Lost the first 20 min of feed. Brandon has just been discussing how to use sci-fi/fantasy conventions to jump start your career as a writer by “learning to think like a pro” and to “meet editors and agents.”
1) Think like a pro
2) Meet editors (and agents)
Say hypothetically there are two of you that are going to submit to an editor. One says, “Hi I met you at World Con after you were on this panel you talked about writing systems and writing and I thought your take on it was interesting and I think you’d think my writing is interesting because I share some of the same views.”
The other one says, “Hello, to whom it may concern, I hope you like this story. Brad.”
Which are you going to read first?
Obviously, the one that met you, that took the time to come to a convention and find out what you liked, that sent you a submission targeted at them and called you by name.
What goes on the top of that? Track record authors, well-known or those who they know in real life submitting, or people that can say, “I’ve been published in Asimov’s three times and I’ve won writers of the future. I’ve not published a novel yet but I’ve written one and hope that you would be willing to look at it.” Going above anyone else unpublished is something from an agent that says, “Hi, I’m an agent that you’ve known for thirty years, and I’ve found this great hot new writer you need to take a look at their stuff, because next week, I’m going to give it to auction.” A high power agent will mean a lot for you.
Agent’s stealth it, by the way. You have to do your work really hard to find the agents. They hide.
Editors live their lives being the un-sung heroes of science fiction and fantasy and love getting to be the stars at conventions and just talk about how awesome the books they love are – because they came to be an editor because of their love of SF and want to talk about how amazing the books they’ve worked on are.
Editors are usually much more approachable than agents, but they will usually have a flock of people hunting them down and will learn to dodge that flock of people quite astutely.
3) Learn the craft
Dragon*Con has an EXCELLENT children’s writing track. Usually all the cons will have a writing track.
You will get versions of what I’m doing here taught at the conventions – different conventions will do a better job of it, but all of them will have something like it.
4) Meet authors – can ask questions, get your book signed, ask “who is your agent and are they here?” What is your experience with such and such. Sanderson writes this way – how do you approach it. Tell me how he’s wrong.
You can sign up for coffee clotches – 8 people chatting with an author/agent for an hour. Editors do them frequently, as do authors, agents much less frequently.
5) Meet other aspiring writers – being part of serious and skilled groups of aspiring writers can be very helpful for you – you can trade notes about different publishers – you can try different tactics.
Some alternatives to cons
You can replace this by doing it other ways.
1) You can replace it poorly by following the editors and agent’s blogs. This is something that you should be doing ANYWAY.
How do you find them? Trial and error and searching.
They are not terribly good at publishing them. Some of them blog anonymously. If you find one professionally, if you get on one they will often have a blog roll on the side – you can get on one and start figuring out who people are.
Patrick Nelson Haden – runs Making Light, which is mostly a left-wing political blog – editor at TOR. Joshua, my agent runs a blog that’s linked on his website – awfulagent.blogspot – he uses all sorts of different things. Look on his website.
Follow their tweets and twitter – Moshe has a twitter and a facebook page that he DOES update regularly.
When Sanderson broke in these things didn’t exist so he wasn’t following them. Blogging exploded five or six years ago. Google barely existed in 2000. Sanderson broke in in 2003.
2) You can also replace it be reading the books that the editors and agents have worked on.
This is even harder than the blogs – because you have to find out what they are working on. Then, you can find out if you are a good match. “If it’s awesome, I’ll publish it no matter what.” But realistically, there’s a theme or kind of book that they like, and if it’s not that, even if its an excellent book, they won’t represent it.
3) TORs editors are all listed on Wikipedia – knowing the names of the editors can give you a leg up
As soon as you can replace those with serious credits the better – unless though you are not a short story writer. If you don’t read them or write them – don’t worry about it. “Old guard” would say to go write short stories first. If you like it and are good at it, read them, then do it. But don’t try to learn to do that for ten years, never practicing writing novels, if noveling is what you want to do.
Meeting the Editors and Agents
These rules apply regardless of where you go to meet them.
· Do NOT go with your manuscript (ms).
Unless you are at a conference that says you will have a pitch or workshop session.
Why not? Because it’s their cue for them to run away.
· Business cards are GOOD. They will throw them away, but it is worth having something to give them just in case. People don’t do business cards as much
· DO go with a pitch. Be ready to give your pitch – IF PROMPTED. Do not go right into pitch. Do not walk up to say, “I want to pitch my book to you, can I?”
This means you should go, when your book is finished, so you can give them something metaphorically, before you do this.
· Do NOT go in costume. That’s fine on the day when not pitching to the editors.
· Dress nicely, but not too nice – no suits. Business casual. Even nice jeans and turtleneck – nothing too wacky. A blinking button that says, “ask me if I’m a borg.” You are doing this as a professional, so dress like it. This is not an industry where anyone really wears suits.
The only people who do are Tom Doherty and Lee Modisit.
1) Find the editor
a. see if there are any panels or café clotches
b. ask their authors if their editors are there
c. troll the bars are parties if you feel up to that (need to know what they look like – on google – don’t send them stuff in the mail; not very easy, but worth doing)
i. Once you find them ask if you could have a few minutes of their time
ii. Be polite
iii. They are there professionally meaning they are expecting to be approached but that doesn’t mean they owe you any time
iv. You are not allowed to say “Brandon sent me” – that means to them “I am a student on an assignment” – you are not going as a student; you are there as an aspiring writer going to learn
v. Where you go from there is your call – complement them on a book they’ve read, get a piece of advice, find out what they are working on
1. Let them talk and not focus on themselves
a. Just to have met them – it doesn’t matter what you say as long as its not stupid
b. To submit – best if you can get it
c. Find out more about them as an editor – it will help you (have a little book of edtors; a page for each editor, books they’ve edited, what they’ve said at conventions and what they are looking for)
i. Ask what new authors have you picked up recently
ii. Why did you pick it up
iii. I want to read what you’re working on
d. At the end of the conversation, can say, “I have a book I think you would like, do you mind if I send it to you.” 9 times out of 10 they said yeah sure, “send me three chapters and a synopsis” or sometimes they say, “tell me about it,” so have your pitch ready.
e. This goes for agents as well
a. Don’t tend to sit on the panels
b. But they are actually there networking more consciously – actively searching for really good authors – mariet school people and editors tend to be more big bang theory type people – agent is a confrontational business – you don’t become an agent who is an extreme introvert and can’t handle conflict
c. Tend to be more like talent scouts, sharks in the water
d. Editors tend to be like a fisher with a huge net, saying “is this a good fish, nah, is this? Nah”
4) Difference between editors and publishers
a. Publishers are not editors – the business person who runs the business – Tom Doherty founded the company and he hired Harriot to be his editorial director and acquire books for him to sell.
b. Sometimes people will cross over between those roles – Lou Anders does both
c. The bigger companies don’t really crossover
d. Publishers can buy a book, but it’s a hard sell because they probably won’t read anything
5) Do you usually get an editor or an agent first?
a. It’s about 50/50
b. In SF/Fantasy, you can sell without an agent
c. In children’s, you almost always need an agent – it is more corporate
d. If you get a good agent you will probably sell your book, but getting a good one is hard
e. There is a school of thought that says you can ignore editors that says he ignores agent submissions
f. If an editor says he’ll look at something, overnight it to him with “requested material” on it (as long as it can be construed that)
g. They are there networking, not there reading – NEVER give a manuscript UNLESS they say, “do you have a copy?”
h. If they let you send it physically, then send it to them physically – it’s so much harder to ignore something physical. Send it both email or physical.
6) Rules for format that you send to them
a. Once upon a time there was a very set way to do it
b. There is no longer – don’t do a weird font, but they can change it in two seconds – the probably have a macro for it
c. The default should be Times New Roman/Calibri, 11 pt type, double space and page numbers
d. Do follow whatever the guidelines are on their website
1) Three different levels of pitches
a. Start with this and judge their interest – one sentence pitch – love line – the elevator (or maybe that’s a bit longer) – boiled your entire story down to one sentence
i. Mistborn: a gang of thieves who try to overlord the darklord by robbing him blind
b. Elevator – 30 sec pitch – paragraph – trick to saying these – don’t sound like a machine that’s spitting this out, and don’t sound like it’s the first time you’ve said this; try to sound natural
i. Start with the concept (or he tends to, other times he tends to start with character)
c. One page – be ready to talk about your book – can write it out and even bring it with you – if you get to this stage, you’re awesome. You probably won’t get to this stage. One sheet can include all the surprises here. Doing this appropriate is a learned skill. It takes practice.
i. If it’s unnamed, it’s better – stay away from the pitch that includes LOTS of names or definitions of things; maybe a little be in stage three
ii. Pick something exciting – there should be one thing about your story at least that is a good hook. What is your hook? Pick it and talk about that – your goal is not to tell them the whole story but to get them to read it – it does have to be a core of your book – this is very hard for writers b/c they want to give ALL the coolness about the book
1. The strange attracter – one way to do it (Hollywood pitching) – those concepts sell stories on their own – only do it if you’ve got a story that works for; it doesn’t always fit
2. Practice doing this for mvoies that you’ve seen
3. Pitching is hard, but you should be prepared to do it just in case
Questions and statistics
1) One page is kind of your one sheet synopsis – don’t hold back and make it sound like a movie trailer – you want to give the entire story when you’re pitching your story this way – synopsis is your one sheet – keep it under two pages for sure
2) Three chapters is under 100 pages – they can tell on page 1 a bad writer – they want to have a page to tell if you’re bad, then if you AREN’T, they want to read a few chapters to judge whether you can carry the story – if your chapters are HUGE, then break them up smaller just for the editor – give them 50-60 pages about
3) Of the 1000 queries, she asked for 100 synopsis, 10 with chapters and 1 to represent – half of the submissions are sent to editors of the wrong material – half of people who send queries have no idea what they are doing – of the ones that do, you can toss 75% of them after the first paragraph – all that stuff
4) Query letters are basically your elevator pitch tweaked to be more like synopsis
5) If the editor asks for it, send it directly to him – if they want you to send it to the acquisitions editor, do that, but if they don’t say, send it directly to them
6) You generally don’t want to send them the whole manuscript, because generally to editors that means that they keep it until they reject it and no one else can look at it while they have it; if they find out you’ve sent it to someone else, they may reject it out-of-hand
a. Don’t submit simultaneously – do it at your own risk – it’s getting less of a big deal, but it’s risky
b. can be avoided by sending only 3 chapters
7) If you don’t hear from them in 6 mo, can send them a reminder
a. Elantris sat on Moshe’s desk for 18 mo
b. this is why you want to have more than one book
8) Say you’ve sent out sample chapters and nine of them want the full version (out of 12); that would be a good time to give it to an agent
9) Editors make more money based on how the book sells