Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

Posts tagged ‘Bob Mayer’

As a writer you have less competition than you think

Attending two writing conferences this year,  I was surrounded by nearly 3,000 writers altogether. At such events, it’s easy to think that everybody in the world is writing or wants to be. To a new writer, this can be discouraging, making you feel as if the odds are well and truly stacked against your success.

What will be the secret of your success?

The reality can be very different. Many times I’ve been told  that I’m the first writer someone has met.  With so many of my friends involved in the publishing world, that can seem unlikely. Yet the truth is, like any creative artist, we writers are relatively rare. I was given evidence of this while working with a charismatic editor at Mills & Boon, Luigi Bonomi, one of the few male editors in the romance field. He went on to found http://www.bonomiassociates.co.uk/ a successful literary agency. I urge you to check his website if you’re interested in submitting material to the UK. Click on submission guide and authors to see the kind of writers and material the agency handles. While Luigi was visiting Australia, I asked him about a statistic I’d heard many times – that Harlequin Mills & Boon in London received something like 4,000 manuscript submissions a year, and were doing well to accept 10. Luigi soon put these daunting odds into perspective by pointing out that the total included poetry, war memoirs and a great deal of other material the company did not handle. Removing them from the statistic left a much smaller “slush pile” of books and the odds suddenly became much more attractive.

But publishers don’t deal in odds. They deal in individual books and authors and they say over and over that they don’t want clones of the authors they already publish. They want fresh new voices with something new to say, even in a tried and true field like romance. This means you’re only competing with one person – you. By submitting a story that you’re passionate about, written with skill and care, and submitted to the publisher most interested in what you write ie no war memoirs to HM&B, you greatly improve your chances of success.

The other statistic leaving me gobsmacked was quoted by Bob Mayer at the Romance Writers of Australia conference. Bob said that 90% of pitch requests are not followed up. In other words, if you make an appointment with an editor or agent to “pitch” (sell in a few words) your writing project, and the agent or editor asks you to send them a full or partial manuscript, if you follow through you’ll be in the tiny 10 per cent of writers who do.  These days, with more small presses and online publishing opportunities, there’s no need to fear the odds. It’s far more important to write and keep writing so that when you do sell, you have more to offer your eager readers.

You need to be like Judy Garland. When asked the secret of her success, she replied, “I practiced when the others had all gone.” What can you do or are you doing to improve your own chance of success?

Valerie

Advertisements

Hope: the takeaway from Romance Writers of Australia conference

Over the last few days, 350 writers headed home either to parts of Melbourne where the conference was held, to other states, other countries and some across the pond to New Zealand to do it all over again there. As someone put it, the recent snowstorms across NZ  made Melbourne look like Hawaii.

Judging by posts on Facebook and Twitter, the 20th anniversary conference was a resounding success. When I tweeted that I felt like Juan Antonio at the Olympic closing ceremony, declaring RWA Melbourne 2011 the best romance writing conference ever, conference guest, Bob Mayer, retweeted my message, adding “agree.” I haven’t heard any dissenting voices.

But is the memory of a grand time all we take home? As I posted previously, I don’t think so. Networking was practically nonstop between writers, agents and editors. As a result of casual chats, several people I know came away with requests to submit their work, and that’s before counting those who made appointments to formally pitch their book to a specific person.

During panel discussions, two editors and an agent said they don’t normally accept unsolicited submissions. However, because you were attending the conference you could put that on your envelope and it would bypass the slush pile, the place where authors hopes and dreams go to die. Such an invitation is worth it’s weight in gold.

Melbourne, a great place to find hope

But wait, there’s more.

The most valuable takeaway from this conference is HOPE. Too many authors are buying into the negativity currently surrounding the book industry. Sure, bookstores are closing, print runs are being reduced in favour of increasing ebook production, and new pricing models are being tested. But guess what? The sky is NOT falling. Every time I heard the word “challenge” it was paired with “opportunity”. Established authors are seeing their earlier books, known as backlist, given new life as ebooks; some are doing it themselves with great success. Publishers brought a shopping list of what they DO want – Random House has seen a doubling of their commercial women’s fiction. There are openings for “an Australian Penny Vincenzi”; time travel, pirates, gay fiction, sweeping commercial novels with romantic elements, books for readers aged 40-plus, and on and on.

NYT bestselling author Bob Mayer urged us to “act rather than react” to these opportunities. “Educate yourself, make courageous choices.” And this great advice from literary agent, Kristin Nelson, “Anytime you stand still in this business, you get run over.”

Time to look at the big picture

The overriding takeaway is that writers will still write, and readers still read, only through different channels. As Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James said, “The story is your book, not the format it appears in. Story is what you hold in your hand. It’s time to see past the fear.”

Can you see past the fear to the opportunity? Are you excited yet? I am.

Valerie

 

 

 

 

Tag Cloud