Networking – catching the right fish

September 28, 2009


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.

I love to help and all, but …

June 24, 2009

Dear Lynn,

I heard you speak on Take Your Pick Date. [The usual nice platitudes inserted here] My book “Great American Novel” is complete and published. I have a website, YouTube interviews, reader reviews, synopsis, and a press kit.
[appropriate links included here]

I would be grateful if you could take a look at my site, read a few chapters of my book (it’s really great!), maybe take a peak at the YouTube interview and review my press kit. I’m looking for any advice you could give me.

Sincerely yours,
Hopeful Successful Author

Ach, stuff like this is really hard because the last thing I want to do is crush some author’s heart by telling him no, I won’t do this. I speak to writer’s groups and conferences because I love authors. It’s my fervent desire to pass along as much information on the publishing industry that my wee-sized brain has absorbed over the years. But it’s unreasonable to think I can offer personalized critique on this grand a level. I can’t. I have a business to run and my authors should rightfully string me up for doing for taking time away from them.

I always tell audiences that they may feel free to email me if they have a quickie question, but I can’t possibly read their synopses, query letters, first three chapters, advise them on their promotion plan, or recommend appropriate agents. I am not one-stop-shopping, so be mindful of not abusing my or any other speaker’s earnest offer of answering a quick question. There are times when I tell an author they may contact me anytime with specific issues, but this isn’t a blanket invitation, and I am very picky about this. You know who you are.

Along this same path are the authors who run to me for answers instead of searching the internet.

I’m not your mama; please do your own research.

I am not a walking encyclopedia and will do the same exact research you could have done had you not been sitting on your brain.

I never cease to be amazed there are those who will bleed my (or my colleagues’) goodwill for all it’s worth, sending me their books for review (or to re-publish). It seems silly to say “use your common sense” because there are many who were dropped on their head at a young age and lack this character trait, so I have to actually say it out loud.


On a similar vein, I’d like to talk about Author Hogs. These are the types who go to writer’s conferences and writer’s meetings and hog precious time after the seminar to pitch their work to the guest speaker, blithely ignoring the six or seven other people waiting. Stamp this on your forehead:


Maybe your book is fabo, but the agent or editor isn’t in the right frame of mind to listen to a complete pitch. They just got finished doing a 1-2 hour talk and want to meet everyone who is politely waiting their turn. Being an Author Hog puts you at risk of getting shanked by those waiting.

There is also a time factor. We are very conscious about the scant few minutes between seminars to say hello and beat feat out of the room so the next speaker can come in and get set up. Even if it’s a writer’s group where we don’t have to bug out, listening to a pitch isn’t as easy as it sounds, and we’re rarely patient enough after giving a long talk.

It’s like the lady who pestered me breakfast at a weekend conference. I told her gently that I would talk to her later. She didn’t get the message and continued with her pitch. I got more direct. “Scuse me, madam, but I have scrambled eggs hanging from my lip, my gin-laced hot chocolate is growing a gooey skin over the top, and my jelly is getting crusty. Can we do this later?” I never saw her the rest of the weekend.

Unless I tell an author differently, mealtimes are sacred at writer’s conferences. I’m on duty for the entire weekend. That means you can accost me in the hallway as I’m racing to a seminar [as long as you can do the 50-yard dash], you can accost me in the elevator, in line at the buffet, at the bar [totally THE best place to bug me cos I have a drinkie in my hand and am relaxed]. But my actual sit-down-fork-in-piehole time is mine, mine, mine, and I will get cranky to those who are sensitivity-challenged.

If you really want to pitch, sign up for the pitch sessions. Yes, they cost money, but they’re good experience in talking to an agent or editor. We’ll ask you questions and try to draw you out. Best of all, we’ll give you feedback. You have us in the proper setting. I’m not worried about getting to another seminar on time or wondering where my lip gloss is. My synapses are firing in a focused direction; you.

You never want to feel that an editor or agent isn’t listening to you; and I can pretty much promise they aren’t after finishing a seminar. About all we’re good for is smiling and answering little questions.

Choose your spots carefully because I really would like to help and all, but…

Doing the writer conference whoopsie waltz

April 10, 2009

She tripped over my little size 7s. We were in the bar. And no, neither one of us was drunk. Yet. Hey, writer’s conferences are those lovely little excuses to sit in the bar and not look desperate. Besides, it’s where everyone gathers after a long day of workshops and listening to us blather about the biz ’til you think your brain will spontaneously light in a dramatic fireball. Alcohol is nature’s fire extinguisher of the over-impacted writer. But I digress…

She tripped over my feet and apologized. I laughed and told her I’d tripped her on purpose (I hadn’t) because I hadn’t been able to slash anyone with my Evil Red Pen in hours and was going through withdrawl. Yuk, yuk. Pathetic editor humor ranks among the lowest of the low. More than likely a result of sniffing our red pens and, in my case, working with a lazy beagle.

We got to talking books and manuscripts, and her face came alive when she talked about her writing. Ok, I see this a lot, but she really drew me in and held me captive. Passion. Boyoboy, you just can’t bottle that enough. When someone is passionate about their work, it oozes through every pore. She had a great title, great log line that seamlessly went into her short pitch.

I found myself drooling. Tell me more, sez me. Before the night was out, I asked for pages. Lurved them to bitsies and piecies. The manuscript isn’t complete, but know what? I’ll wait. I’ll order the beagle to check the mailbox every day – though I know full well she’ll simply steal away with that rogue band of dalmations and hit up the drive-thru daiquiri factory.

In a delicious bit of irony, I walked past a small gaggle of writers sitting in the corner barking about what a waste the conference was and why spend all this money, no one cares about our writing, blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t help but hug the author’s pages closer to my chest and bubble over with laughter, pleased this author had seen the value of the unseen consequences of attending conferences.

I smiled at the angry bunch, filled with ample amounts of Haterade. Bite yer tongue, Lynn, bite yer tongue.

Apres le conference

February 16, 2009

There is no doubt that writer’s conferences are a lot of work for those brainless wonderful, selfless fools angels. I can’t begin to imagine the drugs planning it takes to organize a great event for a hundred some-odd writers. But, as always, Michael Steven Gregory (aka MSG) and Wes Albers pulled off another Southern California Writer’s Conference with their usual flair.

Conferences are exhausting for the speakers as well. You have any idea how hard it is to remain that charming for that long? I’m spent. And that doesn’t include the fact that I was suffering the after affects of the flu and managed to leave my voice in my other purse. A real croakfest for those wonderful writers who suffered through with me.

And that’s the gist of these conferences; the writers. The energy they bring to these events are their own legal drug. What other environment can you wallow in where no one’s eyes will glaze over when you talk about your latest WIP (work in progress)? Where else can agents, and editors let their hair hang down and show writers that we really aren’t evil harbingers of pessimism and rejection? We drink (oy), we make merry, we laugh, we listen, we advise, and we love every minute of it. Well, ok, I enjoy every minute of it, and I know my good buddy Claire Gerus does too. She’s one of those agents who gives her clients a cosmic hug along with her years of experience and savvy.

I love conferences because it’s my way of giving back to those who helped us in our early days. There is so much talent out there, and I never know what wonderful work I’m going to see. It was especially heartwarming to see authors getting signed by agents. Writers are islands by nature and while these conferences are expensive, you can’t put a price tag on the networking.

MSG, Wes, thanks again for the great time. To the authors who attended, you’re the best. You put yourself out there to be critiqued, and I hope we were of help to you. And for those who sat in my seminars, I just hope you could hear me.

When my mouth doesn’t get me into trouble

October 8, 2008

There are those lucky times when a speaking invite comes through that makes me blink five or six times while muttering, “Are you freaking kidding me?” One such invite came through a year ago from my dear friend and achingly talented Shannon Young – author of The Little Saguaro, and repped by the brilliant and renowned Andrea Brown. This woman is going places – Shannon, I mean. Andrea has already gone there and back. Many times. You want success and class, check out Andrea.

Anyhoo, on top of Shan’s success as a writer, she has her fingers firmly entrenched in the Oregon writers’ pies. One of those pies resulted in the first ever Wine and Words at the King Estate winery in Oregon. Shan will probably kill me because she’s so low key, but this is her family’s winery. When she told me about it, I thought, “oh, how nice, a little winery.”

HA. Ignorance. It catches me by the eyeballs every time. This is no little winery where Lucy and Ethel squish grapes with their toesies. This is a jewel that sits atop a grape-filled mountain and looks down on a little valley of emerald green forests and lesser wineries. Staying and eating at this place made me never want to come home, so can you imagine speaking among all this beauty?

The conference, coordinated by the effervescent Marlene Howard, was equally impressive because of the class of writers in attendance. Never have I seen such a collection of savvy writers. As I got up to speak, I grew concerned that they’d start picking their teeth. What could I possibly say that they didn’t already know? Turned out that I was able to share some insightful information, as did Andrea Brown – who is as delightful as a bouquet of fresh lavender (which the winery also grows – sight).

I know I say this every time I attend a conference, but this is special. The Oregon writers are a breed apart from any other group to whom I’ve spoken. There’s talk of a second Wine and Words for next year, and I can’t recommend this group enough because they know what they’re doing. Check out their site, check out their Colony House getaway where writers steal away to a fabulous house on the Oregon coast to write and learn.

And most of all, happy writing!

One conference comes to a sweet ending

September 28, 2008

I just returned from the Southern California Writer’s Conference in Irvine, and all I can say is what a fabulous weekend. Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers outdid themselves to ensure everyone was directed to the right conference room and had plenty of water.

This was my first time speaking is this particular conference, and I came away energized and exhausted. The attendees were articulate, educated, and passionate. Man, what’s not to love there?

Being surrounded by bright and talented minds offers its own kind of high. I must have heard twenty five different pitches while gulping down over-priced wine at the bar (whose service was atrocious. I mean, really, if I’m standing around waving money, don’t you think a server would get the idea?), and it was a treat to see the passion dripping with every syllable. That face time is something I miss when I’m sitting in my batcave reading queries all day long.

It’s also exhausting. Let’s face it, I’m not used to being that nice for so long. It’s a real challenge, and I had to come home and order the unreliable beagle to get some filing done just so I wouldn’t implode.

I can’t recommend conferences enough. This is the prime place to further a writer’s education. We writers are islands by the merits of our writing, and it’s easy to become immersed in our solitary self confinement. We need to come up for fresh air (or in my case, leave the batcave) and get some perspective.

The breakout sessions and one-on-one advanced submissions are scary, to be sure, and I respect the snot out of every single author who sat at my and other editor’s and agent’s table. It wasn’t easy, I’m sure, but they obtained some valuable crits along with learning how to take unbiased comments from a complete stranger. But it’s not all gloom and doom mixed with sweat and fear. We did so much laughing, I’m convinced I got an aerobic workout.

If you ever feel yourself getting stuck, I can’t recommend a writer’s conference enough. And if you see some demented woman sitting in the corner trying to shore up her smile with clothespins, it’s just me.

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