I promised this for last Monday, but I had a busy week. Better late than never! 😉
The Northern Ohio SCBWI conference was great. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be, a small, well-organized conference with interesting presenters and tasty food. I wasn’t sure how much I would actually learn, because I’ve spent the last year soaking up information about the writing biz, but there were all sorts of things I didn’t know, and I am definitely wiser for the experience. I would highly recommend this conference for writers and illustrators.
Here are a few helpful tips that I picked up over the course of an information-packed weekend:
1. Before sending off a query, MAKE SURE THAT YOU FOLLOW THE AGENCY’S SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER.
Agencies will commonly post guidelines for query submissions on their websites. If an author can’t invest the time to check an agency’s website for the proper parameters, why should an agent spend the time to read their submission? Hint: They won’t.
2. Don’t be afraid to be different.
Everybody knows when a trend has been done to death, but no one knows what the next big thing is going to be. Rather than trying to ride the coattails of the latest craze, it’s better to be brave and disregard what other people are writing. One needs to stay mindful of one’s audience, but it’s better to be a maverick than a copycat.
3. Small to medium publishing houses can be the best choice for new authors.
A common fantasy might be to sign with one of the Big Six and get a huge advance with lots of advertising, but in reality, the larger houses tend to focus on their established authors, and the little guy might not get everything he is looking for in terms of marketing or personalized attention. Small to medium houses, however, like the little guy. The advances might not be as big, but they tend to keep things in print longer, which translates into royalties.
4. Not every book has to start off with a bang.
A common recommendation online is that something dramatic needs to happen in the first few pages, or an agent will quit reading. I asked about this at the conference, and the agent replied that although he can pretty much tell if a book will be good by the end of the first page, some books don’t really take off until around page fifty, and that is perfectly acceptable.
5. Read, Read, Read.
Whatever your genre, get to know the market by reading, talking to librarians and teachers, volunteer at the library or get a part time job at a bookstore. When you think you have a good idea of what works, keep that at the back of your mind while you write.
Friday: Conference Highlights/Helpful Hints: Part Two – Attending a Conference