Writer’s Conference Summary

The writer’s conference wrapped up earlier today and I spent the rest of the day visiting good friends and digesting in the background everything I learned this weekend.

There is a difference between being a writer and being an author. A writer writes. Sounds pretty simple. Being an author is a business. There’s as much being a businessman as actually writing.

There are those who hit the lottery and get published right out of the box, but they’re few and far between. The amount of marketing a writer needs to do to get published is staggering, even if a writer is represented by an agent.

That’s my big lesson from this conference: A writer needs to work just as hard at marketing as he or she did at writing the book to achieve the status of Author.

It’s a daunting task. With the changing publishing world and the emergence of the eBook industry, it IS possible to Make It. There’s not one clear formula for success–and if there was, it would change next week. Fortunately, there are a number of different routes to success, even if they’re not super-highways.

An aspiring author doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist. He does, however, have to be doggedly persistent and do at least a few things right.

While the road to becoming an Author might be more like a twisted mountain road with sharp cliffs and landslides, there are enough signposts–proven, successful actions–by enough people who have even written a book about it (catch the irony of that!) that an aspiring Author CAN become successful.

That is what I learned from this writer’s conference.

Writer’s Conference Day Two

Saturday was an interesting day. Two break-out sessions in the morning: the first on ePublishing, which was very helpful; the second, 25 Ways to Earn Your Audience, also very helpful.

Then a keynote talk on The History of a Love Story. I like love stories, although I don’t admit it publicly too often, but listening to writers talk about how they developed a story bores me to tears. It does help to give me ideas though, a setting here, a plot twist there, everything is ammunition for a novel.

After lunch, where I got to talk to several other aspiring authors from around the country, there was a panel on what a new writer has to do to market themselves.

In today’s publishing world, an author who doesn’t market him or herself, who doesn’t expand his “client base,” is not likely to get published. In the words of one panelist, a good story MIGHT good published. A good story from an author who has a “platform” (an established based of readers of his blog, his stories, visitors to his website, his magazine articles) WILL get published.

Then it was time for the Pitch Slam. 90 minutes of waiting in line along with hundreds of other aspiring writers, pitching that first break-out novel. 20 agents, interested in different genres, waiting patiently to hear the good, the bad and the ugly being presented to them. I selected 5 agents who had specified they were interested in “thrillers,” the category my book falls in, and 5 possibles. Of those 10, I saw 4, plus one who had no specs of what she was looking for. Of those 5, two told me they weren’t interested in the concept, one wanted me to cut my 95,000 words to between 60-80,000 words, and two want me to send them a chapter.

Not a resounding success, but a start. One never knows where these contacts will lead.

The workshops or sessions have been very helpful. Sunday has a couple more workshops and a closing address.

This is a tough business to break into. I imagine someone trying to become a pro ballplayer faces similar obstacles. Lots of hard work, good showings in trials and tests, a break here or there to make it to The Show.

There’s an old saying, “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.” In contrast, how much persistence on a given course is required to break through the barriers that are present?

Fortunately, I like writing. Learning the business of becoming an author is something I never imagined, and if nothing else, it’s an experience that can feed a fertile imagination into another great story.

Writer’s Conference Day One

Friday was a LONG day. Up at 4:15 am, fly out to the west coast, conference until 9:00 and then over to Montrose where I’m staying with friends.

I learned a lot today. Publishing is an interesting business. It’s not enough to write a world-class novel, there’s a whole separate technology on getting an agent to represent an up and coming Author and getting published.

I learned that 97% of self-published authors sell less than 100 books. Ouch! Saturday, among other presentations, is the Pitch Slam. It’s like speed dating, a 3 minute session with an agent, as many agents as possible within the one hour time slot, where several hundred of us will be striving to be that break-out author.

Today I learned much about what an agent wants to hear, and how to present to agents. There’s about 20 agents who will be at the Pitch Slam. There’s several hundred Author hopefuls. The agents are looking for that magic “spark” in a book that will become a commercial success. Is mine one of them?

Despite the LONG day, the physical drain, it’s been a productive day. Saturday will no doubt be very interesting as well.

Jaguar Part II

I bought a Jag.

A full-time job, class several nights a week, trying to get published and being a single dad half the week isn’t enough, so I hooked up with my friends Denny, Pierre and Mike who have a used-car dealership.

(CC Motors on Drew St. Small promo spot here.)

Last week, after writing about the passion for owning a Jaguar, I bought an XK8 convertible at a dealer auction. It had a few things wrong with it and I spent last weekend fixing them and cleaning it up. There’s a few things left to do and then it’ll be up for sale. It looks like this, but without the girl.

I got to drive it home, then last night over to the lot where the guys can do the detailing.

It was a nice drive, after the sun had set with the temps in the mid 70s, humidity down to tolerable levels here in Florida. The engine purrs, there’s pretty good acceleration, the wind is nicely deflected away. The stereo has a really nice sound. A worthy car to drive to the beach or the country club.

A tempting car to keep.

What do you think? Should I keep this one for myself and sell my little 3-series BMW?

Anything is possible…

 

 

Getting Published

The process of getting an agent is interesting. Tonight I had some unused time so I’m sending queries to a new batch of agents.

Every agent has their own criteria of what the submission should contain. The first component is the query letter–a one page letter that describes the story, including the genre and length, and a blurb about myself as an author. The query letter is the author’s one shot to catch the interest of an agent.

Some agents ask for a synopsis in addition to the query, a page or two in length, with more detail about the story. Once again, the concept of the story has to be compelling enough to interest the agent.

Some agents want one to three chapters of the book; sometimes instead of the synopsis, sometimes in addition to the synopsis. And some agents just want the query letter by itself.

One agency’s website proclaims that they receive about one hundred email queries plus twenty to fifty mailed submissions PER DAY. That’s a lot of material for an agency to read, even when spread among many agents!

IF my submission stands out amongst this much competition, and IF my story matches what they’re interested in,¬† they’ll ask for the entire manuscript. That’s a lot of pressure on a query submission!

Most agencies don’t send rejection letters any more, due to the sheer volume of material they receive. I have received a few personal rejection letters encouraging me to keep submitting. But no one has asked for the entire novel yet.

Remember George McFly in Back to the Future? “I couldn’t stand the rejection.” So he never submitted his work.

An aspiring author has to press on regardless, in the face of daunting odds, to achieve publication.

Next week I head off to a Writer’s Conference that focuses on how to pitch your work and how to self-publish. What I’ve been doing to date hasn’t achieved the desired result, time to learn more about this business of getting published.

I’ll keep posting as this tail unfolds. In some ways it’s more interesting than my first novel!

Becoming a Professional Writer

I’ve been writing in secret for several years now. Fifteen, now that I check the timestamps on some of the stories. I seldom mention it. What do I say, “Hi, my name is Curt. In secret I’m a writer.” “What do you write?” “Novels.” “Have you been published yet?” “No.” “Oh.”

So much for that conversation.

I figured when I finally finished writing, re-writing, editing and re-editing and re-re-re-re-editing and so on, I would send it off to a publisher and they would sing to the heavens at this magnificent masterpiece. Dream On, as Aerosmith and Steven Tyler would say.

I’ll admit, it’s not the Greatest Novel Ever Written. But it’s a pretty good story–it’s better than a lot of novels I’ve read. I enjoyed the hell out of editing it because every time I got to re-read it all over again.

But getting published! This is a business I have to learn the hard way, because I have no contacts, no connections, I don’t belong to Writer’s Groups, I don’t socialize with the literary crowd. I live my life and I write. I can self-publish, which I have no idea how to do. Or I can get an agent.

Agents are the ticket, I’ve learned. My job is to present my story to an agent so convincingly that the agent falls completely in love with the story and starts the process of presenting it to publishing houses and getting one of those to buy it. Do you realize that agents get hundreds of stories submitted to them every week–actually the brief explanation of the story? I have to write such a compelling intro that matches the tastes of the agent that he or she is overwhelmed with curiousity¬†as they sift through this humonguous pile of submissions (electronic these days) to actually ask for and read the story. And THEN if the agent likes it, it’s down the laborious path of getting published and seeing my name in print at the airport while I shop for something to read.

In a couple of weeks I jet to a writer’s conference where there will be 1) agents who will critique my presentation, and 2) folks who will describe the mysteries and vagaries of the self-publishing world.

Is this some kind of self-inflicted torture? Enduring endless rejections–or no answers–after pouring your heart and soul into a manuscript. Spending money on books and magazines of the trade, going to writer’s conferences, learning the ins and outs of the business of writing. To what end? No promise of success, and even harder, actually achieving financial reward?

But yet that Aerosmith song title continues to play: “Dream On.”

I’ll let you know how it goes, right here in this very blog. You can even post your comments with encouraging words or outright laughter, as you are so inclined.

Whatever happens, I’m going to enjoy the ride.

Jaguars

Everyone Should Own a Jaguar Once in Their Life

I am a car fanatic. I love sports cars. Cars that are fast, handle well, and deliver passion to the driving experience. I’m particular to BMWs, I’ve owned several. They live up to the motto, “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Corvettes, Cobras, Vipers, Ferraris. Lamborghini and Maserati. All make the blood boil. My favorite car design is the Ferrari 250 GTO. But the sexiest car, by far, is the Jaguar XKE.

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Others seem to think so–restored examples sell in the $75,000-plus range. They were made in a fastback version (the first true “hatchback”?) or convertible, V12 or straight six. I’m partial to the straight six. It’s not as fast in a straight line but it’s lightweight, which means there is less weight on the front end and the car handles better.

Taking it for a drive on a twisty country road is something special. When it was launched, it set the world on fire as the sports car. It’s end to that title came when Datsun released the 240Z, a rocketship of a sports car in its day.

But the Jag is something special. How is it that a country known for it’s staunch conservatism designed a car like the XKE? A car that makes the driver one with the machine? A car that is so sexy everyone loves it?

The essence of that car, and its predecessors, the XK120 and XK140, live on in Jaguars. Sure, the company had quality problems for a long while but that got ironed out when Ford bought them and took over. Owning one can be expensive, as parts are nearly as dear as a Mercedes and more than a BMW, and all more expensive than Mustang Cobra or Corvette parts.

But there’s something special about a Jag. “Grace and pace” is their motto. The ride is unlike any other. Their sports versions–XJR and XKR–bring downright performance to the table while maintaining a very smooth ride.

You may not be able to afford a Jag forever. But I recommend owning one for a while. It’s like dating an actress or a supermodel–you may not be able to afford the cost, but it sure is fun while it lasts and you’ll always look back with fond memories.

Own a Jag once in your life. Suffer the repair costs, the little things that might drive you nuts. Savor the sweet sensation of the ride, how it drives, how you feel when you’re at the wheel. Grace and pace, fast and elegant. You deserve it.

Fill your life with the motoring experience of a Jaguar. If you really want to experience the full Monty, get an R version. But I warn you, it will spoil you forever.