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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The SDSU Writers' Conference

I attended the San Diego State University Writers' Conference this past weekend, and it was a whirlwind of hand-shaking, lecture, and activity I shall not soon forget.  After a Saturday morning sit-down appointment with Deb Werksman of Tor Books, I had lunch at the YA table, where I met fellow writer Rich Howard and literary agents Kathleen Anderson and Kevan Lyon of Anderson Literary Management and Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, respectively.  What a joy to be a fly on the wall for the conversations going on at that table!   Further, to learn from each agent at and take copious notes on their lectures, and to spend some time just plain chatting with other writers - particularly Rich, as we write in a similar genre and have an oddly similar spiritual sense in our respective works.

Having had relatively little experience with the publishing industry prior to this conference, I feel I walked away well-educated.  There are some main points for new writers I gleaned that I'd like to share; some pertain to YA writers, some to romance writers, most to newbies, so if they don't pertain to you, skip to the end, why dontcha?

  1. BIGGEST SHOCKER:  Don't expect to make any money.  Ever.  Period.  Why?  If you receive an advance on your manuscript, it's incredibly likely you WON'T earn it back again through your book sales.  So that your book WILL sell (and if it doesn't, so long, future publishing deals!), you will be expected to market the heck out of yourself...and use your advance to do it, whether that means hiring a marketing firm to arrange for publicity, paying for your airfare and accommodations at book signings and other venues, or any other myriad marketing-related items.  If you want to be published, it should be because you are dying to be published, NOT because you think it'll actually get you anywhere.
  2. You suck.  Badly.  You can always get better, but more than likely, you just plain stink.  That said, like our Sunday morning keynote speaker told us, a little bit of talent and a lot of drive will get you a whole lot farther than a lot of talent but no dedication.  Thank God for that.
  3. You have about a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting published.  It's a really rough world for writing right now, and the economy is killer.  And even if you DO get published, refer to #1.
  4. Self-publishing - particularly for those of us whose writing falls somewhere between YA and Adult, or those who are willing to work really hard at self-promotion (which, refer to #1, you will be expected to do anyway!) - is really not all that bad a way to go.  Unless you're darned and determined to be published by a publishing house.  In which case, self-publishing is like shooting yourself in the foot.  With an uzzi.
Discouraging?  For some, I'm sure.  For me?  Well, it was at first.  In fact, after my editor sit-down I went and had a good cry in the bathroom.  After that, though, and some well-timed words from half a dozen kind souls I met at the conference (particularly Rich - thank you again, sir!), I left eager, determined, excited, optimistic, and ready to leap into the fray and create a platform.  (Which means, of course, my writing [outside of revision] is on hold for now...but that's not necessarily a bad thing!)

And if there was anything, anything at all that I took away from the SDSU Writers' Conference that was of inherent value, it was this:  The reminder that we writers write not to make a buck, not because we love to stare at a blank computer screen and torture ourselves, not because are thrilled at the prospect of suffering through another revision, but because we must.  Albeit decidedly egotistical, we have something to say that we want the world to idea to share, a story to tell, characters to bring to life.

I have a story to tell...a story about a girl and her guardian angel, Soulmates separated centuries ago desperate to find one another.  A heroine who sees Halflifes and is being hunted by Unholies, and a hero who wants nothing more to become a Fallen fall for the love of his eternities.  I love that story.  I love Jude, peculiar as she is, and I am in love with Sam, imperfect as he is.

So I will keep writing.

Thanks, SDSU...I needed that.

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