Sunday, February 05, 2006

Heart of the West Conference Day 2

Whew, what a busy day it was! I arrived at the hotel around 8:10 AM; luckily they were just getting started, so I didn't miss a thing.

The day began with a comedian, Charlie Earley, who was quite funny. It was nice to begin the day with a few laughs.

Editors' Panel
Next was a panel with Anne Sowards, editor at Berkley, and Raelene Gorlinsky, editor at Ellora's Cave. You can see a glimpse of Anne to the right of Earley in the photo above. The one photo I took of her turned out fuzzy, and I couldn't even take one of Raelene because there were a couple of people blocking my view. In any case, here are some of my notes from that panel.

Berkley is looking for everything except short regency and series (category) romance.

Ellora's Cave is looking for interracial and gay romance. They are starting a new erotica line where the focus is more on the sexual relationship than on the romance.

At Cerridwen, they are looking for everything except children's literature. They are 95% sure that they will launch a line of traditional regencies because there is a market for them.

An interesting piece of trivia: only 15%-25% of the first three chapters are read in their entirety. You need to think of the editor as a reader. Your story should catch their attention from the beginning and not be bogged down by long back story. Also, send the first three chapters, not three of your favorite chapters.

They talked a little about the submission review process. Submissions from current authors take priority, followed by requested submissions. After that, they turn to the remaining submissions.

Anne's advice to writers is to read a lot. I think I have that one down. Ha! If you're worried about inadvertently absorbing what you read, read another genre.

Some other tips/info:

  • Your book should be polished when you send it, the best work you can make it. The editor's job is not to give advice or critique your work.

  • Very rarely will an editor take on a diamond in the rough. In the time it would take to help these writers improve, they could take three other writers.

  • Remember that your query letter is a business letter. Don't include personal information.

  • Once you have a contract, it is your responsibility to understand it, not the publisher's responsibility to explain it to you. If you do not have an agent, contact someone familiar with contract law.
A lot of the information seemed like common sense, but I found it all very helpful.

Scott Eagan
Scott is an agent with the Greyhous Literary Agency, which is romance-focused. He started the agency and wants to keep it small so he can have a strong connection with his authors.

The main thing he emphasized was doing your research--researching your genre, agent, etc. Someone who is an agent for your friend may not be the right agent for you, for instance.

He is looking for a good mystery/suspense with a romance that isn't just an afterthought. He is not looking for category romance--single title is his specialty. He also doesn't like characters with a lot of emotional baggage.

When you go to conferences that have editor panels, take advantage of them by asking questions. Ask them why they bought a particular book that was published in the last year. This can help you understand what they are looking for.

I asked when a writer should get an agent. He said most writers are not ready when they have written one book, but you should look for an agent when you are serious about being a writer. You should also consider it when you get signed by a publisher.

Sherrilyn Kenyon
Sherilyn talked after Scott and was also the luncheon keynote speaker. I'm going to combine my report of them, since the talks were closely related. She shared a little of her publication story. She held up a file folder of rejection letters that was about an inch and a half thick. She said it represented a year of her life. She received all of these rejections in one year.

Some of the other things she said:

  • Don't chase after trends. If you don't love what you're writing, you won't last.

  • Set goals but don't set yourself up to fail. If you only have time to write for one hour a day during your lunch hour, then do it. Just don't give up.

  • Educate yourself about the business. There is always a non-compete clause waiting to get you.

  • Want other writers to succeed--they can help open new markets. No writer ever loses a contract because a new writer is published.

  • Only you can share your stories. If you stop writing, those stories will die.

  • Surround yourself with supportive friends.
She's a very motivational speaker, and she seems really down-to-earth.

Lynn and Lunch
After Sherrilyn's first talk, I attended a class by Lynn Kurland. I don't have many notes from this one because we filled out a worksheet for most of the time. I was also wilting a bit because the room was very hot. She talked about characterization and getting to know your characters.

Then it was time for lunch. Once again, there were three books left on our chairs. This time the books were Angels and Outlaws by Lori Wilde; Legendary Tails IV by Jaid Black, Marly Chance, N.J. Walters, Ravyn Wilde, Ashleigh Raine, and Mandy Roth; and Playing Easy to Get by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jaid Black, and Kresley Cole.

I sat at the same table as Anne and Raelene, and it was fun to talk with them a little bit. I learned that Anne and I went to the same college and both of us majored in English. She graduated a year after I did. It is a fairly large department, but I'm surprised we didn't bump into each other back then.

Anyway, after lunch, Sherrilyn spoke again (see notes above).

Jo Leigh
Jo's presentation was perhaps the most helpful one of the whole conference, at least for me. She talked about the core decisions, the things you decide about yourself when you are young. Those decisions influence you throughout your life, and you can also use them to create realistic characters.

I talked with Jo after the presentation about In Her Eyes, and she gave me some good ideas. More rewrites ahead. LOL!

Marjorie Jones and Marie Higgins
Christine Feehan was unable to attend the conference because of a family emergency, so Jones and Higgins filled in with a presentation about critique groups. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • A smaller critique group is better because you get to know each other.

  • Point out positive things about the writing as well as things the writer can improve.

  • Critique genres you enjoy writing or reading so that you can provide valuable suggestions.

After the presentation, they had a drawing for a three-chapter critique. There were two winners and I was one of them. Should be helpful.

The book signing was next, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money there. And that was the end of the conference. It was well worth the cost, and I'm definitely planning to go to RWA in Atlanta.

Name: Lia
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2006 Heart of the West Writers Conference
Don't Forget to Breathe
Finding Your Voice
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