*The first four pictures are taken from the Philadelphia Writing Workshop website*
*The three pictures for Literary Agents and Marketing Platform are from Amazon and written by Chuck Sambuchino*
This is the first writing workshop I've gone to in the year since I began writing.
I was sitting a few rows back.
The two pieces I enjoyed the most were live pitching to agents and the "Writers' Got Talent" critique.
LIVE PITCHING TO AGENTS
This section of the conference was without a doubt the most exciting and nerve-wracking thing I've experienced. I paid in advance for a 10 minute slot with both Kelly Peterson (Corvisiero Literary) and Eric Smith (P.S. Literary). After writing my query letter, which was edited by Chuck Sambuchino, I then had to verbally speak about it in front of each of these people to see what their thoughts were.
Kelly Peterson: It's a little short for the fantasy genre, but if you weave your first and second books together it would probably be much improved.
Eric Peterson: This is a great story. Feel free to email me and we'll discuss it.
Both of these people were very friendly as well as helpful in their suggestions for improvement. But the scary part is that I had to be vulnerable by sharing part of my story with others. It was extremely rewarding!
WRITERS' GOT TALENT
This was the part of the conference that was spellbinding and very informative. It was a panel of eight agents and the speaker, Chuck Sambuchino, who read the anonymous one page submissions that were submitted that morning by the writers in attendance. It was intense! While reading the first page submissions out loud, the agents would raise their hand to indicate where they would have stopped reading the manuscript. If four agents raised their hand before the page was completed then the piece would be put down. That's when the agents would explain what the problem was and why they wanted to stop the reading. Most of the issues were:
1. Too much information told in the first page (data dump).
2. Too vague.
3. Not enough character development or action.
Or the agents would say what they really liked about the piece if it was read all the way through before four agents could get their hands up.
This was an excellent venue for networking as well as getting my finished materials heard by agents. The Philadelphia Writer's Conference covered the following topics:
* Today's Book Publishing Options
* Everything You Need To Know About Agents
* Marketing Your Books
* How To Get Published
--> Traditional publishing or self-publishing? There really is no right answer. The best and most successful authors today are both traditionally published as well as self-published.
--> Traditional Publishing is no cost to you and you receive access to distributors, designers, editors, and many others in the trade. It can give an air of legitimacy as well as help more adequately with media attention for your book.
--> For any self-published work, you must already have platforms and media attention set up for your book or it'll be a very hard sell.
There are three things I learned that made a lot of sense, but I wouldn't have thought too in-depth about them until I attended this workshop:
1. When self-publishing: For a series, the first few books may not sell well until all of the series has been published. That is when sales are more likely to skyrocket. It makes sense. People don't want to wait for long periods of time in between books in a series. So they just wait until they're all published before buying the entire bundle.
2. Publicizing depends on the publicist. This should be a no-brainer, but I didn't realize how different they might be until it was explained to me. All publishers have a different style of getting your book out to the masses. Chances are that you'll experience different publicizing on different book you have as well. Realistically, it just depends on the publicist and their contacts in the field.
3. When self-publishing: Price your books higher because it will look like you are selling a higher quality product. Example: If you sell your book at $0.99, then people may assume there are errors or it's just not a good book. But if you sell it for $5.99 then people will think it must be a better quality book because of the price point. Just something to think about that I found fascinating, but was pretty well acquainted with already.
--> Agents are important for your book because they will get you a better deal than you can yourself. They'll do this for you because the higher you're paid, the bigger cut they'll get. Most agents will receive 15% of the overall price of your book deal. So if they fight for you to get a $20,000 deal, then they receive $2500 and you receive the remaining $17,500. Most likely if you try this on your own, you won't understand the legalese and it'll be harder for you to negotiate properly for what you want.
I had no idea about this point, but it's a good idea for you to submit anywhere from 8 - 12 queries at first. It's a good thing if you get a 20% positive response or higher (Rejections of any kind do not count as part of this 20%.) Don't submit more than that though. If your query letter needs work then you'll want to know that early on before you send it to 60 agents in the field and get rejected by all of them. It's better to start with a sample size and see how that goes first before querying others in the field.
If you do get a personal rejection letter (one that includes suggestions and comments on what you can fix) then it is beneficial to send not only a thank you, but to ask them the following question: "If you overhaul your query/manuscript based on their suggestions, will they be okay with you resubmitting it?"
Obviously you want to attract your target audience and the best way to do that is via some sort of marketing platform. What I learned is that you don't need to cover a vast array of platforms in order to successfully market your book. In fact, you only need a large base of people invested in the one or two platforms you decide to go with. In my case, I'm creating a blog (duh!) and I'm creating accounts on both Facebook and Twitter. No matter what you do though, marketing is essential. Whether it's free or you're paid for it, you're selling a connection to yourself and that's invaluable.
Realistically, you don't need a platform when you're selling fiction like I am. However, you may want to have it since the marketing is likely to get you more readers, thus more money, in the long run and it provides you with more control over the marketing and saleability of your book.
Some important takeaways are:
* You'll never have to do this alone.
* Provide immense value to your readership and your platform.
* Learn by example.
* Connect with others.
* Have a plan, but be willing to tweak it.
* Always have the end goal in mind.
* Be open, likable, and relatable.
* Start early and it's okay to start small.
The best way to get published is by taking more control over your writing journey. That's the advice Chuck Sambuchino gave to us at the conference. Trust me, it's not as vague as it may sound at first. What it includes:
* Always write the best thing you can.
* Understand the challenges and have a plan.
* Build a writer platform (as explained above).
* Keep moving forward no matter what happens now.
* Write multiple books in multiple genres and write a lot.
* It's okay to write for both the love of books as well as for money.
* Educate yourself with multiple sources before believing something as fact.