COFERENCE AFTERMATH – WHAT I LEARNED
Despite this being my ninth writer’s conference, I always pick up something new.
JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER
The subject of book covers came up quite a bit. The gist was that it’s critical that the cover must be attractive and can’t be crappy. Period. A crappy cover is a great way to kill your book sales.
I’ve said before, probably more than once, that when I look for a book to purchase, the cover is probably third on my list behind the back cover blurb and leafing through it to see if it’s third-person past tense. However, I’ll qualify that and say that I’ll admit that it does have to catch my eye on the shelf before I ever get to the other stuff, so maybe there is more to it.
Jo Wilkins cited a study where a group of publishers went into a bunch of bookstores with nothing but book jackets and placed them on the shelves and watched for people’s reactions. The gist of it was that people looked for the book spine first, then the title and then the back blurb. Spine, title, back blurb. Well, the spine is not quite the cover is it?
If it were me, I, of course, would want a great cover. That goes without saying. However, depending on your publisher, you may have little control over it. If you self publish, it depends how deep your pockets are. The spine may very well be key also.
Someone also brought up the functionality of the book itself. How well it opens, how well the pages fold out and stay that way so the book can be read comfortably. That’s something most people never consider.
SELF PUBLISHING IS AND ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
The market has certainly changed for self publishing. It can be done effectively and money can be made. However, it can break your bank, like it always has in the past, you can still end up with a crap product, and you can still end up with a garage full of books. The difference now is that there are a lot more and better resources to do it the right way.
Vanity presses are still out there.
Definition: A vanity press will print any old crap you give them. Period.
A legitimate self publisher, on the other hand, will hold up the bullcrap flag and tell you, “Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t right.” They won’t print the phone book if you hand it to them (a Jo Wilkins quote). They’ll take the time to tell you you’re doing it wrong, it needs editing, it needs this and that. However, keep in mind that with self publishing, everything is still on you and you alone!
The other difference is e-publishing can mitigate your losses. Now you can take the risks without ending up with a garage full of books. Instead, you’ll just have a handful of disappointment and be out a few thou on editing and a book cover if your masterpiece doesn’t take off.
POSITIVES FOR ME
On the home front, I was totally blindsided with several compliments on both my weekly articles here, my Sunday articles in Let’s Talk Nevada, and my fantasy readings for Meleena’s Adventures at the writer’s group meetings. Not only that, I got some side-handed compliments for my two icky bug novels, The Greenhouse and The Factory, which I wasn’t expecting, but sure appreciated!
Then, like I’ve been preaching the past few weeks with my pitching articles, I practiced what I preached and pitched to all four of those agents and they all asked for samples of various novels. One asked for Meleena’s Adventures (10 –pages), another asked for Lusitania Gold (50 pages), the third asked for Lusitania Gold and The Factory (both 50 pages) and the last one asked for Lusitania Gold (50 pages). All I have to do is hope the best for the follow through!
FIRST PAGE READ
We have a first page read contest where attendees can pay $5 a page to be put into a pool. During our Friday lunch and dinner, these pages are randomly drawn from the pool and read blind, no names. The panel of agents sits up on the stage and listens. When they reach a point where they’d stop reading, they raise their hands. Sometimes the reader makes it to the end of the page without any or all of the agents raising their hands. Sometimes not. The opinions expressed can be brutal as well as audience reaction.
We had some great ones and some that were not so great. My only hope is that everyone had a thick enough skin not to give up.
I’ll never enter the first page read. Even though I see the point of why we have this contest from the agent’s perspective, I have never judged a story on the first page. I can’t possibly tell a thing about a story without getting through at least a chapter. Now, the only caveat to that is sampling to see if it’s the correct POV. I’ve judged a book by the first sentence, but that had nothing to do with the content and everything to do with first-person or first-person present-tense, or even third-person present-tense. Those, folks, are show stoppers for me. Once again, that has nothing to do with the story. When the story is written in the correct tense, neither has the first sentence nor the first page ever had an effect on me, one way or the other. That also doesn’t include me leafing through each book to look for sneaky switching POVs and tenses, which is another show stopper.
On the other hand, it apparently has a great effect on agents, who look through hundreds of samples a week. Unfortunately, that’s a nasty little fact we have to live with. That still isn’t enough for me to enter the contest, just on principle alone.
Once again, as in the past eight years, this ninth conference was a great time. I learned a few things, met some new people and ran into old friends. I got to talk shop for three days and made new contacts in the industry. I also opened the possibilities of getting an agent once again. Can’t ask for better than that.