The second annual Dallas Fort Worth Writers Conference was held this weekend, May 1st and 2nd, and I'll admit . . . it was my first. And it was such a great experience, I'm destined to return every year after. Hosted by DFW Writer's Workshop, in which I'm a happy member of, its keynote speaker was New York Times best selling author Bob Mayer, author of The Novel Writer's Toolkit, Who Dares Wins, Area 51 series as Robert Doherty, and many many others. The attending agents were Doris Booth of Authorlink Literary Group, Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency, Al Longden of Albert T. Longden and Associates, and Dr. Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency. There was a plethora of guest speakers ranging from both non-fiction and fiction authors with varying experience across the board in the publishing and book industry.
I took a lot away from Bob's classes, he is a great speaker using lots of visual reference to make his points clear and concrete. But today, I'm going to focus on a subject that has to do with after you've finished your manuscript and you're ready to start finding an agent. Sally Harding taught a class called "Six Things to Build Your Writing Career Now". Keep in mind, I'm paraphrasing when I'm not using the worksheet she handed out, so I'll try and get her points across as clear as she did in the class (drats at forgetting to use my digital voice recorder!)
1. Start your next book. Don't get bogged down working the same material over and over. Keep the ideas coming. It's about your career, not just this book.
OK, raise your hand if you've found yourself in this situation? Mine is up! We fall in love with our books, especially the baby--the first book. Revisions are good, but when you're just moving words around it's time to move on. Mentioning in a query you've started your second book, or next book, is a plus in Sally's eyes.
2. Learn about the industry. Know how it works so you know what it looks for and how to work well within it.
I have mommy brain, and I'm really regretting having not used my voice recorder, but if memory serves me (which it usually doesn't) I believe this is when she mentioned knowing how publishing houses work, and what process a book must go through to get published. First, we all know, there is the editor. Once the agent has snagged the editor's interest, it isn't a done deal. That editor has to then persuade the other editor's at the house to back it up. Then, there's another test your book has to pass: acquisitions. Even if the editor's are rooting for your book, if in acquisitions they can't find a way to market it, etc., it falls through.
Also, have ideas ready for how to promote your book, this can certainly help in the acquisitions process, have a website/blog, work on building your platform, and then #3 . . .
3. Get to know the industry professionals within your reach.
You may not be published yet, but that shouldn't stop you from getting to know your local book reviewer in your city paper, make connections (Twitter is great for this, and the internet in general) with other professionals that may end up reviewing your book, interview you (be it radio like NPR or online) or even blurb you (assuming they are blurb-worthy, like a NYT bestseller, or award winning author).
These are the first 3 things Sally mentioned, I will go into the rest in another blog post (my three year old is demanding my attention now and I have a killer headache). In general, know your story, know yourself. Have a 250 word bio ready about yourself, a 250 word description of your book (hello query letter plot), and know your market, industry professionals, and have ideas of ways to promote your book. Being an author isn't just about writing a story. It's also about being able to promote and sell it, because come on, not all of us can be the John Grisham's and Stephanie Meyer's of the world. While it's great to hope for such an outcome, a realistic approach is to be ready to push your book into every outlet available for the best chances of success.