Me in my heaven sitting about 2 feet away from literary agent Jeff Kleinman. I totally stole this photo from Jason Wright's facebook page. Thanks, Jason! ;-)
...because that's what I was in when I attended the One Day Someday Writing Workshop over the weekend! Imagine this:
- 20 aspiring writers
- 1 New York Times bestselling author
- 1 very well-respected literary agent from New York City
- 1 editor from Shadow Mountain publishing
- 1 public relations executive (he's the guy you call to book your appearances on the Today show when your book hits the top of the charts)
- 6 hours to pick the brains of all of the above.
Each gave us a few words of advice and then let us have at them with questions and even, in the case of the editor, our book PITCHES!
Shut the front door, right?
The group was small enough that we all got our questions answered, and the agent's Q&A started to run into our lunch time so he suggested we all just trot on over to the Glory Days Grill (across the street) and grab lunch together so we could keep on chatting. So yes, on Saturday I had lunch with a literary agent. For reals.
Here are a few of the juiciest tidbits I picked up from these literary rock stars:
Jason F. Wright, New York Times bestselling author:
- Keep a writing journal handy to "capture the flash"; a handheld audio recorder is also a great tool for those driving-in-the-car or middle-of-the-night inspirations.
- You can grow into your writing, but you can't be taught to have a great idea. If you have a great idea, trust in it. The writing can be learned.
- Pour some concrete. If you just keep going back over what you've already written again and again you will not only be stuck in one place but you will make yourself crazy. Your WIP is like a sidewalk- each day try to lay a little more fresh concrete on your work.
Jeff Kleinman, agent for Folio Literary Management, LLC:
- If you're looking for an agent, find books that are like yours, written by first-time authors like you. Check the acknowledgements page and find out who their agent is. In your query to the agent, mention the book and the author and let them know that you've got something similar.
- While you're waiting to hear back from agents, DO something. Enter writing contests, win awards, get published in magazines or online- anything to build your credentials.
- Agents and publishers are desperate for great books; the problem is that most books come to them before they're ready.
- Get critiques from people you don't know- as many as possible- have them draw a horizontal line in the text anytime their mind wanders. That will help you discover where you're losing your audience.
Chris Schoebinger, editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing:
- Know the market, know what's selling and what's been "done" (ex: the market is saturated with vampire books and dystopian novels- they are on their way out at the moment)
- It's all about timing - sometimes it's as simple as whether or not the editor or agent has had lunch before they read your manuscript. Sometimes you might have ended up in a pile of manuscripts with premises nearly identical to yours. Keep trying until your manuscript ends up in the right hands at the right time.
- Dreams do come true. A high school student was in attendance at this workshop, pitched his idea to this editor and the editor was intrigued. He asked him to send him what he's got! How awesome is that?? Lesson learned: take advantage of every opportunity. Know your book, know how to sell it in an elevator (45 seconds or less!).
Matt Birch, of Matt Birch Consulting (PR firm):
- Know the "So what?" of your book. Why should people care about it? What makes it something special?
- Find where your audience hangs out. Blogs, forums, etc. Get your book out there!
- Social media is your friend. Facebook is a great way of reminding people about you and your books on a daily basis (Jason Wright is a great example of this).
- You're never done marketing your book- you can't get it out there TOO much!
Later that day my husband asked me what I thought was the most important thing I learned at the workshop. I realized that for me, the biggest thing was seeing that agents, publishers, and famous authors are all just people doing a job. There's no magical fairy dust sprinkled on any of it- success is the result of hard work and good timing. Something about spending that time with those incredibly helpful people made me realize that my dream of being published is well within reach. I personally feel I have what it takes to succeed and I know that if I put in the work, eventually it will pay off. Here's another "H" word for you: HOPE!
Over the next few weeks I will go more into depth on some of the things I learned (there was SO much!) and I will share how I've worked them into my plans for my WIPs. Also, I am thrilled to announce that Jason F. Wright has agreed to a Mormon Mommy Writers interview AND he gave me a signed hardback copy of his newest book, The Wedding Letters, for me to give away to one lucky MMW follower! Do you have a question you'd like Jason to answer for you? Leave me a comment and I'll try to include it in my interview!