Pub Rants

Category: Conferences & Book Fairs

Live From Seattle!

STATUS: A beautiful sunny day here in Seattle. I feel very lucky because what a lovely city.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? A crackling fire at the Doubletree is all the music I have at the moment

As I mentioned yesterday, I flew to Seattle for the Philip K. Dick Awards on behalf of my author Sara Creasy who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and couldn’t make the trip.

The awards are part of Norwescon and opening ceremonies began last night. If you are here at the convention, by all means, come an introduce yourself. I’d love to say hello.

But I’m posting this entry today to let you all know that Norwescon is live podcasting the awards ceremony.

If you want to tune in here is the url. Fingers crossed that Sara wins and you’ll see yours truly on the stage accepting the award on her behalf!

Live video by Ustream

What Not To Bring To A Pitch Session?

Status: Have glass in wine in hand, am good.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONELY NO MORE by Rob Thomas (acoustic version)


This might qualify as my oddest blog entry yet but I had something happen on Saturday that I’ve never run into before.


A writer sat down for her pitch session and not a minute later, I started sneezing.


From what I can gather, I must have been having a reaction to her perfume (which by the way was not overly strong or anything).


But during the whole session, my eyes started watering and I got the sniffles. Luckily I had a break right after and was able to pop outside to clear my head. When I returned, I was just fine for the rest of the afternoon.


So this probably wasn’t something you had thought of but you might want to forgo the perfume or strong fragrance on the day of your pitch!

Culprit: Writing Mechanics

STATUS: Was out of the office last week. Although I worked, it’s not quite the same as getting stuff done while there.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas & The Papas

This past weekend I attended the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in St. Louis and did my infamous “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the workshop where I pretend that I’m sitting in my office reading the opening two pages of a submission. In reality, this would all be done electronically and there would be no volunteer reading the entry aloud but you get the picture. In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, I’ll say “stop” if I wouldn’t have continued reading and state why. If I would have read on, we’ll hear the first 2 pages in its entirety.

I personally think this is probably the toughest workshop a writer can participate in but it’s always wildly popular. I do my best to be encouraging but brutally honest—a tough balancing act.

As I’ve given this workshop before, I can tell you several things about it:

1. I always begin with a dire warning and remind writers that they might not be ready for this. I’ve yet to have a participant withdraw an entry (and that always surprises me).
2. 99.9% of what I’ll see in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read.
3. For this workshop, only one entry made it past page 1. The majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.

Like I said, brutal.

One participant asked a great question. He asked whether all agents would agree with my assessment on when to stop or would those opinions differ given the agent.

I replied that yes, of course opinions would differ but in the case of Saturday’s seminar, I don’t think they would have. Why? The biggest culprit that made me stop reading was a lack of mastery of writing as a craft. The entries had classic beginning writer mistakes we agents often see. And this isn’t to say that the writers in this workshop couldn’t master writing as a craft—just that they hadn’t mastered it yet. I’m confident everyone in my workshop will grow and mature as a writer as they learn.

A list of the culprits? Here they are.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

The great news is all of the above are mechanics that a beginning writer can learn.

But you have to be fearless. And the only way you’ll learn it is through a strong critique that points out the issue.

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

STATUS: Supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ll make it in but I think it will be a lonely day for Chutney and I.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN by Clash

Throughout any given year, I probably give at least 10 talks or workshops at writer’s conferences or other organizations. Plus, with my background in corporate training, I have to say that my public speaking skills are exceptional. And I certainly don’t feel any anxiety or nervous anticipation before any given talk.

That is, until this Saturday. I was tapped to do a talk for area 4th and 5th graders at the CCIRA Authors Festival. (Side note: CCIRA stands for Colorado Counsel International Reading Association.) That morning, I found myself kind of nervous. What an interesting new sensation. After all, with adults, you can fudge a talk; with kids, no way. If you’re boring, they’ll let you know. I also had never given a talk to people this young.

Much to my relief, the talk went great (phew!). Here’s a pic of the 90+ elementary schoolers in attendance (with a sprinkling of adults).

I actually confided that I was nervous and told them I was counting on their questions to carry me through so please don’t let me down. And I have to say, I was blown away by them. They asked the best questions I think I’ve ever received at a talk.

Here’s a sampling of what was asked:
1) What happens if you can’t sell a book to a publisher?
2) How do you know if a writer’s idea is a good one?
3) If Hollywood has bought the film rights, does the author get a share in the profit?
4) Can you publish your book yourself or do you have to have a publisher?
5) How do you decide if the cover art is good?
6) Do publishers show animation for cover concepts?
7) What happens if more than one publisher wants the book?

There were more but this is what I can remember. I’d do a talk for that age group again in a heartbeat.

One Picture Really Can Say It All

STATUS: Today is MLK holiday! I’m only in for the morning and then heading out to do a nice hike as the weather is good here.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VALENTINE by Kina Grannis

Hey readers. Sorry about the blog silence starting on Wednesday. I had to go out of town unexpectedly for a funeral and there really was not time to write. I actually didn’t even open my computer except on the plane ride to and from.

On a MUCH lighter note. Jamie Ford attended the Pulpwood Book Queens 11th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza!

I pretty much think this picture says it all!

Jamie (on right) with Sam Barry of Rock Bottom Remainders

Need more great shots? Click here.

And if that costume wasn’t enough, we just found out on Friday that Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet made the USA Today’s Best-selling Books: The top 100 for 2010 list.

Hotel came in at #84. Huge Congrats Jamie!

For that, I’d put on an Alice and Wonderland costume….

Every Topic Under The Sun

Status: New Macbook at home is messing with the font size on blogger. I’ll keep fiddling.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SECRETS by One Republic

I’ve been blogging for four years going on five. Some days, it just feels like I’ve covered every topic there is to talk about in Publishing. Most questions we receive have already been answered once on the blog and can be found in the archives.

Seriously, some days when I’m walking Chutney to work, I’ve gotta dig deep for a blog topic. *grin* But in all my years of agenting, NLA has never given a first pages workshop. Now I’ve done an occasional one at a conference but never through the blog or the agency directly.

Which is why Sara decided to take it on! Remember when I decided to do a Writers Digest Webinar a couple of months ago? We got great feedback and participants said it was valuable.

So given the positive response, Sara decided to give a webinar she has long wanted to entitled START YOUR STORY RIGHT. And the bonus? After the webinar, you get to submit the first 3 pages of your manuscript for a critique to see if your opening pages make the cut.

When we did the query Webinar, we had over 200 participants and we read every query submitted for critique. That took hours.

I think she might be crazy but hey, if you’ve ever wanted feedback on your opening, here’s your chance!

Click here to register for Sara’s Webinar.

2010 Comic Con Pics–Take 2

And It’s not Comic Con without great costumes and terrific booth displays. Here are a couple more shots to give you a sense of the convention as a whole.

Some examples of the Booth displays!

Steampunk hat shop.

DC Comics booth

Lord of the Rings dolls. Couldn’t resist taking this shot. Wow. As you can imagine, the dolls were not inexpensive.

2010 Comic Con Pics

STATUS: 589 emails in the inbox. Yep, that sums up my day. Thank goodness it’s a holiday in New York.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GET TOGETHER by YoungBloods

As promised, pictures from comic con. Friday wasn’t even the “busy” day and it was packed.


Marianne Mancusi at entrance of the convention


Mari holds her Night School poster in the Penguin Booth. Four and half years after initial publication of the first book–Boys That Bite–the series is taking off. Last year, Penguin rebranded the covers and rereleased the first three books and then published book 4 in the series. Night School is book 5 in the series. It will release in January 2011.

Got to have the gratuitous agent/author shot in booth!

Orbit Publicist Jack Womack holding up SOULLESS paraphernalia at Orbit booth.

Nice shot of me with SOULLESS poster in background.

Close-up on the Poster.

Webinar Debrief

STATUS: Even though it’s Friday, I’ll be working late. I’m headed to New York on Sunday. Heads up that blogging might be spotty.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? STUTTER by Maroon 5

As you blog readers know, I did my very first webinar on Wednesday for Writers Digest. I thought it might be interesting to debrief it. If you participated in the seminar, I would love feedback so feel free to leave some in the comments section (and also feel free to leave the comments anonymously).

So here’s my debrief of it:

Thumbs up:
1. It’s a great way to reach a variety of writers without having to travel (and vice versa for them).

2. It was fun. I thought the webinar format was professional. There was a tech person to help me for the entire 90 minutes and even before the session began. We even did a trial run on the Tuesday before to make sure I understood how the control panel worked and how to do the Powerpoint presentation so attendees could see it.

3. From having given this seminar live, I had a good idea of what questions get asked and when so I tried to interject them during the presentation so Qs were answered as I went.

4. The question chat box was very cool. I left about 20 minutes at the end of the session to start going through them and answering them. Any I didn’t get to were given to me after the fact. I’ll answer, shoot back to the webinar tech person and she’ll distribute them out to the asking party. Very professionally done.

Thumbs neutral:
1. Nothing compares to audience interaction and there wasn’t really a good way to allow that. Usually I can gauge if the audience is “with me” for what I’m trying to explain but there is no clear way to do that in the webinar.

2. Since we were working on the pitch paragraphs for SF&F novels, it would have been fun to get one or two volunteers to submit their revised pitch so I could talk about them right then and there. If I do something like this again, I think I’ll ask how we might be able to do that.

3. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but 90 minutes felt too short. I wish I had given myself more time to answer questions. But there was a lot of info to cram into 1 hour.

Thumbs down:
I’m not sure I have any but maybe some of the attendees do. If so, feel free to share.

For my part, I do want to ask this question. This is the first time I’ve given a workshop where participants paid to attend. Now of course I’ve given workshops at conferences where attendees paid to attend the conference but they didn’t pay a separate amount to attend my particular workshop.

What do you folks think about that? Should agents give workshops like that?

TGIF!

More Maroon 5 music on iLike

Kristin Goes Webinar

STATUS: It’s really time to go home now…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IS SHE REALLY GOING OUT WITH HIM? by Joe Jackson

Should be interesting.

Sometimes I wonder how I get roped into these things! Chuck Sambuchino from Writers Digest has been bugging me for a while to come and teach a webinar for them.

I haven’t really been tempted until now. What changes is that I feel an overwhelming need to help out writers in the SF&F field. I know I’ve mentioned this before on my blog but the SF&F community has wonderful Cons that cater to fans more than to the business side of publishing. In consequence, often the writers in the SF&F realm are a little at loose ends on how to do things like write good query letter pitch blurbs for their SF&F novels. Seriously, the queries we get for this genre tend to be the weakest we see.

This is a problem we NEVER have in the romance field as RWA probably goes the other extreme in terms of educating writers!

Next month is MileCon here in Denver and sure enough, we proposed some business-y stuff and not much came of it.

So then Chuck touched base and I thought, here’s an opportunity…. Taught by yours truly.

And folks, unlike my blog, this webinar is not free—as it’s through Writers Digest but if you are interested, here are the deets. Click here for more info and to sign up.

How to Write and Sell Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels

This is an intensive workshop on the “how-to” business side of getting your science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) writing published, whether for teens or adults.

Description
We here at Nelson Literary Agency are actively looking to expand our roster of science fiction & fantasy (young adult and adult fiction) authors but frankly, the queries we receive in this genre could use some help. Our agency sees a ton of SF&F queries, for both YA and adult novels, and 90% of them sound completely generic. We can teach you how to make your novel stand out.

Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 1 year.

About the Critique & How it works
After the session, all registrants can submit their revised pitch paragraph (no more than 12 sentences) for a quick critique by Kristin Nelson. Who knows, you might even get a request for sample pages out of it.

What you’ll learn:

• How to compose your query: The top 10 reasons why most SF&F query letters fail
• How NOT to start your story: The top 10 things that shouldn’t open an SF&F novel
• What agents and editors want: What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
• How to pitch: How to nail the story’s hook, and nail the elements of your world-building in the short pitch paragraph

Who should attend?

• SF&F fans who are interested in writing a novel.
• SF&F Writers who want to improve their pitches and hooks
• SF&F Writers who are actively querying agents and publishers with their science fiction or fantasy novel.