April 27th, 2006
Thinking about conversations at the conference

I met a lot of wonderful people at the Desert Dreams Conference. Some were just starting out and some had been in the biz for a while. It’s always interesting to listen to both sides. Why? Because when you’re in the trenches, it’s so easy to forget common knowledge.

Why am I bringing this up and what am I talking about? I’m so glad you asked. 😉

I’ve received emails over the past year, asking my advice about various writing things. I’m truly flattered that anyone would think I have a clue about this business, but it always makes me wonder why they haven’t done their research. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind helping people if I can. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m referring to are those people that come up to you, who have no idea where their book fits and wants you to direct them to the correct editor/publishing house/agent.

Whatever happened to reading a bunch of books in the various genres? Or buying how-to books? Or joining writer organizations that send you this information monthly? It seems to me that a lot of people don’t want to put in the work needed to learn these things. Like I said, I don’t mind helping, but sometimes I find it very frustrating.

22 comments to “Thinking about conversations at the conference”

  1. I’m not even at the looking stage yet, but assuming you read what you write, couldn’t you just look on publisher/agent websites and start with the ones who publish/handle the authors you enjoy?

  2. I used to think writers asked those questions because they figured pubbed authors knew the secret handshake (choke) and could pave the way easier. Some of them could be lazy. Some simply clueless. The smart writer will be part bloodhound and learn how to ferret out all industry/craft info. When they’ve exhausted all channels (writing loops/books/etc.), that’s the time to ask authors what gives imo.

  3. Yes, May that would seem like the logical approach, but most of the people I’ve talked to aren’t doing that.

  4. Jan, I used to think the same thing. I know that’s what I did when I was first starting out. I bought every how-to book and devoured romances. Afterwards, I joined RWA.

  5. I think those who don’t *really* write just don’t consider this a business. I tried explaining it this way to one frustrated writer who found it all quite daunting: You spent 4 years of college getting a degree in something else you loved. You read everything from trade journals to novels that dealt with it. You spent another year and a half going for the master’s degree. What makes you think my career came easy? (She had a bit of the old ‘If you can do this, I can do better’ going.)

    She said yes, but one of your degrees is in English – to which I replied, yes, but knowing grammar and sentence structure, even knowing literature, does NOT mean I can DO it any more than studying science makes you a surgeon.

    Friends. Gotta love ’em.

  6. Sunny, I had a friend who hadn’t contacted me in years…until she needed publishing information. I gave her the info, but it pissed me off and hurt my feelings. I do think there is a segment of writers who subscribe to the ‘how hard can it be’ school of thought. I just want to grab them and shake them and say it’s real friggin’ hard.

  7. Yes it’s hard.. the hardest thing I’ve done, and I used to work delivering babies!!

    You are right Jordan, we have to do the homework. Listening in to published authors fromm Deb. Macomber through Jennifer Ashley, our own DR member, the “secret” seems to be:

    FOCUS,ORGANIZATION, DEDICATION. (Jenn’s words..) OH, yeah, and WRITE.

    RWA and so many other places offer a wealth of info–as well as conferences..

    Thanks for your encouragement.. I am working on the above-formula:


    Focus organization dedication write.

  8. Maddie, Good for you!!! That’s what you have to do. 🙂

  9. Jordan, thanks for posting this. I have no trouble helping people who have done a little research, but it’s so hard to spend your time on people who are clueless. I mean, that’s fine if you’re clueless, but don’t get mad when I point you in the direction of the most rudimentary sources–the bookstore, the writer’s groups, the BOOKS. Took me 16 years (or more) to amass the knowledge I have and I’m not going to hand it all over in a 15 minute conversation!

    You learn in baby steps. I know I was bombarded with some knowledge I wasn’t ready to understand until farther down the line. Like when I’d finished a book. That seems key to me. Until you’ve finished a book, you really shouldn’t be too worried about the business side of things.

  10. *shaking head* I remember not only reading all the different publishers/imprints, but going through my keeper shelf and calculating the percentages of books by a publisher to see who I read the most of and liked best! I also literally took apart a book to see how to construct my first book. How many chapters, how many pages per chapter, how much action per chapter. I did all this math and used that to guide my first novel.

  11. Julie, I think the internet puts an unnecessary rush on writers. You hear so many announcements about sales on lists and blogs that you start to feel like you’re getting left behind, whether you’re ready or not. I send new writers to the same places you listed. I think it’s the only place to start.

  12. Charlene, I did the same thing with one of Dara Joy’s books. I broke down the action vs the romance vs the description, etc. It was a wonderful exercise.

  13. You know, I think the writer herself has the best feel for what her story is. How can others tell where it should go without reading it? So, yeah, I agree. 🙂

  14. Amy…now you’re leading into brand new writers asking published authors to read for them–another no-no in my book. I have read for aspiring writers–don’t get me wrong. But they are friends. People who have established a relationship with me. People whom I trust. There are so many reasons why I have to say no to strangers or near-strangers (legal and personal) and yet many get very insulted, as if I’m purposefully and solely the reason they aren’t getting published because I won’t read for them!

    The bottom line is, this business isn’t easy. I have a blog about it, myself, today, at my Marisela website.

    To all of the aspiring writers who think this is hard–it is! And it doesn’t get easier. But if you’re meant to make it, you will. All on your own. Or with the help of your friends, but not in the ways I think most people expect.

  15. Amy, The short answer to your question is they can’t.

  16. Julie, I’m off to check out your blog.

  17. Oh man. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve seen who don’t even have the basics down. How to find an appropriate agent. How to write a query letter or synopsis. When you start talking about that stuff, their eyes glaze over. They aren’t interested. They just want their book published and don’t want to do the work to get there. It pisses me off to no end.

    And never mind the basics of writing. They’d NEVER read an article about show don’t tell, or anything else.

  18. Trace, I hear you. The good thing is I also ran into a lot of new writers that were very together at this conference. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will succeed.

  19. I’m an aspiring writer. It’s true that when I started I didn’t know zip. So I searched the web for groups to join, where I could follow the discussions and learn in the process. There are many groups like that. I especially love Romance Divas. They have chats with writers, publishers, editors, and agents. There are awesome workshops. They even have a mentor/apprentice program going on for serious aspiring writers. So the info is out there, all you have to do is reach for it.

  20. Silma, I agree. It’s just that a lot of people don’t want to bother.

  21. Everyone’s lookign for the easy way Jordan. I get questions like that alot, which I find weird because I figure I’m just a wee baby still just learning to walk in this business, but I usually answer as much as I can and direct them to resources that they can use….

  22. That’s how I feel, Vivi Anna. I do the same.