Posted: May 19, 2016
What I Learned from Attending a Writers Conference
A few people have asked me about the conference I attended. I want to share these few things I’ve learned with my fellow writers and interested people:
1. If you want to publish a book and be successful with sales, you’re going to need a literary agent. You either pitch to one in person at a conference or you send a query letter. (Yes, you can self-publish, but not recommended for the best results or for the novice.)
2. Literary agents present your book to publishers that might be interested in buying your book.
3. To get a literary agent, you first have to pitch your story…if they like your pitch they may ask to see your first five pages of your novel.
4. Literary agents receive hundreds of queries and they’ve seen it all. You have to be original and creative to get their attention…but that’s only the beginning.
5. Your book needs to grab the agent’s attention and desire to turn the page, from the very first page. Within the first five pages, the agent should be able to get the gist of what the story is about.
6. If an agent is reading part of your book and you don’t get to what the story is about within five pages, they will put it in the reject pile – no matter how good the writing is.
7. You need to know before presenting your book to an agent which genre your book falls under. For example, here’s some genres or sub-genres that were talked about at the conference:
a. SciFi/Fantasy –I learned these are really two separate kinds of stories. According to the agents at the conference, everyone is looking for the next H. G. Wells or J. K. Rowling. (Baine Towers – get your book done now!)
b. Erotica and Paranormal Erotica – there was a speaker at the conference who has successfully written and sold these kinds of books (not for me…I wouldn’t even know how – hee hee!).
c. Amish Romance – yes, this is a real genre.
d. Romance – probably right up my alley – ha ha!
e. A few others include: Mystery, Non-fiction, Action/Adventure – it was suggested the best way to see all the different types of genres is to browse a book store.
8. My favorite speaker from the conference was a woman named Elena Hartwell. She’s an author and playwright. She’s had success with some of her plays and her first novel came out in April of this year titled, “One Dead. Two to Go.” It’s a mystery with some humor. I plan to get it and read it soon. Although mystery isn’t my type of book, if she writes as well as she entertains an audience I guarantee it will be an excellent read. “Two Dead Are Better Than One” will be out in 2017 and “Three Dead. You’re Out” in 2018. She calls these the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. ElenaHartwell.blogspot.com
9. You must do character development – one of the best ways to do that is to sit down before the story writing and fill out a questionnaire about your characters - you can find many of these on the Internet. I’ve used several different types for my stories.
10. Even if an agent accepts your book, they more than likely will have suggestions for rewrites and edits.
11. After an agent lands a publisher for your book, you will be required to do many more edits and rewrites according to the requirements of that particular publisher.
12. I learned that I have to do about twenty more re-writes on my book before I’d even begin to look for an agent – but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!
13. You have to find your own “voice” with your writing and the only way to do that is practice, practice, practice.
14. Publishers typically will not publish books for first-time authors over 100,000 words (unless SCI/FI or Fantasy). They prefer between 75,000 and 100,000 words, as the cost of printing is high and it is risky for first timers. After you become an established author, you can write your epic novel they say.
15. Once you are on the road to publishing your book, you have to have an author platform – in fact, you should already be building one long before. What that means is that you want to become known through social media, your own website, short story publications, contests wins and literary awards, etc.
16. It is highly recommended that you either join a writers group or start one up, as this is a valuable tool for getting your work critiqued long before you’re ready to publish and you have to be willing to put in the work for your fellow writers, as well.
17. I learned that in dialogue when two people are conversing, you don’t typically use the characters names. A good writer won’t need to. (This is something I have to correct in my book, but it makes sense, as the speaker stated, “How often when you’re talking with someone, do you use their name?” I thought about it and rarely do people do that.) It’s okay occasionally, but use sparingly.
18. Writers not only need to write every day, they need to read every day. It is recommended that you read other books in your genre in order to study and analyze styles, voice, plots, etc.
19. Age and education do not matter. It’s never too late and there are many published authors without a college degree – this is not to say, a degree with an emphasis on Liberal Arts wouldn’t give you an advantage.
20. Attending a writers conference is something you should do annually or, at the least, every two years. I will do this again – it feels welcoming to be in a room full of like-minded people and you learn valuable tips, not only from the speakers, but also from the attendees.
This is basic information that could be found in any number of books or on the Internet, but I learn best by being there. Maybe next time, I can take some people with me!