Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Answering a Conference Question

I'm tired today. I've been getting up early a couple days a week to drive my niece to Kindergarten. It doesn't help that I've found it hard to stay on task of late. I probably need a vacation. How about the Mall of America? I hope to get over there next Wednesday evening after flying into Minneapolis. Anyone else want to check it out with me?

Since I'm not feeling creative today, I've dug into your questions and found this one.
How beneficial is it for an unpublished author to go, from an editor's standpoint? We've all heard of the slush pile. If you meet someone at a conference and like their pitch, how much could that potentially speed up the process of getting the mss read? If a mss [manuscript] isn't finished, is it much less effective to go?
Thanks. Cathy S.
Well, I would say that the unpublished authors can get the most benefit from a writer's conference like ACFW for these reasons:

1) You are not alone. Writers tend to feel they are odd ducks in the world. A conference lets you meet and fellowship with others who think weird thoughts like "how can I have a guy break his leg?" or "what decade of the 1800s is most fitting for my heroine?"

2) You network. At conference you can meet a friend who shares your passion for a certain type of research and you can swap notes, books, web bookmarks, etc. You can also meet a critique partner, a brainstorming partner, a copy editor, a proofer, an agent, a publishing house editor, and many others who can help you with your writing and increase the likelihood it will be published. Networking also includes other things like prayer partners, which is invaluable for any author.

3) Inspiration. Everywhere you turn at a conference there is potential to hear something that will inspire you from another author's testimony about life in general, to a worship song, to a prayer, to a lunch table topic, to an elevator conversation -- not to mention all the planned class presentations available to you.

Now, I am the introverted editor type (I've barely said hi to any coworkers today for whatever reason) and thinking about a long weekend conference already has me feeling tired, but I go because all of the 3 things above apply to me too. I need the fellowship with others in this crazy business. I need the networking so I can do my job to its best. And I need inspiration to keep me going too.

I'm learning to be more discerning about what manuscripts I'll ask to have sent to me so I don't needlessly waste the the author's or my time. Then when I get home my proposal piles are prioritized by 1) authors I'm already working with, 2) authors represented by my agent friends, 3) authors I've met through conference, and 4) authors coming in through unsolicited means. Publishing spots are limited and my time is pressed. So my response time really varies from priorities 1 to 4.

Publishing is all about timing. If I meet you next weekend and you have just the right story that is fresh and appealing to me, I could find a way to get that contracted and slotted for publication within say 3 months. BUT, I could also meet you, really enjoy your personality and writing style, but not find a story idea from you that currently meets our needs. Then we'll stay in touch, seeing each other again at one or more conferences, until one day you have a new or reworked idea that will suddenly fit my current needs. So it is all foremost in the timing God has for the author and secondly in the timing that is right for the publisher's current market (which can change every 6 months or so).

And your last question: If you present me a story idea at conference that I really like, then I'm going to want to read it while my memories of our meeting and my first impressions about your idea are still fresh. You should be able to send it to me no longer than 3-4 weeks after meeting. Any longer than that I'll likely have forgotten much about our meeting and won't have the same drive to dig in and read your manuscript. Sorry, but it is a fact of the editor's nature.

I feel like I've rambled and let this go too long to make up for missing blog day last week, but I hope something here helps and inspires.

Hope to see many of you next week.


Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks for sharing this, Becky. It's helpful to have an inside look at how you choose your books and how effective it is to pitch at a conference.

I'll be at the conf. by Wednesday afternoon. If you'd like to hang with another introvert, meet me in a corner--behind the plant.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Becky. I'm slow today because I'm at Husker Harvest Days. Interesting experience and, if my head doesn't explode before then, I may write a blog or two about it it. :)

I have realized that in farming these days EVERYTHING IS HUGE We have an eight row combine, that means it cuts through eight corn rows at a time. I've been staring at combines so huge I couldn't count how many rows. I'd guess at least 16.

I know, I'll shut up. Not all that interesting to the non-farmer world. :)

Mary Connealy said...

See you at conference. I expect next week to be a lot more fun.
Although before my daily speech there's a cowboy poet, this guy is hilarious, seriously.

Like Will Rogers probably only even more horse/cattle jokes, all rhyming.

Lynette Sowell said...

Oh, Becky, to think this introvert was SO nervous the first time I ever met you in person years ago in Houston. I'm looking forward to conference, seeing everyone, enjoying the workshops, going to the Mall! I won't arrive until Thursday.

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Becky,
Thanks for the sharing your thoughts about the value of going to the conference. I totally agree. I am always inspired and motivate by my time with so many people who love the Lord and writing.

I will look forward to seeing you at Underwater Adventures and hopefully a meal.


CatMom said...

Hello Becky!
Thanks for your post a fairly new writer who's attending ACFW conference for the first time, your words were very helpful to me. (Actually, this is my very first writing conference ever!) ~ And I hope going to the Mall of America gives you the "lift" you need-LOL!
Patti Jo Moore
(from Georgia)

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Becky, thanks for your thoughts about conferences. I'd also like to add that writers' conferences have been extremely important in my career. My first two book sales were a direct result from writing conferences. Plus, I made some awesome friends! It's really great to be around like-minded individuals! :-)

Jennifer Johnson said...

Hey Becky,

I'd love to go to the mall. I'm planning to head over that at some point as well, as I'll be arriving in Minneapolis early afternoon on Wednesday. :-D

Jennifer Johnson

Cathy S. said...


Thank you for answering my question. I don't think you rambled at all and find everything you've said extremely helpful. :)

Cathy S.

Terri Tiffany said...

Thanks for some honest and very useful information! Wish I'd gone to the conference-- sounds like it was wondeful! Maybe next year!