The Writers’ League of Texas held its annual Agents and Editors conference this past weekend in Austin, Texas. I, along with a few hundred of my new best friends, made the trek to attend workshops, make new friends, and pitch to agents. This was my second conference; I attended two years ago. In those two years, a lot has changed!
Much of the focus has moved to social media as a way of branding and marketing a writer’s work. A “tweet-up” allowed attendees to tweet their questions about publishing, and I learned that many agents LOVE Twitter. I’m still not sure about it, but if the agents are using it and sharing publishing information, I’m happy to dive in. Previously, my tweets were occasional, uncertain, and inconsistent. Now, I’m in the know–at least a little bit! I’m now following several attendees, including said agents, and it’s a great way to get information about books, blogs, agents, and writing workshops.
When I attended two years ago, I was trying to decide if I wanted to publish Patchwork and Ornament traditionally or independently. I am glad I chose the latter because it allowed me to print the book before my father-in-law died, allowing him to see and feel the book, read the reviews, and watch it win an Indie Excellence award. I made a fundamental mistake, though, in not hiring a PR service to help me market the book.
When I published When a Grandchild Dies, I had a built-in audience. Between Amazon and Centering Corporation, a publisher and seller of bereavement books, my first self-publishing efforts were more successful than many, and I took it for granted that I had some PR skills. However, Patchwork has not fared as well. Now, having attended WLTcon, I have some leads on PR firms that can help me market my current project and perhaps resurrect Patchwork. These firms work specifically with authors and small publishers, so I will look into them further now that I am home.
I had my first-ever pitch session with Amy Burkhardt of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Amy represented The Safe Food Handbook by Heli Perrett, where I learned never to eat raw sprouts–just in time to hear about the German e. coli outbreak attributed to raw sprouts. But I digress. The agency also represents women’s fiction, including Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont, which I loved. Amy comes across as reserved and quiet, which helped put me at ease, or at least as at ease as was possible. The good news? She asked for a partial manuscript! Read the submission guidelines, she advised me, and I heard this message frequently throughout the weekend. Agents will not review manuscripts where the author could not be bothered to read the guidelines.
The best part of the conference, other than hanging with other writers, was the optimism of those representing the industry. Times are tough, and it’s harder to sell books these days, but a lot of dedicated people are keeping the faith and working hard. Their passion remains strong, and for that I am grateful.