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CONFERENCE REPORT – NO TIME TO BE A WALLFLOWER

April 25, 2012

            Once again, I’m left with a tinge of sadness. It’s over. Three wonderful days of mingling with a great bunch of people. Money well spent. Time well spent. New friendships forged. Lessons learned.

            Day one, Thursday I helped with the initial setup at the front desk. Since I’ve done eight of these, I had much of it down to a science. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the huge flood of people that showed up at 11A.M. to sign in! In years past, we had the boxes with all the curriculum bags underneath the desks, ready to go. This year, we couldn’t keep up. Thanks to Darrah Whitaker, our secretary and the man in charge of the volunteers, he had the brilliant idea of moving all those boxes into one of the unused rooms. Before long, we had a smooth operation going and the flood of sign-ins went through without a hitch. I then helped set up the room signs for all the classes. With enough volunteers around by this time, I was free to browse around.

            Throughout the three days, I didn’t hesitate to walk up to total strangers (with conference badges on, of course) and introduce myself. I’d ask them where they came in from and what they wrote, why they were attending, and even if they’d attended other conferences (to get intel on how we compared). You can’t be a wallflower if you’re going to learn. Take that to the bank! I met people from all over the country, most with books to pitch, but a few that were at the conference for the first time without a completed project. Bravo for them! That’s the way to learn.

            As for intel, I heard the same thing over and over again. I won’t mention the conference names, but they spanned both coasts and confirmed my anecdotal evidence. These other events were too big, too expensive, and the attendees had too little time to spend with their heroes/agents/publishers. An average of two minutes if they were lucky. That’s after standing in line for up to three hours, paying $1500 – $3000 to attend and sometimes paying as much as $50 per individual pitch session! Need I say more?

            Thursday I got to spend some quality time with Maxwell Alexander Drake before he was hijacked (I won’t say anymore about that). It was great to see him again. I’ve known Max for years. He’s a member of the Henderson Writer’s Group, though he’s usually too busy to attend meetings. He’s an outstanding speaker and is a tireless marketer. We’re polar opposites in our creative processes, but I love to use him as an example of the other way of how to create your story because his method works, if you are into meticulous outlining. He has the results to prove it. I see Max as one of the top fantasy authors in the country. He’s the genuine article. It’s a thrill to go to Barnes & Noble and see his Genesis of Oblivion books on the regular shelves in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section and not in the local authors section.

            Friday, I just hung around. I had no intention of pitching my icky bug because there didn’t appear to be any publishers or agents that took icky bug. During the pitch sessions, I was joking around with Jo Wilkins (the Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente and head of Mystic Publishers) between her clients and she said Treble Hearts Books took icky bug. I did a double take, because the description in the schedule said otherwise. Anyway, I pitched, the publisher was interested and wanted to see it. Unfortunately, I later found out she’s a Christian publisher. Uh oh. The Factory is set in a maintenance shop. The language of the characters and some of the scenes would not lend themselves to that type of a publisher! Scratch that one off.

            Saturday, I floated around too. There were no particular classes that struck my fancy, so I stayed in the dining room and coached a few people waiting to pitch to agents. I attended a few classes including two that Maxwell gave, but then something funny happened. One of our other writer’s, Amy, had pitched an adult fantasy to a publisher that according to his bio, only took young adult. He told her he was very interested in seeing her work. I thought it was curious. He had a class at 9 about publishing finances, so I popped in at 9:30 and sat in the back. During the presentation, he talked about some of the books he publishes and I was surprised to hear that he publishes all kinds of genres. I approached him after the class and asked him if he took icky bug (I called it horror, of course!). He grinned and said he would consider it.

            I immediately went out and made an appointment. I sat down with him and he loved the idea and wants to see it. Sunday morning, I went to his web site to make sure he isn’t a Christian publisher and sure enough, he publishes a wide variety of books. Guess which publisher is going to see The Factory?

            That’s my story and I’m done for now. Yeah, you thought I was going to say that cliché, didn’t you?

            Until next time.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann Marquez permalink
    April 25, 2012 5:04 am

    YAY Icky Bug! :D
    And Holey Moley! Who in the heck can afford to spend $1500-$3000 per conference? And certain people had a fit here when I wanted to charge $225 for a 3 day conference! Whoa!
    So glad you had a great time :D Best of luck with de Bug ;)

  2. April 25, 2012 5:27 pm

    Thanks for the advice, Fred. Next weekend I’ll be attending the Ontario Writer’s Conference in the Toronto area and will definitely remember to mingle. As many writers are, I can be a bit shy and tend to play the wallflower too often. I know that isn’t the way to be noticed and will do as you suggest, get out there and meet people. I heard yesterday 6 degrees of seperation is no longer the case, it’s more like 4 degrees. So you never know who you’re speaking to and how many people they know.

    • April 26, 2012 1:34 am

      Annie,

      Thanks! I’m hoping it will go well. I want to finish reading it to the group first but that will take several months so I may have to send it ahead of time. I don’t want to wait too long or the guy will forget who I am. Then again, I also don’t want to send The Factory if it isn’t right. When I’ve had bites before, I’ve waited several months to send my MS so I guess it can wait a bit. I’m almost done reading it to the group anyway. I’m getting some great feedback too. Stuff I can’t see up close.

      Fred

    • April 26, 2012 1:38 am

      Sharon,

      Absolutely! You HAVE to mingle. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people and say hi. You’ll be surprised how friendly most people will be. If you run across a jerk, just walk away. Also, you can mark them off your list, especially if they are someone famous (or well known in the industry). I have! 99% of the people you talk to will be great and you will learn something from them.

      Enjoy! Also, give me a report when it’s over. I’d love to hear how it turned out.

      Fred

  3. April 26, 2012 7:45 pm

    Hey Fred, glad to read that you had another successful writer’s conference. When you can get an agent/editor to agree to read your manuscript, that’s success! Good luck. Keep me informed.

    • April 27, 2012 1:30 am

      Carol,

      Thanks! I will keep you up to date on what’s happening. I wasn’t even going to pitch but I was there, I was practiced up and had the opportunity shoved in my face, so I took it. My intention was to self pub in the e-format, but still, a print pub behind me might just work so I’ll give it a shot. Icky bug is a tough sell.

      Fred

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