Well, what a fantastic weekend! Saturday was spent in the company of writer and twitter friends at the Verulam Writers' Circle Get Writing Conference.
The day consisted of talks and workshops, with some souls who were much braver than me pitching their novels to publishers and editors.
The first session was 'How to impress us' an agents and buyers talk and Q&A with John Jarrold (literary agent and editor specialising in SF, fantasy and horror), Robert Dudley (literary agent representing non-fiction authors) and Matt Bates (fiction buyer for WHSmith Travel).
John Jarrold's advice on finding an agent is to do your research and send them what they ask for. If they want three chapters and a synopsis make sure that’s what you send them. Address your query letter by name and not ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘to whom it may concern’. Also mention any relevant background information in your covering letter.
Robert Dudley gave some insights into submitting non-fiction. Robert likes to be approached by email. He wants concise details of what you want to write about and why it needs writing. State what your qualifications are for the subject, ie published in journals. Your proposal must be a subject you are equipped to write about.
Matt Bates told us what he looks for when deciding whether to accept a book for WHSmith Travel. The cover is the first consideration, so leave jacket design to your publisher’s design team and don’t insist too much on your own input. The professionals (usually) know best. The back cover blurb is important. A big turn off is overuse of quotes instead of blurb, which is also one of my pet peeves – I want to know what a book’s about, I’m not concerned about what Elle Magazine think of it.
After this we all went our separate ways to the various optional talks and workshops. Jean Fullerton gave an excellent talk called 'From Critique to Bestseller'. She talked about the benefits of using a critique service, but warned that you have to be careful choosing the right service as there are plenty of people out there willing to rip you off. The best recommendation is word of mouth. The overriding message of Jean's talk was – you have to learn your craft.
'Beyond the Revolution' publishers' panel Q&A with Simon Taylor (editorial director at Transworld), Marlene Johnson (managing director of the Children’s Division of Hachette UK) and Gillian Green (editorial director for fiction at Ebury Press). This was all a bit depressing and along the lines of epublishing is killing the book industry.
After lunch it was time for the presentation of the 'Get Writing' Cup, and the lovely Sue Cook did the honours and also gave us a talk about her writing background.
As I wasn't pitching I had the opportunity to attend Sarah Duncan's talk - 'The Hooker's Story' on how to keep your readers reading. If you don't already subscribe to Sarah's blog then I advise you to do so as you'll find some excellent advice there. Sarah talked about pacing and being careful what events you put next to each other. Two big events side by side will diminish each other. She talked about ending chapters on a climax so the reader is compelled to move on to the next chapter and paragraph hopping.
'With The Innovators' a panel Q&A session with Scott Pack (director of digital product development with HarperCollins), Raymond Tallis (poet, novelist and philosopher) and Ian Skillicorn (founder of Short Story Radio) was a good upbeat antedote to the morning's Publishers Panel. The highlight of the talk was when Raymond Tallis said 'Twitter is the suicide of the mind' and Scott Pack got his phone out and tweeted about it right there on the stage.
The final talk was 'Growing Together: the independent choice' with Lyn Vernham (marketing director of Choc Lit), Choc Lit authors Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtenay and the lovely Matt Bates of WHSmith Travel. Matt and Lyn talked about how they had worked together to get Choc Lit books into WHS Travel.
I had a wonderful day and came home feeling re-inspired and determined to book up for next year's conference. It was lovely to catch up with so many online friends but there were too many people to say hello to everyone I wanted to. Some people I could only wave at from afar.
If you want to read more about the conference take a look at Lucie Wheeler's excellent round up on her blog. Also check out the Verulam Writers' Circle website and keep an eye out for Get Writing 2012.