Thursday, March 10, 2011


What Happens to Writers After the Writers' Conference? 7 Things That Should NOT Happen

So you’re walking along minding your business and stumble across an out-of-the-blue writers' conference and you have a chance one-one-one with an editor or an agent, and guess what? They want your proposal! Obviously, it doesn't happen like that.

It’s more like you’re finally getting to the writers’ conference you’ve been scheming and planning to attend for years. You’ve gone without Starbucks for months trying to save for it. You’ve written and rewritten the piece you hope to present. Your piece has been ripped apart by your critique partners and pieced back together through your tear-drenched eyes and shaking hands. You know all the editors who are coming by name and face. You’ve studied what house they represent and what they are looking for at the conference. If you’re really up on it, you’ve followed them on Twitter, friended them on Facebook, and commented on all of their blog posts. (A little scary, yes, and maybe this is just what I think would be the ideal prep for a conference.)

But you finally meet with the editor or agent, and to your surprise, after thinking their favorite word is no, they say they like your concept and would love to see more of it. “Here’s my card,” they say. “Please email me a full proposal.” The words you had practiced to combat any objections are caught in your throat and all you can say is, “Oh! Oh, that’s great. OK! Yes? Really? OK! Thank you!”

Yes, they want you to send them your manuscript (or proposal). But you know what some writers do (I can only imagine, since I have some sense of what it's like to be human)? OK, wait. This requires a list.

Here are 7 things you should NOT do when you get home after a writers’ conference and an editor or agent wants your proposal.

  1. Get home, get scared, and don’t send it.
  2. Get home, rework the proposal to death, get scared, and don’t send it.
  3. Get home, plan to rework the proposal to death, get busy with other stuff, and don’t send it.
  4. Get home, plan to rework the proposal, get scared, doubt the words you heard come out of the editor’s mouth, second guess your talent, and don’t send it.
  5. Get home; rework the proposal to death; begin to think you’re the junk; query other houses thinking that they will want you just as bad, 'cause after all, you have to keep your options open; and don’t send it.
  6. Get home; rework the proposal to death, decide it’s crap; begin to rework the manuscript, decide it’s crap; start completely from scratch till you have nothing to send; and don’t send it.
  7. Get home, become tormented by the words of all those who said they didn’t like your manuscript, forget that one person liked it, and don’t send it.
I know I could go on, and maybe you can add what goes through your mind after a writers’ conference that helps me understand WHY SOME WRITERS DON’T SEND THEIR STUFF. It doesn’t have to be perfect; we’ll probably tweak it anyway. And if you do end up thinking you’re all that to the point of not sending your material our way, good luck with getting responses from other editors or agents who don’t know you from a can of paint. We made personal contact at the writers’ conference; build off of that (that is, if I asked for your proposal. If not, I may feel stalked just a little bit).

There is always that possibility that as soon as you got home your email was full of other offers, so that's even better actually. Unless you want to still submit to the editor/agent who was interested at the writers' conference and start a bidding war between publishers, which could be fun too.

The thing you should know is that agents and editors don’t tell you to send them your stuff for their health. Some are actually pretty healthy even if you don’t send it. But with their keen eyes and sensitive intuition, they see a glimmer of potential for a successful partnership with your book, and then not just your book, but you. Meeting in person does something special for the query process. It helps us personalize each other on both sides of the table. This is another reason why I would advocate writers attending writers’ conferences. What other opportunity would you have to sit before someone with an opportunity of this caliber? Certainly not at the coffee shop or the grocery store. You wouldn’t recognize us enough to stop us and tell us about your idea. We’re bums on our days off or after a crazy day in the office.

So be brave. Cut the delay. And just. Hit. Send. We’re waiting…
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