Ten Point Checklist for Conference Attendees

conference word cloudThis week I’ll be attending Write to Publish, the writer’s conference I’ve attended every June for over a decade. Today I’ve decided to post a conference checklist. Thought you’d find it helpful.

  • Business Cards

Take 50. You may not use them all but you won’t run out. Give them to the people you have appointments with and exchange them with those you network with at the conference.check list-tiny

 

  • One sheets (sell sheets) of the novels or books you are pitching. One sheet per book. You can also create a sell sheet of article ideas you have. Present these at your appointments with an editor.

 

  • Clips- photo copies of your published work. This gives editors a taste of your writing experience. Or have copies of your completed short stories, articles and devotionals to share during your appointment if requested. Samples of your best work can lead to a request for your stuff.

    clip and samples-2

    I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves.

 

 

  • Fresh notebook or laptop. Whether you prefer to take notes with pen and paper or on your PC be sure you have enough paper, extra pens and the power cord for your laptop. If you have a larger laptop like me, you might prefer to leave it at home or in your room. It gets heavy and cumbersome to tote. I can check emails etc. on my phone so I opt for pen and paper.

 

 

  • Pitch cheat sheet. I hate memorizing a pitch. I get frustrated and nervous. A cheat sheet helps me remember my pitch just before my appointment. I may not say it word for word but at least it’s fresh in my mind.

 

  • Pictures and names of agents, publishers and editors I want to meet. I may not get an appointment with them but mealtime is a great time to pitch your stuff. If I have a picture I might recognize them in the cafeteria or in the hall.

 

  • Proposals and manuscripts are optional. Most editors and agents want an email version. Having a copy or three is good if you plan on getting input from freelancers or participating in critique sessions. Have copies of the first chapter of your book. If an agent or editor marks it up or takes a copy, you have more clean copies.

 

  • Clothes for conference. Being sure you have all your outfits and all their components is important. I once forgot to change out of my sports bra. A pink sports bra under dress clothes was …I made an emergency run to a nearby Walmart to buy a new bra. Another year I bought a sweatshirt because the temp dropped. Be prepare for any contingency. Wear comfortable shoes if the conference you’re attending is on a large campus. Blisters and limping are just oh so fun when you’re trying to get all you can from a conference. Lots of people wear tennis shoes at these events. So, leave your classy uncomfortable footwear at home. If your conference has a formal dinner then pack dress shoes for that event only.

    black open toe

    Leave your uncomfortable shoes at home.

 

  • Double check your spending budget. There will be lots of books and CDs available for purchase. Decide what you absolutely must have. If it exceeds your budget copy down the title and purchases them later.

 

  • Be sure to have registration confirmation, hotel confirmation and if you’re flying tickets, boarding passes and proper ID.

 

  • Books for sale. This is my first year to bring my novel for the sales table. Only bring a reasonable amount. If you’re flying you’ll be limited unless you shipped them ahead. Even though the conference has hundreds of attendees they are not going to all buy your book. You will be in competition with lots of other authors along with myriads of craft books. Better to run out than haul boxes back home. Have lots of bookmarks or postcards available so interested readers can take them home and order your book later.secret-charades-front-cover

 

What items would you add to this list?

 

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Why So Many Rounds of Edits After the Contract?

Today and in other posts until my book is published in March 2017 I thought I’d share the many behind the scenes activities that take place after the contract is signed. This is not a time to set back and relax. Oh no. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, there are many steps before you see your book on the shelf.

Rounds of edits

First, is edits. Even though my book was professionally edited before I submitted it, there are still things that need changing.

Pansy O'Hara Did you know that Margaret Mitchell called the heroine in Gone With The Wind, Pansy? The publishers didn’t like her name. So it was changed to Scarlett. And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, she is Scarlett. The name Pansy doesn’t have the power and sensual premise.

 

For me, my first round of edits included rewriting a couple of scenes. I needed them to be from my main characters’ points of view not the minor characters. I actually found them more powerful after I was finished.

The first edit found typos and grammar errors that were missed  during my final rewrite. We found overused words and mannerisms. I liked Jake to run his fingers through his hair when he was frustrated, nervous or thinking. Well, needless to say it was a lot.

So, the editor’s job is to point those out so I can find new mannerisms. A repetitive mannerism can get on a reader’s nerves and pull them out of the story.

The second edit is to double-check what I fixed and find new stuff like character names interchanged. I recently read a book where the character’s name was Joel and his late brother was John. But in one scene the tagline John said was used. This was not a ghost story.  It should have been Joel. The editor may also question your research. And you may be asked to go back and fact check.

There are two more edits after that. Why so many? You don’t want a reader to review your typos on Amazon.

Beta Readers

Next, Beta Readers read through looking for typos and anything that might take the reader out of the story. I’ve had the pleasure of being a Beta Reader. You receive a PDF file of the book and open another document to record any boo boos you find. I understand you can have as many as 30 Beta Readers. This way, any blaring problems are fixed as well as the miniscule ones.

There will be one more round of Beta Readers. They might receive an Author review copy or an e-book version to read. In the new format other mistakes are found. The goal is a really clean copy. The reputation of the publisher is on the line along with yours.

Read it again

Here is the key for you as a writer. Every time you receive edits. Read. Read the sentence being edited. The paragraph. The page. The chapter. The whole novel. Read as much as you need to be sure the change flows. Read enough to ensure the edits have not changed the story.

You are the author and not every edit is the right choice. Please do accept typos, misplaced names. POV shifts, things like that. But there are other things you might say no to.  If someone felt a scene needed more sensory beats. The smell of the hot asphalt. The chirping of a robin. The snoring of the old man. You are the one who decides if that would add or distract from your story.

Author Review Copies

By the time you get to the second set of Beta Readers there’s very little to be pointed out. Possibly nothing at all. These readers are good candidates for pre-release book reviews.

Some publishers might not edit as thoroughly. They might only use one round of Beta Readers. I don’t know that there is a set formula. And if you self-publish you are going to have to find your own Beta Readers.These should be people who notice details and grammar errors.

Beware of editors who go through a minimal of steps. A wonderful story can be ruined by those little grammar, spelling and POV shift errors. I’ve seen them in printed copy of wonderful books. An e-book can be fixed. But a paper copy will hold on to those errors until a new print run. Not what you want at all.

In between receiving your edits to work on, you will be doing a lot of other things. Next post I’ll tell you what I learned about cover design.

What has been your editing experience?

 

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Copyright factoids for writers

Copyright symbol-2

Copyright symbol from Microsoft publishing

It never ceases to amaze me the fun facts or should I say unbelieve facts I learn at writer’s conferences. One I’d never heard of before is making me rethink a line in my latest novel.

Did you know?

We should all be aware that you need to check for copyrights for photos used in our materials. Don’t want to get sued. And if you’ve done your due diligence you may also know that you often have to be sure you have permission to quote from other sources. There’s a percentage formula. And you need to double check what percentage. The information can be found in the front of your source book under the used by permission disclaimer. Song lyrics have the same rules.

musical score-2

Copyright symbol from Microsoft publishing

Hard choice

Here’s the fun fact making me rethink my dialogue. Lines from movies not only need permission but you have to send a copy of the page of your manuscript where the line appears and the page before and after. This is a snail mail process with a SASE. No emailing here. And any and all of this asking permission could cost money.

So, I think I’ll just change the line. It can almost sound the same but it can’t be a direct quote. However, I’m free to mention a title because they can’t be copyrighted.

Other foot perspective

Some people think it is terrible for authors, musicians and scriptwriters to insist on permission. And to have to pay them no less. Well, if it was your words being used by others for free you might feel differently about it. If you invented a product and someone was stealing it off the shelves without paying … The flip flop is on the other foot and not so comfortable now is it.

rejection figures-lawsuit-2Be Proactive

Get your permission before you submit. Publishers are trusting you to do it. Add a line in your proposal mentioning rights have been granted. It creates huge problems to discover the material you quoted can’t be used in any form after the submission. The publisher may not be willing to give you the chance to rework your manuscript to exclude it, instead they may return it. How embarrassing. Be professional and get permission.

How have you waded through the copyright quandry?

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Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

contract

 

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

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Three Ways Your Life Experience Can Be Shared With The World

 

Book heart-2

Your true story doesn’t have to be written by you. Check out a professional.

Often I hear from people who learn I’m a writer that they are going to write a book someday. Many people may profess it, but few actually do it. I’ve read a variety of blogs and heard speakers tell of people sharing how everyone says their life should be a book and their story needs to be told to the world. Those bloggers and speakers share helpful hints with their audience on how to determine whether your message should be dispensed in book form.

Because most of my posts for the next two months are going to be reposts of my ten conference tips, I thought this subject blended well. Because at every conference there are people with a passion to get their story told but no idea how. They hope to find an agent or publisher to agree to publish it.

Is this a book of my heart?

There are many things that have happened in my life—true miracles. There are tragedies as well. None of which I have felt at the present are a book of my heart. Some of those experiences take form in some of my characters in my fictional world however. But if one or more of your life experiences burns in your heart to be told, then I’ll help you explore ways to accomplish this.

Scenario one

Let’s pretend for the sake of this blog post that I have had a wondrous experience, and every time I share it people insist I need to write a book.  I’ve never written anything so I find the idea daunting. Yet, the thought takes root in my heart and won’t let go.

Let’s assume I know a writer. And I share my story and my desire to write a book. They smile politely and tell me to take some writing classes to learn the craft. I’m a little offended that they should suggest such a thing. After all, this story needs to be told. I don’t have time to waste on classes. Besides don’t publishers fix your mistakes?

So I attend a writer’s conference with the intent of finding an agent or publisher. I have a handwritten copy of my story and determination on my side. Okay, so maybe I have a typed copy, but it is single spaced. Perhaps I have a copy in 16-point font, single spaced on pink paper all neatly bound in a colorful cover.  A few copies even. You see where I am going with this.  No publisher or agent takes these kind of presentations seriously. There are industry standards which I will not discuss here.

Even though I strike out achieving my original goal, I make a connection. A writer hears my story and suggests I get a ghost writer. She connects me up with a fellow-writer. During a meeting he decides what I need is a writing coach to help bring my story to light.

Another scenario

This time I am joined at my conference lunch table by a magazine editor. I share my story and my battle plan for getting it published. He asks, “Have you ever consider writing an article about your experience.”

“But I want to write a book.” I declare. I am thinking a magazine article would not have the same impact.

“Our magazine has a circulation of 100,000. I’d love to publish your story.”

“Wow! I had no idea.”

 

Heart microphone-2

Sharing your story to groups of people may be another way to get a publishers attention.

Still another scenario

During a break I am trying to decide what class to take when I overhear someone singing the praises of the Speaker class. My curiosity is piqued and I attend. There I discover a new possibility. Speaking in various venues. I learn how to get the word out about the story I want to share. I immediately order all CDs.

 

My point

Book form may not be the best way to get the story of your heart before your desired audience. At least not at first. A magazine has large readership and gives your story a great chance to be read by many more than you may get in book sales. The article or series of articles could get you the attention of a publisher and be the outline for a book. Again, learning the craft of article writing is a must.

Perhaps sharing your story in a speaker’s format is more effective. Some stories are best shared orally. These days it’s easy to place stuff on You Tube or create a podcast to share your story.

A writing coach or ghost writer might be the best way to get your message in book form quickly. Otherwise it is imperative to learn the craft of writing well. And that can take years.

Ghost writer pic-2

Ghost writers and writing coaches may be just the ticket to getting your story told in a compelling way.

Be aware that coaches and ghost writers do this for a living and will expect to be paid. It is worth every penny to give your story its best chance at sales. Many wonderful true stories which have soared to the best seller list were written for the individual by professional writers. Ninety Minutes in Heaven is a great example.

If you have a book in your heart, perhaps these tips will help you decide how you want to share it with the world.

 

I’d love to hear any questions from those who want to get their story out there. And if you’ve successfully shared your life experience to the masses, please tell us about it.

 

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Why Reading your WIP Outloud is Helpful

glasses on paper-2

Read your manuscript through outloud before your final submission. You will be surprised at the errors and weak spots you find.

Last Thursday I sent my manuscript to the publisher after my editor and I whittled it down to under 85,000 words. Whew! That was a challenge. Molly Jo sent me edits and I rewrote and reworked and rejected edits in turn. Over the years my novel has been critiqued by many writers and editors. I’d cut out 20,000 plus words over time only to find in the rewriting and reworking I’d added them back. (Bummer!!)

Read for flow

So, during out final edit together Molly Jo helped me carve away 20,000 plus words so we were under 84,000. It was painful to see my delicious paragraphs of description reduced to a few sentences. But the story was leaner and stronger without them. Once I’d gone through those last edits, I set it aside for a few days. I knew I had to do one last thing. Oh Dread! I needed to read the manuscript out loud. It’s not like I haven’t read it at least 50 times over the years as I’ve honed my writing craft on every word. Why bother to read it again and out loud for that matter. Because I must. At least every published author I know told me they did. They claim you can feel how will it flows when you do.

*sigh*

I needed a few days break between the completion of the rework and reading it out loud to give it fresh eyes and be in the right frame of mind. This is the same thing I did when I first received edits from Molly Jo. I put it off until I felt ready to tackle the inevitable. Waiting for my attitude to mellow. (My life is full of drama unrelated to my novel. I didn’t want irritation or sadness to affect my view of these precious words.)

Hearing my words helped

So on Tuesday night I started reading. I read most of Wednesday and on Thursday night I finished. It was awesome. I found a few phrases that needed fixing. A section I rewrote and another I deleted. (It was one Molly Jo suggested needed to go but I fought it.) Reading it out loud revealed so much to me. When I finished, I felt good about the end result. I am confident the publisher will find other things to tweak. I expect that. A burden lifted off my shoulders when I finally sent the final draft off.

Read outloud often through out the process

Read sections you are having trouble with as you crafted your novel. You’ll be amazed how much easier it will be to fix those tough sections when you hear your words. Find a quiet place to read it out loud or ask someone to read it to you. Hearing someone else read it can really help you see errors and flabby scenes. I’ve been told there are programs that read to you. After reading through this time, I am going to do my research on those products for my next novel. However you do it, read your novel out loud often, especially the final draft. You’ll be glad you did.

What has your experience been with reading your WIP outloud?

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Home from the Conference Now What?

Clip board do list

Now that you’re home from your writer’s conference, it’s time to get organized. While you are decompressing that first day back, take time to send thank you notes. Yes, thank-you notes are still in vogue even though they may be electronic ones.

Thank you notes

Send them to all the people you had appointments with, thanking them for their time. You could send a note to the conference organizer and the instructors whose classes you attended. Gratefulness is an attribute every writer should practice. We all know how good it makes us feel to be thanked and appreciated. Go forth and do likewise.

Send stuff

If anyone requested information you mentioned you had (not proposals), send it now. It is easy to get busy and forget, and when you see them next at a conference, it will be awkward and embarrassing.

Request stuff

Some teachers will say, “If you email me, I will send you my notes.” Or they might have a special email for submission not available at the conference. Be sure to email your request for those things right away. It may take them a little while depending on their schedule to get back to you.

Sort, friend and follow

Sort through the pile of business cards you collected, and if they are not a friend on FB, add them. Follow them on tweeter, and if you use Linkedin, make the connection. Add them to your email list. All those connections are golden.

Post comments and photos on social media. Tag you new friends in pics or mentioned them in your comments.

Organize and rewrite

Organize all your notes. Don’t just place the notebooks on a shelf without perusing pages. You may find you wrote a vital piece of contact information in the midst of your workshop notes. Search for web addresses and books mentioned by teachers, and transfer the info to another sheet. I had written proposal request information from an editor who didn’t have a handout on a page of my notebook. Good thing I found it.

Calendars and time

Time Management is mentioned many times and in many ways at conferences. Plan how you are going to conquer it. Write down your commitment. Get out your calendar (whether on paper or PC) and plot your writing projects. Set goals for completion and days, hours, minutes you plan to write to reach those goals. You don’t want to let a whole year pass and conference time rolls around and you still haven’t submitted to all those who requested your work. Be sure to plan time to edit the things editors and critique groups suggested.

Read and Listen

Go through the books and CDs you purchase and plan when you will read and listen. If you commute to work, you can make that a classroom time with your CDs. Most writers are avid readers so I’m sure you know when your primo reading time is.

Do it now to gain success

The sooner you do these things the more like a writer you are going to feel. The discipline of reaching your conference goals builds confidence. Confidence is just another step toward the success you desired when you attended the conference in the first place.

What’s the first task you do when you come home from a conference?

 

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