Highlights from the Writers' League of Texas Agents Conference

 *via bangli1

I'm sitting on the couch, surrounded by electronic devices - a laptop, two remotes, a cordless phone and a Kindle, feeling fried and half watching Masterpiece Mystery. It's been a full weekend at the Writers' League of Texas Agents Conference, but I'm so glad I went!  Some highlights...

I won an Amazon Kindle! It happened during a great social media panel I was listening to.  Total shocker.  I feel like the girl who got a pony. 

Querying seems to be a pretty basic formula:
  • Don't commit major faux pas:  Use the right format, follow the instructions for querying that the agent provides, and be professional.
  • Query the right agent for your book - don't spray and pray.
  • Nail down what's amazing about your book - the hook - and be sure that's crystal clear.
  • If you're lucky, there's a bit of magic that's hard to define.
  • Now that you've done all that, it's time to say your prayers ;-)
Agents and editors are human too... not that I was expecting them to walk on air or breathe fire. But it helped to see them in person talking casually about what matters to them - what they love, hate, dream of, and laugh at.  It helps to know that I won't be submitting my writing to a random committee of authoritarian experts about to make the ultimate pronouncement.  In the end it's about whether the agent loves my work - if it's the right thing for them - and if they think they can sell it.  The truth is - it is personal.  Which is great.  Because that means it's all about finding the right person (while of course making sure my writing is astonishing). 

The agent I had a ten minute meeting with was kind, gentle, and helpful She asked pointed questions that indirectly told me to be on the lookout for areas that could be weak.  And while she didn't say "dah-ling, you are fab-u-less, I'm going to make you a stah!", she wasn't discouraging to me, making me want to run out the door and fall into a puddle.  Most of all she advised me to hone my craft, get my work critiqued and make sure it's rock solid before sending it out.

I would be going on a posh shopping spree at Anthropologie right now if I had $100 for every time I head the word "vampire", "Twilight", "Stephanie Meyer", "dystopian", "zombie", "YA", - all typically used derisively, enviously, or humorously.

If you aspire to be a published writer, you are actually aspiring to be a professional in the publishing industry - and it ain't all about writing, baby!  It's also about understanding markets, trends, categorization of books, what's selling, how the process works, marketing, PR, and much, much more.  It can be a bit overwhelming.  Going to this conference was a huge step in helping me put it all in perspective.

Oh, and about those trends... what I heard from most publishing professionals was that while you should be aware of trends (i.e. think twice about writing a vampire novel right now people, because it's been done in a major way) you shouldn't write to follow trends - you should write to the beat of your heart.   In the words of one agent, "by the time you notice the trend, it's over".  If only someone had told me that about fashion!

At the end of the day, you still start with the writing, and if you can't write something astonishing, then you better go back to your writing room and try again.

Fellow writers are generally friendly, charitable folk.  I met quite a few, and in spite of the fact that I'm not a natural extrovert, I soon felt comfortable.  And yet, like all people they come in many forms - and finding the right ones you click with is still a challenge (for me at least).  Hopefully I made some connections that might lead to writer's groups.  And I'd like to get more involved in the WLT in the future.

Practice makes perfect - at least when it comes to making your pitch.  Not that it isn't painful, especially in the beginning.  I'm more of a writer than a speaker, so being able to comfortably, concisely give a pitch was tough.  The first night I tried it, I was a mess.  I went home and practiced and then talked to more people the next day, it kept getting easier and easier after that.

When I'm ready to start querying, I'm going to be more comfortable with the process now that I've been to this conference. But it's obvious to me that I'm not ready.  I don't feel that my writing is living up to the word astonishing yet. I'm feeling overwhelmed and doubt-stricken at the moment.  But I'm going to let the wrecked feeling wear off, then get back to work.


  1. So, how can it be that there are so many books out there with extremely un-astonishing writing? Many that sell very well...

  2. What a good point Amy made! Since I have known you were writing, I kind of felt that you were a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte type of person/personality. {As I interpret them, obviously} Quiet, introspective, observant . . . You will be able to write beautifully observed plots and characters, because you do that so well!

  3. Hey Amy B! I agree that many published books are perfectly un-astonishing. How to account for them I don't know. Although, as I learn more every day about the different genres and categories (i.e. commercial vs. literary), it makes more sense. But at least what I heard from agents and editors is that if you want a shot, you need to knock their socks off.

    Debbi - I'm eating up your kind words of encouragement with a spoon ;-)

  4. wow, seems like you had an amazing time! great advice here for everyone i think, not just writers. thanks for sharing and congrats on the kindle!