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!!