Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thanks to FWA!

We would like to thank the Florida Writers Association for inviting us to participate in their annual conference. This year the conference was held at the Disney Coronado Hotel and was a wonderfully organized event with a variety of opportunities for writers in many different areas. Our thanks go out to Lori, Marsha and their hardworking committee members for all their dedication to the art of writing and for inviting us to join them.

One humorous side note is that we got lost a number of times the first day or so because we arrived at the massive resort complex after dark (and got lost) then left our room in daylight (and still got lost). If you have ever been to this huge hotel, then you will know what we mean by massive (and about getting lost). If you haven’t been there, then you’ll have to take my word for it—it’s massive!!! However, we did lose weight, which is the first time that’s ever happened at a conference. On one of our breaks, we had the chance to sit in the Florida sun for a few minutes and watch lizards, leatherback turtles, and a huge bass. We also shared our lunch with some sparrows who wouldn't take "no" for an answer. We loved that!

What we found intriguing is that the writers at this conference were very open to the many possibilities in publishing, as opposed to just focusing on the idea of taking the traditional path to publication, of which there really isn’t one. Ask several authors to describe how they got published, and, although there will be a few similarities—like great writing, for example—it will vary tremendously. The path may be different, but the end result is usually the same. What was nice is that most of the writers seemed genuinely curious about the industry, what it is and what it is not. They weren’t critical about the different possible approaches to the final goal and wanted to explore options without the pre-conceived notions that inhibit many writers. They could explore traditional venues, self-publishing, and e-publishing, for example, and we got the feeling that writers who were interested in these ideas very aware of the perils and possibilities of each or were intent on getting enough information about them before deciding what would be their best route to getting their work out to readers. It was a very balanced and enthusiastic approach to a frustrating and sometimes truly exasperating endeavor.

Again, thanks to all the participants for having us and for an invigorating experience. We really appreciate it!


Scott Jensen said...

How important is it for writers to attend these conferences? Do agents get paid to attend them? I assume writers must pay to attend them. True?

Also, in a comment in your previous post, an anonymous commenter mentioned "pay for interview". What was meant by that?

Currently, I am trying to line up promotional deals with companies for my novel. It is based in the present-day so I thought this might be a good idea to do not only for the book sales but in getting an agent and publisher interested in it. Especially given that I'm an unpublished writer and, since I'm a marketer by trade, whipping up and pitching such proposals is easy for me. No legally binding contracts are being sought. Just non-binding Letters of Intent that I can mention in my query letter. Do you think doing so is a good idea?

Due to the novel being a mystery and a short novel at that (52,000 words), I will not be pitching it to you but I would appreciate your input on the above for the industry in general.

Also, the protagonist (the sleuth) in my story is not a good guy. And by that I mean he's a criminal that solves a mystery. Will that be the kiss of death for a mystery in today's market?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, attending conferences like these are invaluable to a writer's career both before and after publication. There is no better way to network with your peers and publishing professionals. The conferences are pay to get in, but you enjoy a variety of workshops and panels. Some conferences will have what they call pitch sessions (interviews). You can buy 10 to 15 minutes to speak to a particular agent, publisher, or editor attending the conference. This time is yours to pitch your novel to them. This doesn't mean you aren't allowed to speak to them outside of the pitch session - you are encouraged to say hi and chat with them.

I can't comment on the marketing part of your book, that's a question for the agents.However, While I think it is a good idea to have a marketing plan put together before publication, don't go overboard before you have a publishing contract. With everything you write in your writing career, each piece has the chance, that it won't ever see the light of day. Even well established authors face that problem. Publishing is a fickle mistress.

I think the only challenge your novel is going to face isn't in the story itself, but in it's size. 52,000 words has left the area of short story but not yet landed in that world of novel yet (which is generally 80,000+). It's in a gray area we call Novella. While there are markets for it, they are more difficult to find. My suggestion is to either look at your story and see if you can flesh it out more, or search for a novella market.

Scott Jensen said...

Thanks for replying, danstrohschein.

Do the agents get paid the money for the "pay for interview" or does the conference pocket it? If the conference pockets it, that's cool. If it is the agent (or portion of it is given to the agent), that isn't. That being along the lines of paying a reading fee.

As for lining up promotion deals, I figure as long as they are simply Letters of Intent (legally non-binding), it shouldn't be a problem and can be something that shows I'm serious about making the book a success, willing to do something to make it a success, and that essentially advertising has already been lined up for it.

As for my novel being a novella and not a novel, from all that I read on the net, it does qualify as a novel. Here's a break-down by word count of what's what:

Short short story: Less than 10K
Short story: 10K-25K
Novella: 25K-40K
Novel: 40K+ (though some put this as high as 50K+)

The preferred length for a novel by agents and publishers depends on genre. When a novel falls short of the preferred length but is longer than the above, I have read that it is then classified as a short novel.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Dan actually answered your question about marketing very well and very comprehensively. Some projects do well with this time of pre-publication activity; however, it has been our experience that fiction does not, and it sounds like that's what you have. Many editors don't like to have a complete package handed to them because they usually have to go back and confirm the participation of marketing partners or deal with them dropping out at the last minute. It really depends on the project, though.

As far as word count, all writers must keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. The editors we work with just do not want any novels from new, unestablished authors that aren't in the 80,000-word range. Other agencies may have different requirements. You are correct in your remark that this is genre-specific, but it is also house and agency specific. We just have trouble presenting anything from a new author to any of the people we deal with under 80,000 words.
Hope this helps.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Sorry, forgot to answer this one:Also, the protagonist (the sleuth) in my story is not a good guy. And by that I mean he's a criminal that solves a mystery. Will that be the kiss of death for a mystery in today's market?

I would need more information on this to give the most adequate answer, but I will go with what you have posted. First, the anti-hero is a viable concept, so, no, I don't think that is the kiss of death for your book. It really depends on how it is written. THE KEY here is that usually the use of an anti-hero signals that you have written more of a suspense novel than a mystery. These genres have intertwined lately more so than a balloon caught in a power line. The thriller and horror novel chime in here to make it even more complex. The way to get around it is to call it a dark mystery, because dark mystery is usually suspense.

Anonymous said... comment? Did you stop blogging after the FWA conference for any specific reason? It seemed you were pretty good friends with ol' bob and sherie here before. Hmmm. Wonder what could have happened.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I'll never stop blogging! With Thanksgiving, the conference, research for new pieces of conference registration software, over time at work, cleaning up two 100,000 word novels for submission, I've just been insanely busy. Not to mention the fact that we just returned from a nice long vacation after the conference - a vacation which my lovely wife demanded that I spend less time with my laptop and more time with her. But I'm back now, so never fear! :)

Anonymous said...

Scott - I am on the 2007 Conference board for the FWA (Florida Writers Association), and I can tell you that the interview session proceeds go to the Conference fund to be used as next year's budget. The conferences are extremely expensive, especially with as far as we go to make it a great stay for our members and our presenters. The interviews allow us to set up great presenters, gifts, food, and other items.

Anonymous said...

I would like to pose a couple of questions, if I may, to who ever would be willing to answer them. In a response to Scott Jenson's question, danstrohschein responded by saying that most publishers will not take a first book from a writer that is under 80,000 words. If that is the minimum, what is the maximum. I have a complete novel, short of editing, that is approx. 139,000 words. The genre is mixed, a cross between Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell. Although there are some elements of Cornwell, it has been described to me by the few that have read it to be visually graphic in nature. I suppose since it is a book, it might be described as verbally graphic. Anyway, the antagonist is a Serial Killer. I have read on other agents blogs and from peer comments that this type of novel is heading toward the same death as many of the Sci Fi novels are. What are you thoughts? Again, I would appreciate any comment you could afford. Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

I would like to roll the "what is the genre" rollercoaster that you are discussing. My novel is really a mix between mystery and women's fiction with a paranormal twist. I have been told not to tell agents that, but to select a genre, because it may be confusing to market.

What is the best way to handle this? If mysteries are going down the tubes, do I term it women's fiction? My writing is along the lines of Jodi Picoult, which I think are often mixed genre. How do I handle this as a first time novelist?

So vast an industry and so much to learn! THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG! (And yes, I AM yelling that with my hands held up toward the sky!)


Wylie Merrick Literary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wylie Merrick Literary said...


Thanks for your comment. Depending on the publisher, of course, when genres are mixed the resulting mixture is usually considered mainstream. Mystery is a genre but women's fiction is actually mainstream. I know it's considered a genre all it's own, but in all actuality, by its own definition (stories by women about women),it fits into the mainstream category very tightly. Yes I know, calling something mainstream is considered by some to limit agencies who might take it on. This might be true, but consider that most breakout novels are also mainstream and fear of writing it becomes not too well justifed.
Most writers do not pick mainstream for their first novel. Why? Because of the obvious--mainstream is harder to sell. But why is it a harder sell if most bestsellers are mainstream? Because most breakout novel are beyond the capability of a beginning writer. In other words, it takes years and many novels under one's belt to be able to successfully weave a complex, intricate tale filled with stellar characters and make everything come out correctly enough for it to become a bestseller. I'm not saying it cannot be done, it's just very unusual and thus those who are capable of success of this magnitude in a first book is something that normally make headlines.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the clarification. Based on your definitions, I believe my book could certainly be considered Women's Fiction. That being said, it appears that since it could be mainstream, it better be an awesome book in order to have it marketable and sell well, and that may take an agent who is willing to help guide me in the right direction with regard to edits/minimization of word count (Something not many agents have time for).

I don't know how most authors decide what they will write. Some have said they go with their gut, others said they go with what will sell. I write what I know and what I, as a woman, would want to read. I love women's fiction, but don't find it particularly up beat. I think women tend to write about real life issues that are easy to relate to, and as we all know, much of life is pretty confusing and twisted. One blog mentioned you were seeking up beat women's fiction. Can you clarify that a little bit? Again, I love women's fiction, but don't particularly find it up beat.

I looked up a few of the authors that you recommended in other blogs, and have just ordered books from two of them (Clare Cook and Jennifer Olds). I look forward to reading Good Night Henry after reading a wonderful review of it!

Thank you again for all of your comments. I feel very lucky to have found this blog!