BEA Writer’s Convention Observations Part One

The first thing the convention taught me was that I am not alone. As much as I read about the overwhelming number of query letters agents receive every day, how many times I hear about the thousands of manuscripts in slush piles overflowing out the doors and windows of publishing offices. There is nothing like a convention room filled to the brim with writers to illustrate how desperate my situation is. These writers, who I am sure believe in their work as much as I believe in mine, all paid their hard earned money, money they didn’t earn writing, to be there. THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF US IN THAT ROOM. Hundreds, who like me crossed great distances and spent extravagant amounts of money to get a few precious moments with an agent. Writers are not in short supply.

I wondered what would happen if every person in that room had a brilliant masterpiece, a novel of unequalled quality, the magnum opus of their genre in our time would the agents be able to take them all? Would they all get published? I believe that the sad answer to that question is no. There are too many of us for all our talent to be recognized. The system cannot take everything it is offered, no matter how good it is.

Luckily, I am sure that only a handful of the people in that room had good stories. Right? That is what they would have you believe, that is how the system is set up. But I don’t know. I heard a lot of pitches, both practicing with strangers and overhearing the guys and gals in front of me and I liked most of the story ideas I heard. I am sure that a lot of people in that crowd had mediocre stories or mediocre writing skills and they will be rightfully culled from the herd. Won’t they? Again I am not sure. I have read a lot of really bad books, and I know you have too.

The system cannot guarantee that it will discover all the talented writers nor can it weed out the untalented. So I have to wonder how does one succeed in such a fundamentally flawed establishment? The only answer I have is luck. You have to get lucky, bottom line. It sounds bad right? But it isn’t as bad as all that. You can work with luck.

What is that? You ask.

Work with luck? How is that possible?

Sit back and listen to the Nevada boy.

LUCK IS ODDS. Odds are probability. Probability is a mathematical equation. Equations are manipulated through the use of variables.

Here are the variables: Number of books published and the number of submissions received.

If the givens are that your work is good enough to be published the more you submit or query the better the odds are you will be published. I warn you the odds are really shitty to start out with, but I’ve pulled to an inside strait with no outs, if the pot is right, you just have to go for it. (I do not mean to spam query or do anything stupid or rude that will get you blackballed in the publishing world, I am only saying, query or submit to every available and viable source.)

You see what I mean?

So here is the pot. Your work being read, and enjoyed, by a person you’ve never met.

I hear so many people talking about wanting to see their names on the cover, or their book on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, or just seeing their work in print.

I think all that stuff is awesome, but it isn’t what I am writing for. I am writing to entertain people with my stories, as many people as I possibly can.

So with that illustrious pot piled up on the table before me, I’m going all in, and seeing where the cards take me.

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4 Comments

  1. Yes, thinking of the age groups that I am aware of that you have let read your book,20s 50s 70s………. and all have said great read! Hoping more will be able to read your writing, it is a great thing to find a good book. Good Luck!!

  2. BEA. Okay, so it’s not the Promised Land flowing with milk and money. Maybe BEA also stands for the best education available for writers. I don’t know. Even after all the warnings, I hope to attend with my son next year, not because I expect to leave with a contract. It’s a challenge that must be met.

  3. well, Nevada boy, i’ve heard that your novel is rather fantastic (from VEVE). i’d love to check it out if you want to send me a copy.

  4. As a musician trying to get my music heard by more than just my friends, I fully appreciate your situation. The downside about technological advancements that make it easier and cheaper to produce and distribute your work is that half the world is also doing the same thing!

    Just like the literature industry, the music industry grants the luxury of an established and prestigious distribution network to only a tiny fraction of the many talented artists out there. These days if you don’t have several successful independent releases under your belt, a large and loyal live audience and 100,000 friends on MySpace, you can forget trying to get a major recording contract!

    If you don’t have this your only hope is to make an unusual video and hope that it becomes a YouTube viral hit. Welcome to the future, where everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. Bad luck if you happen to be asleep at the time!

    It’s now so easy to publish your work yourself. But you’ll just end up with boxes of your books/CDs sitting in your garage unless you spend time the equivalent of your day job promoting your work on millions of websites. Though of course you won’t have any time left to create new work.

    I have little desire for obtaining fortune and fame from my creative outlets, but it would be nice to earn enough from them such that I can quit my day job and focus on my creativity. I have taken the approach of putting my music out for free download from my website. The only cost is that you must register with my site in order to download the music. I end up with the email addresses of people who like my music, and I make some money from the advertising on my website. It’s not much (yet!), but it’s more than what I made from selling my music! It also means that more people will hear it.

    If you are not writing to see your work in print, your name on the cover, or your book on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, then why not just put it on your site, and include some advertising on the site. That way anyone can read it for free, and show their appreciation by clicking on an ad. Just the fact that your site includes the words ‘free novel download’ will place your site higher in the search engine rankings and draw many more to the site. Of course writing can just be copied, so you would have to make your book a downloadable pdf file, and require that people log into your site to download it. That way you will build up a list of email addresses of interested people that you can promote your new work to.

    I enjoyed the excerpt of Midnight in Vegas, and the pitches, and look forward to reading the complete book. I know that if I didn’t know who you were and I saw your synopsis on a website with a link to your site to where one could download the whole book for free just by registering on your site, I would do it for sure. Knowing the way that these kind of websites work I would probably click on an ad or two that took my fancy, and you would get a few cents and my email address. If I was in a bookstore however and I picked up the book and read the synopsis on the back cover despite it sounding interesting I would probably not buy it. Hey no offense but I’m a struggling musician and times are hard so I would save my money for some music equipment or something similar! Even if I did buy it you or your powerful publishing company would not have my email address to tell me about your future masterpieces. And you would still only get a few cents of the total cost of the book after the publishers, distributors and IRS take their share .

    Publishing and recording companies are just dinosaurs from a disappearing age where the many relied on the mercy of just a priveliged few. These companies pile their exclusive resources on a lucky few and take most of any profits. The new paradigm is where all can be seen and heard and artists will be successful because of the quality of their work, not the size of their contract, bank balance or the length of their list of influential friends. Artists will retain full control of their work and take all the profits!

    Anyway Lystra I look forward to reading Midnight in Vegas no matter how it comes out. I will even pay for a copy if I have to 😉


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