cheerleader) and we made bonds that will last a lifetime. Okay, so it’s only been a year and a half, but you know when you can just tell? These girls are Friends with a capital F (for FabFive). And the connections haven’t stopped. It has been but a ripple in my pond, continuously expanding. 

And if you need more proof to convince you that conferences (especially DFWcon) is where it’s at, check out my sweet friend (and member of the FabFive), Lindsay Cummings and her success story (she met her agent last year at DFWcon!) here and her blog here.

 Here's last year’s picture.
Left to right, Lindsay Cummings, Sharla Lovelace, Candie Leigh Campbell [me], Janet B Taylor and Dawn Alexander

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Writer's Maze: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Responses to Your Query

Querying feels a lot like labor, the pain comes and goes, makes us narcissistic as we wait hopefully for good news about our baby. Though unlike labor – whose pain is so quickly forgotten once our beautiful baby lands in our loving arms – querying often leaves us empty-handed, exhausted and scared with nothing to show for our effort but a wounded ego and the inevitable question, “Why am I doing this?” And crying out to whoever will listen, “I don’t suck, right? I mean you would tell me if I totally suck, right?” To which, everyone replies, “No you don’t suck. Those agents just have really bad taste,” (Note: I do not believe this, but I appreciate the sentiment). 

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, it’s because I do. A couple years ago, after working on my first novel for two years, I queried the $#8! out of it, and while I did get a surprising number of requests (for someone who had no idea what they were doing), my submissions resulted in the dreaded “You write well, but…” letters. Now from one agent that might seem like no big deal, but from five agents, I took that to mean I wasn’t quite ready.  

Well, it’s time to start querying again, but I come armed with a better idea of what will happen this time. Here’s what I’ve learned…

1.      Read every single blog, website and twitter (if they have one) of every single agent you’re going to query. Make a note of whether they’re responders or if they’re the “No response means no” type.

2.      Keep a calendar of which agent you queried and when. Mark on the calendar when you should hear back from each agent. If you haven’t heard back by that date, refer to your notes in case that agent is a responder, you may need to follow up (I hate to nudge!). It is not uncommon for queries to get eaten by spam filters. 

3.      Keep track of agents that respond with any type of personal note. Whether it’s a request or a rejection, or a revise and resubmit, agents are busy people and if they took the time to respond personally, that’s a connection (and a HUGE compliment). Remember them.

4.      Don’t send out a herd of queries in one day, querying is slow and time consuming. Be prepared to take your time, know who you want to query and why, and include why you chose that agent in your query. Agents like to know that you’ve done your homework.

5.      Don’t send to all of your top picks at once. Test the water with one or two agents and see how they respond and adjust your pitch, tactics, etc. if needed.

6.      Read blogs. Author blogs, trying-to-be-authors blogs, agent blogs, publishers blogs, success story blogs and anything else you can get your hands on to encourage yourself and keep your spirits high…

…because this is the hardest part. Way harder than writing the awesome novel, harder than eighteen hours of labor – this is your baby, and if you give up and don’t see this querying thing through to the end, then none of us will get to hold your baby in our arms and smell that sweet book smell or feel its crisp pages between our fingers, and none of us will get to hear the story you so desperately want to tell us.

And that is a real tragedy.  

Happy querying and please let me know when I can say “Congratulations on your new baby!”

 Check out the fabulous Ms. Heather Webb’s Blog, Between the Sheets, for more writing = birthing correlations. 

As always, I love comments and followers!