Formatting your manuscript - every author must have this book!
Formatting your manuscript - every author must have this book!
Ok, so I feel like this might be silly to review this book because I looked on Amazon and there are 5,000 reviews for the newest edition. There are probably a million reviews for The Help in thousands of locations.
According to Amazon – “The Help has been on bestseller lists for longer than any other hardcover fiction title since The Da Vinci Code. It was USA Today’s 2009 Book of the Year and has been published in thirty-seven countries around the world.”
So why am I doing a book review of what everyone already knows is a pretty darn good book? Well I have my reasons:
1. I saw this book years ago when I first started writing my book (The Help was originally published in 2009. I started A White Room in June 2008) and I almost read it because it involves maids and so does my book, but I never did because it’s set in the 1960s south, a much different world than my book. Then when I did read it, I saw a lot of things I try to do in my writing so in a way it’s special to me.
2. I have a strict rule that when a book is made into a movie, you always watch the movie first and then read the book to get the fullest experience and appreciate both because reading a book of your favorite movie can be extremely fun. But I read the book before the movie came out. Whenever you watch a movie second, you hate it. But something amazing happened, I loved the movie! I stayed up two hours past my bedtime watching it! Yes, I have a bedtime.
So what makes The Help special? Oooooo. Everyone who writes books wants to know the answer to that question. While at the 2012 San Francisco Writer’s Conference this year, I heard over and over people saying they want their book to have the same success as the The Help. I also heard many agents and editors and other professionals say The Help was a very special case and not a realistic goal for any beginning author to shoot for. Frowny faces all around!
Despite said comments, no writer can help but try to figure out the secret while reading The Help. Have I discovered the secret – no! Success to this level and in this market is something that can only be explained by doing a variety of different things from crafting an amazing novel to positioning the novel appropriately, to being patient, to being controversial, to a whole heck of a lot of luck! I don’t know how Kathryn Stockett did it, but I did read her novel and found several reasons why it’s a great book and let’s face it, that is a must for booming success.
Sorry, I’m having a thing for numbers and lists today, deal with it!
Reasons The Help is a great book:
1. Tension – Kathryn Stockett does a fantastic job of presenting questions to the reader. She reveals just enough information to give us an idea about something without fully revealing the answer until later.
2. Controversy – the shock and appall readers feel when facing the racist issues presented in The Help, specifically revolving around the creation of separate bathrooms for African Americans, is dramatic makes you keep reading.
3. The villain is a vicious and horrific villain – villains like Hilly Holbrook are so realistic and so evil and so somebody you’ve met in jr. high or high school that you have to watch them go down.
4. The stakes – the risks that the characters take in The Help are so extreme and for such a good cause that you have to find out what happens. This is a period of American history where people were murdering African Americans for doing nothing at all and the characters were not only risking their own lives but the lives of the people they loved, like their friends and children. They risked having their houses burnt down, going to jail, beat up, and plain old murdered.
5. The time and place. The story takes place in 1960s Mississippi and Kathryn Stockett includes all kinds of wonderful details and descriptions that let the reader become fully enveloped in this fictional world.
6. This is all in addition to an interesting story, fascinating characters, intriguing social acceptances and past practices, shock and intrigue, secret plots, etc. It’s got a lot going for it.
Now the movie – like I said, if you read the book first, usually you hate the movie but I really enjoyed it. I think the director Tate Taylor who also wrote the screenplay based on the book did a wonderful job of recreating Kathryn Stockett’s novel. Many of the scenes from the book were in the movie and most of the plot points played out the same way as in the book.
Of course there were some plot points and issues that just can’t transition to film and those were the ones that were altered. Also of course there is the problem of time, you can’t fit an entire book into the length of a movie, but Tate Taylor did a wonderful job of including the most important details and giving the viewer a really good view of The Help.
The movie, like the book, made me laugh, cry, and feel so many wonderful emotions.
The only thing that was a disappointment was that the movie didn’t show the transformation of one of the main characters, Skeeter. In the end of the book, Skeeter actually moves away and when she comes back she is styled in a more modern 1960s way – I want to say hippie, but I don’t think she was supposed to be full blown hippie – but bell bottoms and long straight hair. I wanted to see that transition happen to the actress playing Skeeter, but it really wasn’t extremely important to the story and more of a conclusion detail for that character. That was just something I was looking forward to seeing that wasn’t there.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend reading The Help and seeing the movie, and in whatever order you like.
I recently started a Twilight-athon with the movies and books and this is my silly fashion discovery.
Liana Holmberg is a developmental editor and consultant working with self-published and mass-market authors. As an editor at the acclaimed journal Manoa, she worked with writers from around Asia and America. She has also been a production editor at a university press and art director at the internationally recognized online journal Public Library of Science. Liana is a graduate of the Stanford Publishing Course, where she received first place for her business proposal. As a freelance editor, Liana has worked with accomplished as well as beginning writers, in genres across the spectrum. She also advises authors on marketing and publishing strategies. For more information visit lianaholmberg.com/editing.
Click on highlighted blue words to be taken to additional resources and reading.
What is a freelance editor? What do freelance editors do and not do?
Freelance editors are hired by authors who want professional help getting their work ready for an agent or for independent publication. There are many kinds of editors. Developmental editors work with authors during the writing process to help them produce the best, most polished manuscript possible. A developmental editor works with the author on big picture issues like character, plot, style, theme and execution. Copyeditors and proofreaders are part of the publishing process and are usually hired by the publisher (which may be the writer if she is going the independent route). Copyeditors correct your punctuation and spelling as well as note inconsistencies or factual errors. Proofreaders make sure the copyeditor’s changes were entered correctly and catch other small errors. There are great resources out there that describe the different kinds of editors and summarize the value of editing.
The most important step in choosing an editorial service is for the writer to understand what she hopes to get out of it, how much effort she’s willing to put into it, and what her budget is. The writer-editor relationship can be a very personal one. I strongly recommend that writers contact several editors to find one they click with. The editor to hire is the one who acts as your ally and gives specific feedback, and, most importantly, who you trust to tell you things about your writing that may be hard to hear.
How does pricing work?
Pricing varies widely depending on factors like the type of writing (e.g. technical article vs. novel), the level of editing, and whether it’s a rush job. The Editorial Freelance Association publishes some average rates across the country, and there are lots of other sources that’ll help you understand the range of costs and services. This can give you a ballpark idea, but you’ll need to talk to an editor to get a real quote.
Speaking for myself, each job is different enough that I create a custom quote for each client. For some, an hourly rate might be most economical, for others a flat rate. The first step is for a writer to send me a sample of her work, with additional information including target audience and level of editing desired. I’ll return these pages with some high-level feedback and sample editorial changes, all free of charge. I think of this as the getting-to-know-you phase or first date, and I pick up the tab. If the writer decides to go further, we scope out a statement of work, agree to fees, and then we’re off and running on the great journey of taking your manuscript to the next level. If a writer wants to take smaller steps, we can take an incremental approach, charged by the hour or flat rate, where I might line edit a couple more sample chapters or read the whole work and give high-level feedback only.
Why is developmental editing important? Is it always necessary?
The publishing market is flooded with writers – absolutely flooded. Anyone serious about catching the eye of a publisher, let alone readers, has to find a way to rise above the rest. The best way to do that – before building an “author platform” or developing a “viral marketing” strategy – is to create a well-written, highly engaging work that your target audience will love. Duh, right? I’m stating the obvious because it really all comes back to craft, and that’s what a developmental editor can help with. What you will get from a good developmental editor is someone who has the skills, patience, and time to show you how to raise the level of your craft and improve the impact of your work. Writers rarely have someone in their lives who can give them detailed, sometimes hard, feedback that they can use to substantially improve their writing.
Who should consider working with a developmental editor? Anyone with ambitions for a mass audience. Anyone who is fundamentally driven to improve their writing muscles and wants a “coach” to help them get to there. Whether you’re aiming at a mainstream publisher or going the independent route (e.g., self-publishing), good writing is fundamental to getting noticed. Beginning writers are more likely to need line-by-line editing, whereas seasoned writers may only need feedback on pacing, organization, and missed opportunities in the text.
Who shouldn’t hire a developmental editor? It’s usually over-kill for people working on personal projects, like a family history, or works aimed at a very narrow audience. Developmental editing is definitely not appropriate for anyone who can’t take criticism.
The author needs to do some soul searching and decide what his goals are, if those goals are realistic, and what he needs to reach them. If your goals could be furthered through developmental editing, then shop around and find an editor who speaks your language.
How subjective is developmental editing?
The obviously right and egregiously wrong parts of your book will be noticed by everybody – from your mother to your writer’s group to the agent you’re pitching. The devil is in the details between those two extremes, and there are few people outside the editorial profession who can help you sift through the millions of choices you have to make to swing the pendulum in your favor. Developmental editing is a conversation between the writer and editor, who each have experiences and perceptions of the craft and the audience that influence their opinions. A lot of that is subjective. A good developmental editor should always be able to give you a clear reason for her opinions, so that you can make your own decisions. The bottom line is, choose an editor whose opinions you trust.
If it’s all subjective, how is developmental editing going to help me get my book published?
It may not. There are no guarantees. I’d be extremely wary of any editor claiming to be able to get you published. It just doesn’t work that way. The market is fluky, agents and acquisitions editors are saturated with low quality work, and even with all the dedication in the world, sometimes the best work takes a very long time to get noticed. Again, you’ve got to ask yourself why you write and what you expect to get out of it. Hiring an editor is a personal decision. If you find a great editor, the outcomes could be: At best, that your manuscript is vastly improved and has a better chance of getting noticed; at worst, that you spend some time and money working with a professional who wants you to become a better writer.
What are the pros and cons of getting line by line or page by page developmental editing vs. an overall look?
Every story is moved along by the words on the page – the choice of words, tone of sentences, order of paragraphs and so on. You can’t address big picture problems without making line-level changes. Some writers are very clear about the mechanics of how to implement big suggestions. Others need to see examples of how to make improvements. After the initial round of sample reading and edits, the author and editor will work out the level that’s right for that particular project.
When should authors hire a freelance editor?
Developmental editing can be helpful at all stages of the writing process. At the beginning, when you’ve got an idea and want to figure out where to start, how to organize the work, what style to use, and who your audience is. In the middle, when you’ve gotten stuck and need help getting out of the weeds and back on track.
Usually, though, writers contact me after they’ve taken the manuscript as far as they can on their own. This might be after finishing the first complete draft, or it might be after they’ve pitched the book and been rejected. The important thing is to understand that the outcome of developmental editing is that the writer will go back to the page and do more work. If you’re not at a place where you’re really ready to roll up your sleeves and rework parts, or maybe all, of a manuscript, then you’re probably not in the right state of mind for late-stage developmental editing.
What should authors look for when researching freelance editors? How should authors check freelance editor backgrounds? How do they know who to trust?
Look for professionalism, from their website content to the way they handle communications with you. Look for someone who is very clear and specific in their feedback. Look for someone who sincerely loves working with writers.
Once you’ve found a few editors you’re interested in, then contact them and start a conversation to see if their skills and interests are a good fit and would help you further your goals. Ask for references, these can include clients or other industry professionals. Trust your gut.
How does your process differ with authors seeking self-publication?
In terms of the level of quality I bring to the work, there’s no difference. There may be differences in the writer’s objectives, though, and we would tune the process to reflect that, e.g., the size and nature of the target audience the writer is trying to reach.
The following questions were submitted by readers:
Is developmental editing more or less important in the self-publishing world?
Raw talent is a wonderful thing, but it rarely sells books all by itself. I think developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading are equally important steps regardless of the publication route a writer pursues. These professional services (not to mention typesetting, design, and marketing) make authors look better, help sell books, and make readers feel like they are spending their time with a work of quality. What makes self-publishing a challenge for most authors is that they have to wear all these other hats, and that takes time away from writing. For some people though, that amount of input and control is just what they want.
E-publishing tools, like blogs, can make anyone a published author over night. That makes for a very noisy marketplace, and readers need cues to help them hone in on a quality signal. Those cues are often great cover art and a first page full of polished, engaging prose.
Self-publishing sensation Amanda Hocking’s work became so popular that she reportedly made $2 million on her e-books before St. Martin’s Press picked up her next four books for another $2 million. Her advice for aspiring writers? “Write a lot, and read more than you write. Learn to take criticism. Edit a lot, and find a good editor.”
When the onus and cost of paying a developmental editor falls on a writer who may never see that money back in their wallet once the book is released, how do you make a case for the benefit of your services?
Each writer needs to look at their goals realistically and decide whether editing holds enough value for them. If you do a straight cost-benefit analysis of editorial fees vs. book sales, for most people the numbers don’t add up. If you look at developmental editing as an investment in you becoming a better writer, then the cost of editing is not much different from attending a writers’ conference, taking writing classes, or purchasing a new computer to write on. The real value of developmental editing is getting one-on-one attention and professional expertise tailored to your particular needs. It’s up to the author to decide what that’s worth to him.
What role beyond focused literary advisement might an editor play in the game of self publishing?
Some editors offer a wide range of services beyond the manuscript stage. As an example, I have experience in many other parts of the book production process, including design and e-publishing. I’ve also worked in the social networking space and can assist authors with their marketing plans.
How do you ‘tune’ your editing to an author’s project, so that your suggestions advance her/his goals rather than your own goals or ideas about ‘good’ or ‘marketable’ fiction?
It’s a process. I ask a lot of questions and get feedback from the writer. My mission as an editor is to help you understand what you want to achieve and then break down the steps to get there. Ideally, I teach you to be a better self-editor as well.
What do you do when an author’s ideas about what their project needs differ so sharply from yours that you believe the author is ‘out of touch with reality’ with respect to how her/his manuscript aligns to her/his goals?
I take as much care in selecting clients as I hope they take in selecting me, and I ask a lot of questions up front to try to surface any irreconcilable differences. If we’re well aligned at the outset and encounter a big difference of opinion later on, then we do our best to hash it out. We might seek second opinions, sleep on it, test different approaches, whatever is going to help the author move forward. If I think I can no longer be useful to the author, I’ll suggest we find an equitable way to terminate the work.
As a writer and/or an editor, which excites you more—the traditional publishing market or the emerging self-publishing market? Why?
My hopes are high for both parts of the industry. Traditional publishing is adapting, albeit slowly, to new technology and a changed marketplace. And independent publishers, including self-publishers, have great tools to help them compete for readers’ attention. My sense is that more and more serious authors will independently publish their work, and, thinking of themselves as publishers as well as writers, they’ll approach the process with an increasing level of professionalism. It’s an exciting time. Writers have more choices than ever, and more responsibility for guiding their own careers.
Summary – Via Amazon!
Publication Date: January 10, 1999
“A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.
Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.”
Guess what? The book is better than the movie! Big shocker! Although lately I’ve heard several individuals say they preferred a movie to a book, and I’ve even had one incident with this phenomenon myself although I won’t say which book and movie. I’ll save that for another review.
Nevertheless, Memoirs of A Geisha is one of the few incidences where the movie is almost just as good as the book. So let’s start with the film. This is truly one of my favorite movies of all time. I love Japanese culture but most Japanese/Chinese movies are martial arts focused, which is fine. I still like those movies, but I really found it to be a breath of fresh air to have a dramatic/romantic Japanese film for once. Also it’s in English, which although the Japanese language is beautiful, if I’m watching a movie instead of reading a book, it probably means I’m feeling too lazy to read subtitles. Additionally, the movie was absolutely beautiful to the eye and the culture and life of a Geisha is so interesting, the movie really grips you.
The book, however, was just a dazzling masterpiece! Arthur Golden did a fabulous job of portraying a world of women and a world that so dramatically changed in response to WWII. I especially loved the author’s detailed descriptions of the kimonos and Japanese food. These descriptions really brought the world to life and made it so colorful and sweet. I loved this technique so much, I emulated it in my own novel.
The story of course is also breathtaking and just so enjoyable to read. You can’t help but fall in love with the characters as well and want to know more about them or just what they will do next. This is one of those books that keeps you engaged and enriched on every page and all you want to do is stay up to 2 a.m. to get a little more reading in.
I believe in seeing movies before reading the books in order to get full enjoyment. Like so many good books, after reading this one, the movie just wasn’t enough anymore. Nevertheless, I didn’t stop loving the movie and after some time was able to watch it fully engrossed with the added pleasure of being able to think about what happened in this or that scene in the book. Always a pleasure.
I give Memoirs of A Geisha five sweet sticky rice balls. Nummy!
Buy the book or movie at http://www.amazon.com/Memoirs-Geisha-Novel-Arthur-Golden/dp/0679781587.
I review The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier. Buy at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Guide-Self-Publishing-Everything/dp/1582977186/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333235078&sr=8-1.
I just finished reading Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen and I am just in love with this book. Set in present day Bald Slope Mountain, although I’m not sure if that is a real place, The Sugar Queen is about a sad and repressed debutant Josey Cirrini, who is known by everyone in town as having been the worst child ever and who secretly spends all her time hiding in her closet eating hidden sweets and reading travel magazines and romance novels. Josey’s spoiled and bitter mother still holds Josey’s childhood tantrums against her. Her mother thinks herself lucky to have had such an ugly child who would never get married or leave but would take care of her until the day she dies.
Josey feels indebted to her mother and has no intentions of ever changing anything until a local waitress and wild woman named Della Lee Baker stashes away in Josey’s secret closet claiming she’s hiding out from someone until she can escape up North. Della Lee forces Josey to change her routine, which leads to far more exciting exchanges with her secret crush and sparks a new friendship with a girl named Chloe
Chloe Finley is running away – not only from her love life after her boyfriend cheats on her – but more so she is running away from books. Books that form from thin air tailored to her current needs, something that has been happening since she was a child. At the moment the self help title “Finding Forgiveness” keeps hounding her.
Eventually, Josey is closer to her secret desires of love, freedom, and happiness than ever before when she discovers, she, Chloe and Della Lee are more connected than she could have ever imagined.
I really, really enjoyed this book. The writing is clever and includes cute references to sweets, which I thoroughly enjoyed having a bit of a sweet tooth myself. The plot kept you involved and it didn’t wane at any point, which I really don’t like if it wanes in the middle. It also took off fairly quickly. A friend once told me you should give a book 50 pages, but if I’m not hooked in the first couple of pages, I get pretty irritated. The story took off within the first 5 pages and kept me engaged throughout. The ending was satisfying too.
I really enjoyed the magical realism and especially Chloe, the girl who is hounded by books. Chloe also has the ability to make water boil and eggs cook in their cartons when her passionate love is nearby. The magical realism is coupled with superstitions the town prescribes to, like putting peppermint oil on the windows to keep away unwanted guests.
I also really enjoyed the characterization of all the characters. People have these magical qualities that aren’t quite guaranteed magic – they might just be the rumors and silly notions found in small towns. For example, there’s a family whose men always have piercing green eyes that draw you in and make it so you cannot say no. There’s a man whose looks are so beautiful women turn to putty around him. And another family who cannot break promises. These little magical characteristics also play a role in plot and subplot. Really enjoyable.
This is one of those books that you get to bed early to read. It’s one of those books that makes you feel happy, read really fast, then sad when you finish because it’s over.
The only thing that might get some people is that it is kind of predictable, but I found it to be that kind of predictable that makes you read faster to find out if your right, so not bad predictable. There were also some predictions I had that weren’t right, so maybe it’s not that predictable. ??? I guess you’ll have to decide that one on your own.
Probably the only complaint I have is with the cover, which shows a little girl hugging a piece of peppermint candy, which suggests a completely different book than what this is. There is however a second cover with a grown woman looking out her window with a book nearby, which fits the book better, but still doesn’t make much sense as the woman shown looks more like the secondary protagonist, Chloe, than it looks like Josey. And neither cover really makes any reference to the really unique aspects of this book, like a secret closet, or a woman hiding in that closet, or a seriously lucky red sweater, books that appear from nowhere, etc. Covers, just a little pet peeve of mine I guess.
I give The Sugar Queen five Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (That’s the highest candy rating there is!)
The Sugar Queen on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0553384848/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img
I write historical fiction with a touch of magical realism, similar to that seen in The Sugar Queen. Please check out my website, blog, and vlog at www.stephaniecarroll.net or visit my blog directly at http://penguins-and-nonsense.blogspot.com Or find www.stephaniecarroll.net or visit my blog directly at http://penguins-and-nonsense.blogspot.com Or find me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads, Google+ and on Pinterest.
1. I wish I hadn’t stressed so much.
a. Let’s get this one out of the way because it’s one of those obvious and often useless pieces of advice. Prior to going to this conference, I read not to stress out but nothing was going to prevent that, so here’s what I have to say. Try to remember that when it’s all over you will think you wish you didn’t stress it so much so it’s not going to be as bad as what you’re stressing. At the same time, don’t stress your stressing. Just try to roll with it as much as you can. But be prepared to stress and bring some help like Vitamin C, a sleep aid, headache medicine, food, Abreva, etc.
b. However, a warning about stressing it. I was stressing it so much, I was having an adrenaline rush for the first 5 hours and it really burned me out for the next day.
c. Also, the one thing I was really stressing was meeting agents and when I couldn’t find any to talk to or meet, I started to really flip out so when I did finally meet one, I talked her head off and felt pretty dumb afterwards. If you stress too much, it will show.
photo ©2008 bottled_void, Flickr
22. I wish I volunteered.
a. First thing I learned when I got there was volunteers get to sit in the classes for free. Sure you won’t get the full conference experience but you will get to do many classes for free, meet lots of other writers who are volunteering and coordinators who are usually people in the business. I’m really happy that I paid for the first one and got to have the full conference experience but it was uber expensive, so in the future I’m volunteering and doing this thing for free.
33. I wish I had better prepared for Obama.
a. So Obama was speaking at the Masonic center right next to the conference hotel. The conference coordinators told us to be prepared for the street to be closed to traffic so I made sure to arrive a good hour and a half early. The street was to open back up around the time the conference that day ended but what I didn’t realize was that I parked in the same lot as the place the president was at, so it was all blocked off, and I didn’t get to leave for a couple hours after the conference ended. Why is that a big deal? I hadn’t checked into my hotel yet, the next day the conference started early, I still needed to shower, I was hungry and exhausted, and it was midnight.
photo ©2009 Ben Stanfield, Flickr
44. I wish I called and cleared up parking with my hotel.
a. So after the Obama fiasco, I set out to drive back to my hotel and like an idiot, I didn’t print out directions to my hotel, just from my hotel to the conference hotel. Just follow the directions backwards right? Wrong, ONE WAY STREETS. Plus in San Francisco they have NO TURN signs everywhere so I kept getting close to my hotel but then I couldn’t turn! Even worse when I finally did get on the hotel street I couldn’t figure out where the parking was or turn around or figure out how to get back. I had to call the hotel from my car in tears telling them I couldn’t find their parking lot, and they informed me, they did valet parking only. Oh.
55. I wish I had brought a larger variety of food and got food on the first day.
photo ©2010 Steven Depolo, Flickr
a. I was so nervous on the first day, I never stopped to eat on the drive up. I had this impression that if I got hungry one of the hotels I was at, either the conference or my hotel, would have snacks or a café available particularly because the conference mentioned a café in the brochure. Turns out nope. The restaurant at the conference hotel was wicked expensive and the café only served coffee. I didn’t even get to my hotel until midnight, and they didn’t have anything either. I don’t even remember a vending machine. All I had to eat on that first day was granola bars. I brought tons and tons of granola bars for snacks along with some string cheese, apples and bananas. I had a banana but the apples turned out too difficult to pull off in public. When I woke up the next day, I swear I had lost weight.
66. I wish I didn’t waste my time hunting down agents like game hens.
a. When I first arrived, I intended to find every agent and editor I could and talk to them prior to the agent speed dating. The first day, none were in sight, but on day two there was a social mixer. Myself and other conference attendees saw this as the opportunity to talk to industry professionals and everyone squished into this teeny tiny room with some hors d’oeuvres and two drink tickets and the hunt was on. Problem was agents and editors aren’t stupid, and they didn’t want to get attacked in a crowded little room so almost none came. I turned down an offer to go to dinner with a writer I met and circled the room like a vulture only to end up disappointed and hungry at the end.
photo ©2010 Ryan Somma, Flickr
I did happen to meet one agent that night. It was at the very end when I had given up and slumped down at a table with a couple writers I knew. I introduced myself to someone I didn’t know and long behold the woman was an agent who represented historical women’s fiction. I effectively gave my pitch, and she responded well then asked another question about the book, but without any more memorized lines, my excitement overwhelmed me, and I just spewed out all this information about my book which is not what you are supposed to do. It was embarrassing and unnecessary because I had plenty of time during the pitch sessions and could have talked to her then without the extra time word vomit all over the place.
77. I wish I took pictures throughout for my blog.
a. I’ve done all these blogs on the conference, and I don’t have any pictures from the conference. I could have taken them and used them here!
88. I wish I didn’t have certain preconceived notions.
a. I did a lot of research on the conference before I went and read a lot of blogs like this one getting tips and ideas, but I also got a lot of personal experiences from the bloggers. As I’m sure you’ve gotten from me. There are good experiences and bad experiences, anecdotes, and plain old good and bad luck. When I went to the conference these were all swirling around my head, so I had a lot of expectations that turned out to be wrong. So for your benefit here is my wrong expectation list:
i. There are going to be agents everywhere, I’m going to talk with all of them, and land one. WRONG.
photo ©2009 Jack Zalium, Flickr
ii. When you pitch to an agent all you are doing is asking permission to send them a query, which you could do without their permission. WRONG. You can do it without their permission sometimes, but you don’t get that we met factor. Plus a lot of agents that frequent conferences either give preference or only accept queries from conference goers.
iii. All I’m going to meet is freaks and crazy people who think they are writers. There will only be a select few who are at a higher level. WRONG. Almost everyone will have fantastic ideas and amazing books. There will only be one or two crazies. Crazies can rarely afford this kind of thing.
You’re not going to meet a bunch of nuts - photo ©2008 *~Dawn~*, Flickr
iv. This is either going to be really great or a complete waste of time. WRONG. There were classes and experiences that were awesome and others that I left early because they were a waste, but that’s just me. The same classes may have been awesome for others. These things are so big, some of it will be great and some won’t. It’s for people of all levels so just do your best to stick with what’s at your level.
v. I won’t get caught up and I’ll keep my head on straight. WRONG. Midway through day two, I was starting to lose it. I was losing my confidence. I started thinking I couldn’t get an agent, I couldn’t get published, I wasn’t good enough, this is all a huge waste of money, etc. How did I get out of this funk? First off, I recognized that I was in it and tried to give myself a break – I relaxed and reminded myself what I was getting and benefiting from. Think happy thoughts. I let myself go out to eat that night and get to bed early. I also talked to people and admitted I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and it turns out so were they. That was comforting. I wasn’t alone. Think about this ahead of time, what could you do for yourself to help you get out of a funk?
Keep Your Head on Straight! - photo ©2011 Ted, Flickr
vi. This is all about meeting an agent not about meeting other writers. DEAD WRONG. The most important thing you will gain from this experience is connections with other writers. Not only are you making contacts with people who can support you, give you advice and ideas or even reading feedback, but maybe one day can help you when they get published with a blurb or something. The most valuable thing I left the conference with was a bag full of business cards and an invite to a writers’ group that I absolutely love.
I hope some of this was helpful. Please send me any questions or comments via email or the comments feature on this blog.
From Harper’s Bazar, October 1890.