Editors and agents on impossible odds, and writers who ignore them – Atlanta Writers Conference 2015
A writers life is tough. Getting published can be maddening.
The odds of an unknown writer landing a lucrative contract may beat the 1 in 175 million chance of winning the lottery, but not the 1 in 3000 odds of being struck by lightning over a lifetime.
“Maybe 10 out of 10,000 queries a month are accepted,” said one editor at the Atlanta Writers Conference, held May 8-9 at the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel. http://atlantawritersconference.com/about/
Six editors and four agents stressed the increasingly fierce, competitive landscape of today’s publishing industry. Below, see tidbits and advice from those insiders, along with equally fierce writers, (over 100) who pitched their work.
* “All I want to know is ‘can I sell it?’ I don’t need to be your friend or know your life’s story.”
* “Submissions need to be stellar before we try to sell it.”
* “Don’t over-prepare for a pitch. Don’t recite the plot.”
* “A self-published author is a hard sell to publishers. 97 percent of self-published books sell less than 100 copies.”
* “Don’t chase trends, like dystopian zombies, etc. By the time you finish your book, those trends will be long gone.”
* “Stop focusing on the f-ing New Yorker. If you like it, start sleeping with someone there and get your work published.”
* “Social media platforms is a Zen paradox – necessary, but they don’t sell the book. Good writing is more important.”
The consensus? Luck, connections, the perfect “platform” or query letters won’t sell a bad book.
Above all, write the best book possible. Good writing sells.
Attendees, from all over the region, were undeterred by the odds. With everything from thrillers, fantasy, suspense, how-to books and genre-bending combinations of all, they believed in their visions. Each had 15 minutes to pitch a query letter or a previously-submitted portion of a manuscript.
“I write every day from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. before work and 10 hours a day on weekends,” said Crystal Rast, author of ‘Sundown,’ an historical fiction novel and one of several “best pitch” winners. “I’m a perfectionist – spent five years on a book then threw it out, wrote seven other books. Six were terrible. I never considered self-publishing.”
Daisy Ottomann, author of “Sienna to Rome,” a travelogue based on a 2013 trip with 13 older adults, believes her audience – adults over 50, is underserved, gold mine market.
Mat Hudson, author of “In Silence Reaped: a thriller with a drinking problem,” described his book as “a protagonist devolves into the bottle, in a string of murders and mysteries. Fused with a sub-genre of pure, perfect ancient beings.”
Hudson, like others who have made a living as journalists, technical or academic writers was challenged by shifting to fiction.
“Going from dry, meticulous academic papers to fiction, with its two word sentences and abbreviated dialogue was difficult,” he said.
While social media, critique groups, workshops and self-promotion may be helpful and necessary, it is always the writing that sells.
Hours staring at an empty page or screen, the arduous process of executing an idea that may or may not work, revisiting, ditching, multiple drafts, revisions, polishing and inevitable rejections, is something we all endure, for the love of writing.
The process can be excruciating, but events, such as the AWC can be rewarding, as many have landed contracts from pitches at the event. See testimonials: http://atlantawritersconference.com/testimonials/
Said one writer, who has labored for years on a project. “The best advice, and a quote that I keep on my writing desk at all times is from Winston Churchill:
“Never, never, never give up.”
– Georgia Lee