The beagle chose a good weekend to be naughty. I’m in such a great mood that I’m almost willing to overlook the poodle, Irish Setter, three shepherds, and a Dalmation who were dancing old Three Dog Night songs while the blender whirred away with the good tequila I bought last week.
Mind you, I said almost.
The object of my cheery outlook on a Monday is the Southern California Writer’s Conference. Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers, and their collection of angels who go beyond the call of duty, always put on a wonderful weekend that’s guaranteed to make you laugh and learn. But the bigger issue is networking. This is the place where you can have one-on-one time with editors and agents. It’s not just the advanced submissions, where we read twenty pages of your story, but the personal face time during and after a seminar. It’s sitting around the bar or hallways talking books, ideas, and publishing, sharing stories and experiences. Where else can authors do this with agents and editors?
I gave two seminars this weekend; Backstory Bedlam and Who the Hell Are All These Publishers? and sat on an agent/editor panel. The thing I love about doing seminars are the questions. This is a great opportunity to ask (and have answered) those burning publishy questions you’ve always had.
I respect the heck out of authors who attend conferences, regardless of where they are in their writing journey. They are the ones who go the extra mile to to learn the industry and improve their craft. This is the place where you can ask whether alien pygmies is a growth genre, or discuss the advantages/disadvantages between a large conglomerate publisher and an indie trade press. Authors can get a feel for who we are – that we’re relatively normal and that we don’t suck the jugulars of budding authors. Much.
This is where relationships are forged – and believe me, this is an industry of relationships. Our job is to be on call so as to be accessable to authors. Dibs on the bathroom, though, ok? I met a lot of wonderful authors – as I always do. My tally? I asked…no, that’s not quite right…I demanded a full. Post haste.
In fact, I loved the writing so much that I used one of the pages in my Backstory Blunder seminar in order to show an example of a brilliantly-written backstory. Unbeknownst to me, the author was sitting in the seminar (I hadn’t met her yet). I can’t imagine how I missed her beet-red face staring down at her hands as I read her work and pointed out all the things she did right. She didn’t get the guts to introduce herself until much later in the evening. Argh!
Is it possible she would have caught my attention in a sea of queries? Not sure. But hers was part of my advanced submissions, so I was duty-bound to read it. As yet, I still am not sure what the story is about, but I don’t care. Her writing is that good. That’s the beauty of advanced submissions. It gets your work in front of agents and editors.
Then there is always the banquet, where we can really kick things up a notch. It’s casual, friendly, relaxed, and always includes a bar – special thanks again to Jeff for the margarita. It’s a unique experience for everyone to put faces and personalities to the names and writing. I’ve had authors contact me many months downstream, and I’ll give them my attention because we made a connection at some conference.
Think about these points the next time you hear about an upcoming conference and think they’re nothing more than meat markets. Real book deals are made all the time at these events. Will it be you? Who knows? But one thing for certain is that you won’t come away unaffected, and you will have made some great networking contacts.