Monday, May 14, 2012

Writers Forum - The Truth Hurts

A towel hanging in my kitchen reads Real Women Drink Martinis.  Maybe it should say Real Writers Drink Martinis.

At a recent one-day literary convention, every panelist agreed on one thing.  Writers drink – a lot!  This is a good thing.  Writers and agents have a better chance of connecting in hospitality suites over an iced beer, or standing three-deep at the bar, than they do during the scheduled appointments.

Networking is the key to success.  Each guest author stressed the most important thing−other than sharing a brewsky−is to be yourself.  Relax.  Yes, a drink would definitely help.

I gleaned every tidbit and morsel tossed my way.  These are the pearls, or my interpretation of them, from the seminar that I attended.

1.      Be nice to everyone.  The person ahead of you in the lineup for booze could be the agent that you have an appointment with the next day.  No elbowing.

2.      Editors sometimes read only the first one to three sentences of a manuscript to determine if they are interested.  Do you think I would get an agent’s interest if I sent only one to three sentences along with a note....interested or not? 

3.      Appointments booked with agents at conventions are terrifying.  One martini-sipping agent said to an author wannabe, you have ten words−not ten minutes−ten words.  Tell me about your book in ten words or less!  (be prepared)  That’s worse than reading only the first two sentences of the manuscript. 

4.      Getting an agent is not the coup I had hoped.  Some agents sign you on and never get around to promoting your work.  After a year you switch agents (does it take as long to find the second agent?) and then you start over.

5.      Be agreeable.  Agents don’t want whiners or demanding discontents.  They look for a congenial personality.  That’s almost as important as the quality of the book.

6.      Beware!  Finding a publisher is not always the thrilling experience you expect.  Their editors can change the title of your book (the one you have been living with for five years) demand reams of edits, and then not publish your masterpiece for another two years.  When exactly do you pop the champagne? 

7.      Beware of the publisher’s contract!  They could print a couple thousand copies and then decide not to reprint, and by the way, you sold them the rights to your book so you can’t send it anywhere else.  You can’t even self-publish.  Byebyebook!

8.      All those rules on writing queries?  fehgedaboudit.  It’s the query that stands out from the others that gets the attention.  Start with a death threat.

9.      Forget agents and publishers altogether.  Self-publish.  After 6 or 7 titles you will begin building a fan base.  (I should live so long.)

10.  Self publish but hire a professional editor to read the manuscript.  A potential problem here.  If you are paying the editor big bucks (and you will), this person may not be as honest about the critique.  After all, you are the employer. 

11.  There’s an influx of retirees who think they should write a bestseller−who think they are capable of writing a bestseller.  Get back in the garden where you belong.  (No one at the conference suggested this.  It’s the voices−the voices.)

I came away from the seminar feeling disheartened.  I couldn’t help it.  It was a downer.  I wasn’t the only one who felt depressed learning the daunting truths and formidable obstacles of becoming a published author. 

A few days later, my positive outlook prevailed over the cold facts.  The possibility of never getting my novel published is discouraging, but not enough for me to lay down my pen.   

Now, where was I........


  1. Keep the faith Phyllis. There is surely one other person in the world of publishes as helpful and honest as I Good work. Keep it coming.

  2. You lost after the part about drinking. Whew!! I'm glad I'm not alone in that
    POP.... goes the cork on a bottle of wine. I want to right the wright way ;-)

  3. Yes, don't get discouraged Phyllis, they are just trying to weed out the weaklings, right? You are not a weakling, you have great talent!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Karen. My goal is to have my book published. Realistically that may never happen but I am enjoying an incredible journey. I have learned so much and am grateful for every achievement.