Friday, April 4, 2014

Professional Suggestions - You Can Take 'em or Leave 'em

I know that many editors and agents spend a lot of time online with blogs, articles and webinars trying to provide little nuggets of information for authors. These same people are often found at conferences doing the same thing, teaching workshops, meeting with authors informally in the bar or hallway, and certainly sitting around the table during the conference lunches and dinners. Although we cannot write your stories for you or prepare your synopsis or query letter, these nuggets of information are there to help you make the process a bit easier.

We cannot force you to consider these suggestions. We cannot make you write your story this way or that way. This is entirely up to you!

Still, there are times when I sit at conferences listening to authors talk, or when I read submissions and I wonder if anything we said connected. Did our talks, our blogs and our articles fall on deaf ears. These authors frequently speak of the number of workshops they have attended, the organizations they are part of, or the conferences they have been to. When I hear this, I wonder what they were listening to. I wonder if they thought that information we spoke of meant anything to them.

I do wonder if many authors seem to think "their situation" is somehow different - that their experience or their writing is the exception to the rule. Of course it could mean they don't understand, but I still question this considering the number of resources out there, either in print or on the web, that are saying the same things. We just use different words.

I think what is the most frustrating about all of this is when I hear authors complaining about rejections or the lack of response to a query, synopsis or so forth. In simple terms, you cannot grumble and complain if you chose not to listen. Let me give you an example of one case.

I attended a conference two years ago. It was a pretty big one and there was a 1 hour panel discussion with all of the agents (they had one for editors too). We all spoke of the things we acquire, the things we dont' and certainly our likes and dislikes. The ballroom was packed and there was standing room only. I should also note the conference also provided in the program a bio that also highlighted what we wanted. If I also remember correctly, there was even a grid that showed what we wanted. Now here is the twist. During those pitch sessions, I passed on so many projects for things that weren't even close to what I was looking for. In the majority of the situations, the authors said the same thing, "I thought you might still look at it." Umm, no!

I want you to understand that we are all (the editors and agents) trying our best to give you every piece of information possible to help you out. Kristen Nelson is putting out PubRants on a pretty regular basis. Rachelle Gardner does the same thing. Janet Reid has Query Shark that will give you pretty much everything you need to know to write a solid query letter. Add in the programs and services from Writer's Digest, and you have a ton to work with. The question is - do you want to listen?  

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