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Posts tagged ‘slush pile’

First Monday Mentoring Sept 2016 – As a writer, do you have the courage to succeed?

Nearly all writers seem to be born with the storytelling gene.  Most successful writers I know were spinning stories for their own amusement, for siblings, or to entertain classmates from an early age.

I was writing entries for the children’s pages of the Sunday papers before I knew what a writer was. I thought everybody made up stories. Getting an article accepted by the Australian Women’s Weekly at age fourteen felt normal, my kind anyway.

Fast forward to the present and I’m attending the 2016 national conference of Romance Writers of Australia along with four hundred of my closest friends, where they honoured me with Lifetime Membership.

I know now that not everyone can make up stories, far less get them published. Many try again and again for years without success.

Others put themselves through the ordeal of the pitch – when you give an editor or agent a verbal synopsis of your book in a five- to ten-minute time slot. Yes means an invitation to send them the whole manuscript or sample chapters. No means, sorry it’s not for them.

Either way, you fast-track a response, bypass the “slush pile” of unsolicited submissions, and sometimes strike publishing gold as many writers did at the RWA Conference.

All good so far.

Until you discover that fewer than half the writers pitching their stories and being invited to send material to the editor or agent actually do so.

What’s at the root of this curious statistic? IMO fear. Pure and simple cold feet.

funny-pictures-your-cat-rises-but-will-not-shine

I’ve heard of this from editors who suggest changes to a book only to have the author disappear without trace.

The manuscript vanishes into a bottom drawer or a digital cloud; the author obviously unaware that changes are only suggested when the editor sees potential in the work. Even if you plan to self-publish, by not following through, you lose a golden opportunity to have your work professionally appraised for free.

This is where courage comes in. You’ve jumped one hurdle by applying for a pitch appointment. You’ve prepared your material until you know it by heart. You’ve timed yourself so your pitch takes up only two thirds of the available time, allowing the editor or agent to ask questions.

All these steps take courage. At conferences, I’ve seen writers shaking as they awaited their appointments. It may help to know that the editors and agents are often as much on edge as you. They want to help you realize your dreams by finding the Next Big Book for their houses.  They’re pulling for you to succeed.

cat unstoppable

The saying goes that courage is doing what you are afraid to do.

Knowing this, you can expect a last-minute rush of nerves, telling yourself to feel the fear and go ahead in spite of that.

You can resist the temptation to tell the agent or editor how nervous you feel. This will only make you feel worse.

Far better to plunge ahead as if you had all the confidence in the world. Share the story you want them to love as much as you do. Your passion will be infectious.

Before pitching, have the manuscript largely or completely finished If the answer is yes, you can use the time before submission to polish your work, rather than rushing to a finish line.

Often, having the courage to write is only the beginning. The real test comes when you pitch your work and someone says yes.

Minions take over world

Will you be among the writers filing their manuscripts into the digital cloud because you fear taking the next step?

Or will you be among the fifty per cent boldly following your dream, step by step, until you hold your book in your hand or admire it on your ereader.

Then when someone asks what you do, you can confidently say, “I’m an author.”

What does courage mean to you? Is it writing the book, selling it, telling others about it? Share your comments in the box below. They are moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your comment appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at left. I don’t share your details with anyone

Happy (and brave) writing.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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Make the post-conference buzz work for your writing

The Romance Writers of Australia national conference is over for 2012. All who attended agree it was, like the Olympics, the “best games ever”. That is until Fremantle 2013 comes along and blows our minds. Judging by the trailer screened at this year’s close, exciting times lie ahead.

But what about the year in between?

How will the post-conference buzz benefit your writing?

First, accept that a writers’ conference is not a social event. Sure, we had fun, we met friends, we talked, laughed, ate, drank and loved the party atmosphere. But you don’t go there TO party. You go to learn from the best, meet publishers, editors, agents and expand professional horizons. Apart from the typo in the caption, the LOLcat here has the right idea.

I came home with at least one publisher keen to read a book I haven’t written yet.  Two others want to talk to my agent. How about you? If you pitched a book (met an agent or editor to discuss what you want to send them), how soon will that work be on their desk? Marked “requested material” so you bypass the slush pile. One editor says that of ten writers she invites to submit to her, perhaps three follow through.

Make sure you’re one of those three.

Second, apply what you learned. Another statistic says that only one in ten conference attendees ever look at their handout notes again.

Be the one in ten.

As soon as you can, go through the mountain of paper. Put the useful stuff into a folder for quick reference. Type up hand-written notes and add them. Sort business cards. If you want to keep in touch, email within a couple of days about how you enjoyed their workshop/meeting them/your coffee chat and you’d like to be on their mailing list. Be brief, friendly and businesslike. If necessary, remind them of what you discussed. “Thank you for asking to see my paranormal romance about the blue aliens  who turn orange after sex. I will send you the requested material by X date.”

Then deliver on your self-imposed deadline.

Keynote speaker, Eloisa James, said that editors and agents are business associates even if they become friends over time. She also said that men don’t talk about being “lucky” to get a job, any more than we’re lucky when a publisher buys our work. They do it for their business, as should we. “Books of the heart” are luxuries, according to Eloisa. We need to write books of the heart for our READERS to fill their keeper shelves and have them talking up our books into best-sellers. Even in the digital age, word-of-mouth is still your best sales tool.

Enjoy your post-conference buzz. I am. Then use it as designed, to progress your writing career. What’s your next move?

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

New! Writing fiction for Living magazine www.livingmagazine.com.au

First Monday Mentoring for June – your writing questions answered

It’s baaa-aack, the first Monday of every month (or the first Sunday if you’re in the northern hemisphere) when I invite you to post your writing-related questions and I’ll  answer them here. Lots of talented writers read and comment on this blog and you’re also welcome to contribute a question or your thoughts on an answer, or a writing experience that might help others.

Feel free to post writing concerns and questions, and share experiences. Questions can be posted ahead of time if you like and I will answer during Monday June 4.  I monitor the blog and post answers throughout the day.

To kick things off, here are a couple of questions I was asked during the last week.

Is it worthwhile for a writer to attend conferences?

Mostly the answer is yes,  no matter where you are in your writing journey. New writers can meet like-minded people, and make the vital discovery that you’re not alone in your struggles. A writing conference is also the best place to meet editors and agents on an informal basis, or you can sign up through the conference to pitch an idea to them. If they like the sound of your idea, they’ll ask you to send it to their publishing house or agency, and you get to put the magic words “requested material” on the package, dodging the towering slush piles.

How do you know when it’s time to give up on a particular book?

This is tough. If J K Rowling had given up after the many rejections she received, the Harry Potter books wouldn’t be household names. Rejections are part of writing life. If you receive only a form letter, it could be the publisher had no room for further books in the schedule; or they may have something similar to yours in production. If you receive specific suggestions, take that as definite encouragement. Editors don’t waste time commenting on work that’s going nowhere. If there’s something in the suggestions you can use, by all means do, but be wary of extensive rewrites unless the editor has asked to see it again. Another editor may love it as it is, or have different ideas again. Only when you receive repeated comments along similar lines – your book lacks pace; the characters aren’t believeable, or whatever, might you consider taking another look.

You can also treat the book as part of your learning curve.

Set it aside. Start something new. Later when you’re published, you may see how to rework the previous book, or use the ideas in another book.  I’ve heard many writers say they’re glad their first efforts didn’t see the light of day because they’ve grown so much as they’ve kept writing.

Got a question? Advanced or basic, I’ll do my best to answer.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence 2012, Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth WA

On Twitter @valerieparv

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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

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

 

 

 

 

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