New Conference: New Benefits

Professionals attend conferences. Since deciding to be a professional writer, I have attended three conferences in person and two online conferences. The new conference I’m attending this year offered some benefits the others didn’t.

I’ve been eyeing the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference for a couple years, but in the past it didn’t meet my needs.

For one thing, I wasn’t focusing on writing exclusively for the Christian market. And I’m still not. But I do have two projects in a “sellable” state that fit this market.

For another thing, it seemed to be heavy on nonfiction the first time I looked into it. Nonfiction? That translates to “no fun.” Right?

Or not. This year, one of the manuscripts I’m pitching is nonfiction.

Why This Conference?

There are two large writer’s conferences in the Portland Metropolitan area each year. I’ll be writing a post comparing and contrasting these two events.

OCW is what I need at this point in my career.

Let’s talk about the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been laboring over for a year. It has a slight Christian bent, and that could be accentuated if I found a publisher that wanted to market it in the Christian marketplace.

I’ve pitched this story to one editor that I hope to meet with at the conference. There are a few other editors that I hope to get an opportunity to pitch this novel to.

Then there’s the thing I’ve lovingly referred to as “the grief memoir” for the past three years. Not that I was even writing it until last year. And even then it was sporadic. This book sucks my emotions dry.

What else would you expect from a book about dealing with grief?

Two agencies look right for this project. Both of these agents prefer memoir-like writings and are looking for nonfiction. I pray I’ll meet with these women and they’ll see the gaping hole in the market that this book can fill.

At least one of these women also represents fiction writers. You know that’s the one I really want. And I want her to ask when she offers me a contract, “What else are you writing?”

This year, OCW meets my needs much better than WW ever did.

Included Benefits

One great thing about this conference is that the fee ($550) includes everything.

Okay, it doesn’t include a room at the hotel and breakfast. So maybe not everything. But it does include:

  • Personalized workshops where I will interact with the instructor
  • Two full meals each day
  • A bookstore where I can sell my own books
  • Free manuscript critiques
  • A 30-minute mentoring appointment
  • Three pre-conference pitches
  • Appointments for pitching projects during the conference
  • Classes on everything from indie publishing to writing a memoir to building your brand

It’s pretty amazing that so many things I paid extra for at the Willamette Writer’s Conference (WW) are included while the main fee isn’t that different.

Also, the organizers are so incredibly helpful. They’ve made themselves accessible via email. They created a Facebook group for first time conference attendees (where they posted everything from a packing list to critiques of pitches).

Expectations

Professionals should know what they’re getting when they attend a conference. What’s more? They should have expectations about what the take-away will be.

After all, this isn’t my employer shucking out the money from a multi-billion dollar budget. It’s me and my “I’ve yet to make a profit writing” business. Is this conference worth the time and money invested?

Well, if it meets these expectations, the answer will be yes.

As far as workshops:

  • I’ll learn new things about how to get published
  • My writing craft will improve
  • I’ll understand the nonfiction proposal process
  • The author of my daily class will help me form a plan for being a novelist

As far as networking:

  • I’ll meet published authors who are real, approachable and helpful
  • I’ll meet publishing professionals who want to connect with me
  • Other newer writers will interact with me
  • Perhaps they’ll be some like-minded authors who want to form a writing critique group

As far as career advancement:

  • Half the books I take to sell will sell
  • The agents I meet with will request pages
  • The editor I meet with will request pages
  • The mentor I meet will help me formulate a nonfiction proposal and writing schedule

So, really, I’m not expecting much for my $550. It should be easy-as-pie to get all these things.

Look for a post later this month detailing whether the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference met or exceeded my expectations. (Notice I’m not giving it the option of NOT meeting them.)

Do you attend professional conferences? Why or why not?

Five Reasons I Love my Small Publisher

I’m a full-time author. I have multiple short story publishing credits with two separate small, independent publishers. This month, I published a novella with my first publisher.

Now available
Now available

I’m a “real” writer. I have an Amazon author page. I’m qualified as a Goodreads author. If that’s not enough, surely my website and business cards will prove it.

In the past, I strove to be traditionally published. Every manuscript was marketed to agents who have inroads with editors at the Big Houses. I figured these gatekeepers would insure that I didn’t put my work out there before it was ready.

But I would have zero publishing credits if I hadn’t changed my mindset.

I’m thankful for the ever-growing population of independents publishers with qualified editors and artists at their helm.
I adore the hard work these people do. They’re entrepreneurs with a love for authors, books and readers. In other words: my kind of people.

I wouldn’t trade my experiences with my two small publishers for anything. Here are five reasons why I especially love them.

RoaneHeader
They always respond to every query

I’ve sent out hundreds of novel queries over the past three years. In that time, I’ve garnered a dozen or so “no thanks, but good luck”
form-letter replies.
Every submission to a small publisher netted me a personal response. Even if they said, “no thanks” it was written in a way I know the person who read the query wrote the letter.
And I have to say, I’m sick of hearing nothing. Because “due to the high volume of queries, we can only respond to manuscripts we’re interested in.”
Seriously? It takes so long to hit “reply” and copy and paste one of those form letters into the email?
Yeah. The message here is: we’re too important to spend even a minute responding to your crappy idea/query/whatever.

They’re prompt with payment

Okay, I’ve had a 50/50 experience with this, but the publisher who hasn’t paid me yet, isn’t behind with the royalties. In all fairness, I submitted to a charity anthology, so earnings from the first 500 copies were supposed to benefit a non-profit.
The publisher I have most of my work with pays promptly after the end of each quarter. The titles and sales numbers are plainly accounted for.
This is the same regularity I get from Amazon with my self-published Bible studies and Biblical fiction novella. And Amazon is a massive corporation.
Kudos to any small business who has the same consistency.

M9B Friday Reveal

They treat me like a person

Not only do I know the managing editor and marketing director by first name, they know me. If I ask them a question using Facebook Messenger, they respond. I’ve had several lengthy conversations about general policies, specific projects and promotions.
It’s nice to know I’m not a number on a spreadsheet somewhere. I’m an author who they respect as an integral part of the success of their business.

My input on covers is welcomed

If you get a contract with Random House or another major publisher, you won’t have an opinion about anything.
Well, you might be able to fight against some content edits. But when it comes to covers? Their designer will make all the decisions.
I’ve heard of authors being given four options and the one they chose wasn’t used. Why? Apparently, someone knows more about the importance of a cover than they did.
I’m in the process of writing a three-book series with Roane Publishing for their Novella Niblets line. I’ve already discussed how to keep the continuity in the covers and their designers were more than happy to spend HOURS tossing ideas at me.
Also, this is a “digital-only” line. However, the managing editor is open to discussing the possibility of taking them to print. (Because there’s something about holding your book in your hand and sniffing the pages.)

They pay better than the Big Five

It’s not about the money for me. Which is great because I don’t make much. According to the Tax Man, I’m earning in the negatives.
But my contracts with the small publishers offer me HALF of their net profit on every title. A traditional contract would have me splitting 40 percent (or less) with an agent.
I love my small publishers. Which is why I promote their other titles here and on my social media accounts. They don’t get the same sort of exposure.
You can show a little love for them, too. Buy their titles. Review the books on major retail sites.
What do you love about the company you work for?

When No News is Good News

Writing is waiting. And waiting some more. All the while you keep writing, but part of your brain is wondering about the wait.

Even self published authors must deal with some of this. They send a manuscript to their editor and have to wait for it to come back, marked with changes they must make before they can publish. A cover designer has their idea and so the wait begins to see if they can translate it into a cover matching the author’s vision.

Once they upload their manuscript to a print on demand company or an e-book publisher, they wait for notification that it has been accepted. Or that it doesn’t meet some requirement and they need to change it.

Eventually, their book is available for readers to purchase.

In the traditional writing world, the waiting expand exponentially.

My Publisher Waiting Game

Back in May, I submitted a manuscript to one of my publishers on speculation. Meaning they asked me to write a specific story and send it to them. For a refresher, read this post.

After I sent it, one of my non-writer teaching friends and I were discussing it. When I explained that it would be eight to ten weeks before I heard anything, she was aghast.

“You might not hear anything until July? I would be on pins and needles.”

I laughed. Well, not in her face because that’s just rude. Writers understand that ten weeks is much too soon for most publishers to respond to a full manuscript. Some have waited six months to a year.

waiting-game

Yes, it IS a long time to be on “pins and needles.” But authors know there is no thumb-twiddling while you’re waiting to hear. You start writing the next story.

I have finished two projects and begun the sample chapters for a nonfiction project I hope to submit to agents in a month or two. All while waiting for the publisher to respond.

In the middle of August, I received an email from an editorial assistant with Month9Books. She informed me that my manuscript was the next project to be read. I should hear within a week or two.

In the middle of September, I got an email from my editor. She wanted to schedule a conference call with the publisher.

We’re talking. It can’t be all bad news, can it?

I’m telling you, all those months with no news was definitely the good news in this situation.

The publisher wanted to reject my manuscript outright because it didn’t follow the rules of a single genre. BUT since the novel is a spin-off of my short story which is coming out in this publisher’s anthology later this month, she wanted to capitalize on that if she could.

I won’t bore you with the details. In short, if I wanted to do a bunch of things to get my manuscript out there (publish on WattPad or Amazon), they would support that on their social media channels. But I should consider this manuscript rejected and released.

Agent’s Play the Game

During this same time, I have continued to submit my YA fantasy called DRAGONS AWAKENING to a few agencies and small presses.

I’m surprised by the number of literary agents who say, “If you don’t hear from us in six (eight, ten or twelve) weeks, consider that a pass.”

Because dropping me a two-line email will take so much time? Don’t you have an assistant who could handle that to give her (or him) a break from weeding through your slush pile?

It baffles me.

So in this case, no news is BAD news.

They are so disinterested in your story that they couldn’t even take a minute to type a sentence or two.

This isn’t all agents. How would I know what a rejection email looked like if I hadn’t gotten one or two or twenty?

And I respect the agents who at least reply. They remain on my list of possible candidates for my next project. Provided they even represent Christian nonfiction or women’s fiction.

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Small Publisher’s Win

Even though the publisher who asked for my novel-and took four months to reject it-isn’t a major publishing house, they do have a presence in bookstores, with libraries and with major review journals.

roanepublishing_1399215274_75My best success with hearing back in a timely manner from publishers has come from small publishers, like Roane Publishing.

We can speculate that this is because they don’t receive the same quantity of queries and manuscripts as agents and larger publishers. While this might be true, they also have a much smaller staff. In fact, Roane’s staff is spread all over the world.

Imagine conducting your business 100 percent virtually. When you have an editor in New Zealand. You’re awake? Well she’s sleeping.

Whatever the reason, I give the award for treating authors respectfully and professionally to these small publishing houses. Kudos to you for making writers feel like they aren’t submitting into a void.

Someone is actually reading those queries and sample pages. Even if they aren’t buying it, they’re reading and

Without authors, there’d be no publishers – Roane Publishing

At the moment, I’m writing again (actually rewriting and then editing). But then I’ll begin part one of my the never-ending game: waiting for beta readers to read and comment on my early draft.

How are you at the waiting game? Have you ever experienced the “no news is good news” phenomenon?

 

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Writer’s Conference Reflections

Willamette-Writers2A puff of chocolaty goodness wafts by me when I open the door into the conference area. My mouth waters. Stillness underlies the hum of excited voices.

This is my first writing conference. Professionals attend conferences to network and build skills in their area of expertise. I may be pre-published, but I am a professional writer. Time to break out of my writing solace and enter the business world.

Women outnumber men. The largest demographic seems to be the over 55 crowd. This statistic gives me pause. Did they wait to pursue their dream until life settled down?

Everyone is a stranger and yet, strangely, invisible camaraderie pulls us together. The thread of love for words or creating worlds or setting our imagination free knits the crowd into something amazing.

Gawking like a foreigner, I locate the priority one item on my list. It’s just to the right of the main entrance. Yes, the ladies’ restroom. Who can concentrate on anything when the bladder screams like a crowded rollercoaster?

Highlights from the weekend will be covered in this post. Over the next several weeks, I will embellish on certain points that impacted me the most.

Sessions

The planners organized things according to different segments of writing. On the “TV Guide” schedule of events, categories like “literature,” “genre fiction,” “nonfiction” and “business of writing” head the colorful columns. It’s not surprising that most of my choices come from the literature column.

StoryEnginewebConveniently, that will keep me in the same conference classroom for the entire morning. It’s the room where the amazing Larry Brooks expounded his structural genius. (I found out he grew up in Portland, OR, and went to high school with Sam Eliott – of the Dodge voice track.)

Most of the sessions ask us to participate, which gave them a workshop feel. Write the definition of a premise. List the words you know you overuse in your writing. Things that help attendees ingest the information and immediately apply it to their writing.

Presenters ranged from authors to agents, from editors to social media gurus. Each one shared their expertise and opened themselves to questions about their topic. Some of them even rubbed elbows with the masses after the session.

Panels

The first session I attended was a panel of three agents. For an entire hour, those in the audience could ask any question burning in their minds. To say it was an eye-opening introduction to the writing world might be understating things.

Agents might respond to my query in eight weeks. After I send them the full manuscript, it could be another two to three months before I get the phone call offering representation. Or the rejection letter.

Say I sign with Ms. Ideal Agent. I have a contract. But not a publishing contract. It might take as many as 18 months for my advocate to find the perfect publisher for my novel. 18 months? That’s crazy!

After I get a real contract from a publisher, it could be another 18 months before my book makes the shelves of the Barnes & Noble at the mall. Talk about a LONG process. No wonder so many people are independently or self-publishing.

I’m hardly a mathmetician but that looks like almost three and a half years from original query to holding a published novel in my hand. That’s the math if my first querying attempt nets a manuscript request which leads to agent love. So that whole five year timeline from finished to published makes more sense now.

No wonder people are self publishing books on Amazon like there’s no tomorrow. Five years is more tomorrows than some people have to invest in a writing dream.

Critiques

For an additional fee, writers could submit twenty pages of their manuscript and a short synopsis to an agent, editor or author of their choice. This had to be done six weeks before the conference for best results. Some people walked in with a manuscript to get a critique on the spot, but since the windows for meetings were ten to fifteen minutes, I doubt it could have been in-depth.

I surfed the conference webpage to find someone who wrote or represented my genre. The closest I could find was a writer of adult urban fantasy. I booked her and whipped out a synopsis (which I felt clueless about producing) and submitted the pages.

I was her last appointment for the afternoon because she was presenting a class on hour later. We spent more than 30 minutes discussing my manuscript weaknesses. It was well worth the money spent.

More on this process later.

Pitches

Isn’t being discovered the reason pre-published writers attend conferences? Based on the number of attendees presenting to three or more agents or editors, the answer must be yes.

Fortunately, I attended a session taught by the agent to whom I presented my work. My pitch seemed to already meet her guidelines. It pays off to spend hours researching.

Pitch sessions lasted ten minutes (which is a long time in the real world of pitching ideas). The group of authors entered the room and shuffled to the round table where their industry professional sat waiting.

A surreal process really. More specific details about my own pitching experience in a future post.

Attending this conference opened my eyes to many things about my chosen path:

  • It is packed with thousands of others hoping for the same outcome
  • It takes fortitude to stay the course in the face of rejections
  • I don’t know as much about the craft of writing as I thought
  • The business of writing? I know nothing, Jon Snow.

At this juncture, I intend to attend this conference (or another local one) next year. I hope to network more at that future event. I may need to take a class: “How introverts network with other introverts.”

Is there a specific aspect of the conference you would like me to share information about? Have you attended a conference? What advice do you have to help me build networking skills?