I spent the weekend in beautiful Myrtle Beach at the South Carolina Writers Workshop.
Being around writer folk for the first time since June made it pretty darn difficult to return to writing all by my lonesome today. However, I’m dealing with it by mad networking, blogging, querying—oh yeah—and editing.
Here are some highlights/surprises of the weekend:
LITERARY AGENT JANET REID
First of all, Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management is awesome. Actually, I figured she would be, considering her blogs on agenting and query letters, but I was pleasantly surprised by her as an instructor.
Miss Query Shark herself really cares about writers. See this blog post if you don’t believe me. This hit me the most during her session “To Whom It May Concern: Effective Query Letters.”
Where most other agents say to narrow your querying pool to a select few, Janet says to query widely because it’s in the best interest of the writer to do so.
“What does it hurt you to query?” she asks. “If it’s not right, you’ll just get a rejection.”
She also stresses not to beg in your query (e.g., “I know your time is exquisitely valuable…”).
“We’re all busy,” she says. “Some of you have jobs and husbands and children to take care of. Your time is exquisitely valuable. We’re just sitting around reading.”
She even empowers writers—albeit realistically.
“Don’t demean yourself. Remember: Agents and publishing cannot exist without writers—though, no one’s going to treat you like that.”
Another helpful hint? To increase marketability, she says you might consider changing the sex of your main character, as this can make it stand out against other books like it.
Most importantly, however, she stressed that a query letter is the foundation upon which your publishing career rests.
“You can query too soon; you cannot query too late.”
For more of Janet’s query tips, see my guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.
- Despite their busy schedules, they are approachable and willing to answer any questions at writers’ conferences.
- They know how to party. No elaboration necessary.
- If you’re slightly dressed up, people might think you are one. (Even though I look nothing like the fabulous Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary, I still enjoyed being mistaken for her.)
- They are curious creatures. They vary in submission guidelines as well as personal preferences, but check out their Web sites, blogs, and interviews to gain insight.
- Here’s a great blog post, regarding agent preferences, by my new friend and fellow conference-goer Lisa Katzenberger.
- It behooves writers to be somewhat ADD. As far as I can tell, the more active your mind is, the more ideas you’ll have for books and articles. I gotsta get me some of that!
- According to one faculty member, stealing ideas is okay, as long as you make them your own.
- Pitching is scary, but just get over it and do it…because the agent might just request pages. 🙂
- New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry is a down-to-earth guy. It took him 12 years and eight finished manuscripts before he ever sold anything. Keep at it, he says.
- Your first novel may not be publishable. And that’s OK. Put it away and start the second.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this weekend such a success. I had a great time and am rejuvenated to continue my work.
Bring on the next conference!