Archive for the ‘subjective’ Category

Follow Or Ignore The Ideas

June 25, 2007

This past weekend I was definitely in the minority.

Over 400 women were attending the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was one of half a dozen men who were around at this conference. Besides being in the minority as a man, I was the only literary agent at the event. This annual conference trains women in two primary areas–as speakers and as writers. During the conference, I taught an hour workshop about Book Proposals then met individually with over 25 writers in 15–minute sessions.

Because this group of women have been receiving training about book proposals and talking with editors, in general I was impressed with the quality of their submissions. The majority of them came prepared to talk about their book idea. Many of them were petrified because it was their first time talking with an editor or a literary agent. There were several other editors and publishers represented at the conference who were also holding these 15-minute sessions. The format alone is always a challenge for these meetings. The participants are anxious for my feedback and I have to listen carefully to their idea and ask some probing questions as I flip through their proposal.

Years ago I sat in the position of these writers and hung on every word from the editor. I made lots of notes as they talked then tried to go home and follow through on each of their suggestions. I learned the hard way–and I suspect these people from last weekend will learn it as well–that I take the suggestions as just that “suggestions” and not the absolute truth. No one editor or literary agent has this absolute truth perspective with a massive amount of wisdom to pass along to the writer who is pitching. Some of those ideas are right on target while others need to be ignored. That choice is up to the individual.

I’ve told this story in at least one other entry. Years ago I had a 15-minute meeting with an editor that I respect. I took detailed notes as this editor critiqued my book proposal. I returned home and followed each of the suggestions then sent the proposal back to this editor. He didn’t recall that he had even talked with me about this idea. I was crushed and disillusioned and all sorts of other disappointed feelings. I thought I was receiving the total straight scoop about how to navigate the waters of publishing.

Now that I’ve had a few more years of experience in this area plus had the opportunity for the last few years to be the person who meets with writers, I return to the choice factor. The individual writer has to evaluate the advice, then decide if it’s right for their manuscript or book proposal or not.

You can imagine that I was a bit whipped and worn after meeting with writer after writer. I’m unsure if my counsel had much value at the end of the day. Never-the-less, I gave it my best shot. It’s all anyone can expect during these sessions. People forget the subjective nature of the publishing world. One person loves your idea while another person rejects it. One person believes your book is the absolute best thing they’ve ever read on the topic while the next person believes with equal passion that you’re work is only for beginners and lacked “freshness” (whatever that means).

As you listen to the opinions of various writers, editors, literary agents and other professionals, don’t forget to listen to your own internal voice about the writing.

A Solid Resource for Chidren’s writers

June 18, 2007

Last April, I participated in a several hour workshop on Perfecting Your Nonfiction Book Proposal as a part of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference in New York City. One of the panelists was Liza N. Burby who is also an ASJA member. While Liza has written for many magazines, she has also specialized in children’s books.

There are many misconceptions among writers related to children’s books. Anyone can write these books is one of the predominant misconceptions. Particularly when my children were little and now for my grandchildren, I’ve read a number of children’s books. Some times you wonder how in the world such a book got printed. And other times, you read a book and think, I could have written that book.

The children’s book market has equal challenges to the adult book market. Recently at the Frontiers in Writing Conference, I participated in a several hour critique session with a small group of writers. One or two of them had children’s book manuscripts which were read then I critiqued on the spot. I mentioned the stiff competition and the difficulty of getting a children’s book published. Of course this last statement was my educated and subjective opinion about this market from my long-term experience. Another speaker at this conference, Andrea Brown, head of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency spoke on “The Hot Children’s Book Market.” Two of the participants in the conference tracked me down later in the day to ask about the difference in viewpoint. I explained that it was my perspective and opinion and that other people bring a different perspective.

This weekend I read through Liza’s excellent book, How to Publish Your Children’s Book, A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes. I love the practical, tested nature of the material in this book. It gives wise approaches about how to look for available markets, how to approach editors, how to research the needs and how to shape an excellent book proposal. And if you get a bunch of rejection letters for your effort, then Liza has good advice about that as well in the chapter called “If It Doesn’t Happen.” In her final chapter she writes, “I absolutely believe that you can get your children’s book into publication. The very fact that you’ve come to the end of this book shows that you have the drive you need to reach your goal. But, as you know know, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work and dedication are needed to turn your dream into a reality. The rewards, however, are well worth the work. I strongly urge you to enjoy every moment of the process, from the time an idea first seizes you while you’re standing in line at the supermarket or driving down the road. Even the anticipation of preparing submission packets and flipping through the daily mail delivery can be enjoyable. Then one day, when an editor calls and expresses an interest in your book, you’ll feel an almost unbeatable thrill–unbeatable, that is, until the day you see your name in print on the cover of your book.”

You will definitely increase your odds of success if you follow the advice in this book. Throughout her book, Liza has scattered seven rules, which are explained in detail. The first rule summarizes what any published author should feel, “Sometimes, you just get lucky.”