Monday, February 21, 2011

What I Learned at the SDSU Writers Conference

It's been three weeks since the San Diego State University Writers Conference, and I can hardly believe I'm just now getting around to blogging about it! We Critique Corner Sisters were all there, and had an excellent experience. If you're considering conferences, this is a good one to look into.

The overall is, it's a comfortable conference with high level professionals running it and leading seminars, sharing their expertise, talking to writers one-on-one through appointments for both pitching and editorial review of material you send in ahead of time, AND, maybe the most distinguishing thing about the conference is that it's set up for casual, open interaction with editors and agents.  Each day, time is set aside for drinks, snacks or lunch in a ballroom with big round tables labeled by genre.  You can sit anywhere you choose, and agents and editors join the table and chat with writers about what they're working on, and frequently request submissions.

I've been madly restructuring my first two chapters based on thoughtful input I got from a terrific editor there, which is my main (if inadequate) excuse for just now getting to this blog post.

Here's an important fact about the face-to-face opportunities you get at conferences:  the general success rate of writers getting submission requests is reported to be around 60%.  That's right.  Six zero.  Compare that with the success rate of around 1% we hear about for unsolicited mail or email queries.

Aside from that, though, I want to share a couple of prize tidbits I picked up from speakers at SDSU:

From agents Kathleen Anderson, Amy Burkhardt and Loretta Barrett, on the role of agents in the new publishing paradigm:
     Publishers are years behind on e-book publishing, which is not yet producing huge revenue for them. One big problem area is the definition of e-book rights in contracts, which publishers have not nailed down properly.
     Authors need a contract that preserves these rights, and agents control the content of the contracts, so they are an extremely important link for authors.
     Make sure your agent is fighting for everything for you—the out-of-print clause, the e-book clause, everything.
     Multi-apps publishers will grow.  A multi-app is not an e-book, not a movie, it's a mix.  (Think children's picture books with touch hyperlinks that make voice or atmosphere sounds, and expand that to other sophisticated formats that combine media.)
     The role of editors is still extremely important, and more and more, writers are hiring free-lance editors.
     Publicists are crucial.  It's tough to find the right one when looking for a free-lance if that's what you need to do.  The cost range is huge, from a firm like Lynn Goldberg's ($15-20,000 for a six month contract that does everything, to firms that charge far less for very targeted programs, like only national radio tours, which are great for non-fiction, but not fiction). Loretta Barrett suggested a good book on publicity:  Publicize Your Book, by Jacqueline Deval.

These agents' ideas about the new paradigm that's trying to emerge were fascinating, thought provoking, and helpful.

On a different day, James Scott Bell, best-selling novelist and writing teacher, gave an outstanding presentation on the subject of story structure and content, which is more the type of thing we usually talk about on this blog.  I've run out of time and space on this post, but will come back next Monday to share some powerful specific strategies he provided on how to write fiction that will get published.

So here's my sign-off question:  are you thinking in terms of e-publishing for your novel?  If you've looked into it, or done it, could you share what you learned about what role an agent/editor/publisher plays in the process?  Do the things the agents talked about at the SDSU panel fit with your understanding of the current situation?  Thanks!!



  1. Great post, Linda,

    There were many wonderful insights that I had know idea about. Hiring some type of publicist... I never would have thought about that.

    I am glad you all had a fantastic time at the conference. It definitely sounds like a really go one to attend.

    As for e-books. Most of the writers I know self-published their own e-books on Amazon. It's quite easy to do and you don't need an agent.

    Have a great day.


  2. Sounds like you gals are having fun! Thanks for taking the time to share some of your knowledge. You know, I was planning on hiring a publicist for my own book whenever it comes out, but seeing that price tag makes me wonder if I’ll manage an advance that will cover the high cost. I know it would be worth it though. I plan on doing much myself in that area, however some added professional help would be great! Thanks again for sharing some of what you’ve learned at the conference!

  3. Thanks, Michael, that is really interesting about the self-publishing. Publsiher's Weekly is now doing a regular list of self-published books they've reviewed, I understand. I'd love to know your friends' experience with it--do they like it, and do they do a lot of publicity of their own?

  4. Yeah, Lindsey, that's some pricetag, isn't it? Maybe the book Loretta suggested lists other firms, with a breakdown of their services and costs. If not, there HAS to be a book like that, so you could select the most cost-effective consultant to complement what you're planning to do yourself. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Linda, I love this. You summed up the conference accurately. I also learned how much support and enthusiasm we can find at a conferences. Especially the SDSU writers' conference. I loved it, and am so glad to have shared that experience with you and Heather. More to come! Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep conferencing!

  6. Excellent recap of the SDSU conference Linda! I couldn't agree more. It was an amazing experience that was well worth every penny! The jury is still out on the ebook thing for me, but hey, it's on the table!

  7. Great advice Karlene, I'm keepin' on keepin' on for sure.

  8. Me, too, Heather. Everything's still on the table!

  9. Great information, thanks so much for sharing with this armchair-conference-wannabe!! :)

  10. (oh, and Linda - I replied to your comment on our blog today, but it got bounced back to me. Is your link wrong in your profile??)

  11. Sorry to make the wine glasses pop up for a third time, but this time it's Christy...! Someday, it'd be so much fun to meet erica at a conference like this. I think we'd need to have a couple of really polished manuscripts to go. Great goal! This is fantastic information. I've never gotten that far to think about it all. (I tried to respond to you via email today, too!) Christy

  12. Glad the info is useful, Erica, and sympathies on the arm-chairness! It's tough to get away for conferences when you have kids at home, that's for sure. Sorry about the profile link. That's the second time--I'll have to look into that. Thanks for letting me know!

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. That DOES sound like a great goal, Christy! You will love it, and it really is the best to have a friend or two to hang out with at a conference. Again, sorry about the email. I will send you one on your site you can reach me at (uh, oh, did I just dangle a participle in front of a teacher???)

  15. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post's to be exactly I'm looking
    for. can you offer guest writers to write content available for you?
    I wouldn't mind publishing a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome website!

    Also visit my page:

  16. I work with things such as this out here in Tuskegee, United States.
    Passion in what you believe and in putting it into words is a real gift.
    Your article is informative, illuminating, and passion-driven, all of which
    I seriously appreciate when dealing with this topic.

    Also visit my web-site maquinilla de afeitar

  17. It's great that you took the opportunity to write this, as it's a subject that is very important to me.
    Is there any way I can get in touch with you? My name's Pamela Royer and I'd love to discuss this in depth.

    Take a look at my web blog -