The highlight of all the events was Susan Wiggs keynote speech. She was funny, honest, inspirational and left me fired up and I think most of the audience as well. Ooh, also I pitched. So more below!
First thing of the day, I had to pitch. My event was scheduled at 9:30, but I hurried over to everything at eight in case of a) any cancellations and b) just to be there and super prepared. The biggest thing to know is that people are no shows or that sometimes appointments end early and people on standby can pitch those editors/agents left hanging so people are waiting for a quick check to reveal if that vaunted slot has opened up. Also, everyone gets 10 minutes and they start once the volunteers tell you go in line so walking to the table to sit down with the editor counts as part of your ten minutes. As they told us to hurry before it was time to go, I was thinking "so this will cause a stampede." However, I sat down. I had six sentences prepped on a piece of paper to read exactly like the blurb on the back of the book on a novel I am working under my m/f pen name. It's about a dragon shifter and a phoenix and that's all I'll say for now ;)
However, the process was super straight forward and I owe what happened next to Brenda Drake and the Pitch Wars mentors yesterday for their help. I had the refined pitch and I read it slowly for about a minute. The Entangled editor asked to clarify one point about the conflict, asked the word length, and then asked if it had series potential. I explained the conflict a bit, told her it's complete at 85,000 words, and that it was geared to be a series definitely.
She gave me her card and said "Sure send me the full manuscript." Then, she was like "Do you have any questions?"
I didn't, and I was honest and said, "I don't want to mess anything up, and I think I'll leave while it's all going well. Besides, maybe it can get you a seven minute break."
Then I thanked her and left. They still did give someone on standby the last 6-7 minutes of my pitch time. Again, the lesson at any RWA event is be on standby because you never do know what will open up!!!
I was pretty a) relieved and b) excited. Realistically, I know that the editor and that house reject about 95% of submitted manuscripts, but I got past the first hurdle and learned how to pitch in person, which was really cool.
The panels in the morning included ways to empower readers to care more with Christie Craig. I've heard the audio of the speech before from an RWA download, and she's always funny in person. To be super honest, I was too busy squeeing with friends and walking on air to listen too much, but it was moving to see her pull out literally hundreds of rejection letters from early in her career. She was so very honest about everything and said that if she could be a successful writer with dyslexia and a tenth-grade education, than anyone could and you just had to not give up. The only full panel in the morning I went to was "How to Write a Long Running Series" which was good and gave me some good ideas about creating tie-ins, spin offs, and ways to get new readers into long running series. I think those were good things to keep in mind to make it possible for Vegas Shifters and Fanged Fairy Tales to be accessible to everyone.
Lunch with Susan Wiggs was so good. I tweeted a lot of her best quotes that she mentioned and I think hers was really about how to survive in the business. One of her best pieces of advice was "If you stick around long enough, everything will happen to you in publishing," and that means both the highest of highs and lowest of lows and you just have to keep working. I also will never see Old Yeller the same way again, just saying.
The afternoon had a fun panel called "Twisting the Tropes," which was about changing tropes and manipulating them just enough to be surprising and create a great pitch/big idea to sell your book around. To illustrate their point, the authors first read the one sentence summaries of movies to show us how they're pitched. For example, "In a dystopian future where robots rule over humans, a warrior is sent back in time to protect the mother of humanity's future savior," which is, of course, Terminator. So it's really about thinking of your plots and tag lines in a few brief words and with big ideas, like a unique scenario (maybe a gender flip) or location (that old saw in Hollywood of putting everything in space). It was really fun to guess the movies from their concept pitches and create some of our own. I think I love the guess the series/movie almost more than the exercises since I'm, let's face it, super super competitive with trivia.
Finally, I went to the info session from Entangled. Since, I'm doing one last typo and etc. check before I send it in to the editor there, I wanted to get a candid explanation of how they think. It was revealing. It was where I learned about how many books they reject and, frankly, that if the publishing house's head can't sell the idea in one sentence and it's not high concept, then she's not interested. I understood at one level that marketing was the big mover of books, but it has a very Hollywood mentality of "can I sell this and sell it fast by word of mouth and a hook." Also, I think that Entangled offers (if one is lucky enough to be there) some opportunities to build a mailing list, build partner authors to work with, and just do a slow build to a brand,w which are all good things. Since I'm 33, I also like that they're more millennial aged mentality focused. Anyway, I'll throw my ring in the hat and help the best. Oh, also, the publishing house head was very adamant that it needed to have a unique meet cute every time. If her even long term authors didn't have an original, outstanding one, then she'd help them tweak manuscripts until they did come up with one. Finally, I really respect what the publishing houses, even smaller ones go through. For each title, Entangled pays 12-15,000 dollars in production costs and promotion costs and ads to get the needed visibility to sell it. that's a huge investment so I do totally understand why they need high concept and sellable/buzz worthy.
That's all for today. Tomorrow I'm going to hear from editors and agents why they toss things in the slush pile, volunteer to be the go-for for the "Don't Just Throw in a Vampire" paranormal romance panel, and listen to a Ph.D. in psychology speak about the neuroscience behind sex and emotion.
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