Monday, August 14, 2006

Going to ACFW Conference?
Read These Dos and Don'ts!

While ACFW membership has many benefits, one of their key events is their annual conference. Among some of the discussions I’ve had with other fiction editors and literary agents, they have modified their first choice for a conference. It seems to be shifting toward the Annual Conference for the ACFW. If you want to get some insight, just check out their buzz page. While I will not be attending this year’s conference ( it simply didn’t fit my plans this year), if you write or want to write Christian fiction, I’d encourage you to consider attending this Dallas conference.

Terry Whalin, writer and acquisitions editor at Howard Books (an imprint of Simon & Shuster)

The ACFW conference is a major event for Christian writers. As such, lots of cool peops are blogging on conference dos & don'ts in order to help their fellow writers get the most out of the conference that takes place in Texas in September.

I won't be going. The Mir doesn't travel, sadly. One day, God willing, may it be.

I googled up ACFW Conference Tips, Conference Dos and Don'ts ,and assorted variations, and it seems to me that the by far most helpful collection of tips and links is Deborah Gyapong's post over at Master's Artist. Wow. Most of what I wanted to link to, she's got, and more. So, go read hers. If you can only read one, skip mine, read hers. She rounds up a lot of tips and adds ten of her own. Good, good stuff.

(And I'm sorry she's got the blahs. Let's all pray for a massive tsunami of joy to wash her away to the spiritual equivalent of a windy beach on Fiji with a fruity drink or something and Sean Bean in his Sharpe's outfit serving it to her while Colin Firth in his Mr. Darcy outfit fans her with ostrich feathers.)

I'm gonna borrow liberally from D.G.'s links, and add some I found. Those of you blessed with the health and resources to attend, these tips are for you:

Editor Mick Silva's advice is a must-read, including this one, oft said by editors:

Do get an agent to sit on a panel and use you as an example of a fresh, and engaging voice. It was at this same conference that a respected agent used Siri Mitchell as his example of what’s most important in evaluating fiction proposals: a distinctive, individual voice. I’ve known Siri for going on 5 years now and having that confirmed by an agent/editor (okay, it was Chip MacGregor) was absolutely a factor in getting her published. Don’t be coniving and crafty, but do be a crafter of unmistakably unique fiction.

And this, which just seems like a variation of "don't be droolingly obnoxious":

Don’t be a sycophant. If you don’t have the definition memorized, please go do so now.

And this one, upon which many of us who write Christian SF will surely throw ourselves with many a hopeful prayer:

So pay attention and don’t be afraid to consider repackaging / reshaping your positioning of that story to target a new or cutting-edge genre. Sci-fi, vampire, space opera, adult fantasy, chick-lit-thriller (“chiller?”)—these things are all available in ABA and it’s only a matter of time before CBA houses are pubbing them. Editors are flirting with all of them now. Know your genre tags and be willing to adjust to fit.

And this, which will horrify introverts such as I:

Don’t tell me your entire story. Just stick to the P’s: Pitch, Package, Platform. PITCH: Give me the essence in as few words as possible. (caveat: “Aliens meets Blue Like Jazz” is not helpful. “Philip K. Dick meets Don Miller” is better, but explain that genre with a more specific comparison like, “Kathy Tyers meets Siri Mitchell.” Now I’m getting the picture.) PACKAGE: Tell me about series potential, any foreword or endorsements you’ve got, good-sized* publicity and promo opportunities, which leads right into PLATFORM: How big and how wide is your network? Are you bringing any guaranteed pre-sales through your contacts in ministry, media, or miscellany (schools, churches, professional organizations, etc.) *target groups of 1000 or more

Mick's post has loads more I haven't included here, and I suggest you drop by and print out that baby. Take it with you to conference.

Next... The Lovely Gina Holmes:

At her blog, Novel Journey, she offers this advice:

I had two scheduled editor appointments last year but ended up getting six or seven requests for manuscripts because I pitched everyone who might publish in my genre.

TIP: be courteous and ask if you can pitch before you accost the poor
unsuspecting publishing folks. Otherwise you’re just being rude.

The first key to successful and confident pitching is to know your story. You will be asked who your protagonist is. Know the answer. What genre is it? Is it finished? If not, when do you expect it to be? Do you have writing credits? Who do you see your story appealing to? Anticipate the questions and be prepared to look like you know what you’re talking about.

Like Mick Silva, she urges you to quell your Inner Sycophant:

Don’t suck up. People see through it and no one respects that. Again, be kind, be courteous. That’s enough.

And Gina knows, as anyone with an internet connection, that there is NO excuse for igorance:

Another good idea is to find out what editors are going to be at the conference. Google them. Find out all you can about them, especially what they look like so when you see them alone, you can introduce yourself and ask if you can tell them about your book.

If you want some tips Gina shared last year (and are pertinent to this year, and next year, etc), go here. This may apply to some of you (and me):

When I see writers who are starting out, trying to sell manuscripts that aren't finished, not even close, and that have major mechanics to learn, I want to shake them with a warning. 'Don't rush, you're going to blow your shot!'

I too was once in a hurry with unready work. I blew a shot or two.

Martha Rogers offers her tips for making the most of an editor appointment.

Heather Diane Tipton tells you why this is a great conference to attend, and not just for pitching and workshopping.

The Tangylicious Camy also has lots of great things to say about the ACFW event.

Seatbelt suspense author, Brandilyn Collins, is gushing about what you can get out of this conference.

It must be terribly exciting to be at such a writer-encouraging, book-loving, Jesus-praising event. I'm a tad jealous.

Remember, though, that even if this conference doesn't get you five agents tossing roses at your feet, or three editors in a bidding war, or even just one saying, "Wow, can you send that to me. It sounds just like what we want!"--it's still got something to offer your writer's heart and soul. Look for that, too.

Lisa Samson says on her blog:--and I had copy and pasted this before I saw it on Deborah's post, ergo it's freaking me out how much we both zeroed in on the EXACT QUOTE, so it must be important:

Writers Conferences sometimes get a bad rap: How much can you really learn? There's no magic potion. Do many people really get contracts out of this? And honestly if you're going to a conference to just learn the "how-tos" and to increase your contact-getting potentional or swallow a mystical pill that will make you a great writer, any conference will disappoint for writing, at its core, is a solitary endeavor where we learn by doing, by failing, but trying again. People like to pooh-pooh conferences on the basis of material outcome, buying into the consumeristic notion our society falls prey to much too often. But for me, I look on it as a big rap session, a stopping-place to make friends for the journey, a filling-station for inspiration, a respite to know you're not alone.

I hope the above tips help you make the most of this special experience.


John said...

Thanks, Mir! Your advice has scared the bejeezus out of me! LOL

Carmen Andres said...

you are a research queen!

i'm not sure if this is the right place to put this, but i'm looking for book recs for a locally televised book club (on which i'm a panalist). i've put a post up on my blog, but wondered if you would be willing to get the word out among those in your blog community? i need to get as many recs as possible! if not, no biggie. and, either way, i'd love to hear your recs!


Camy Tang said...

Tangilicious? That's a new one. I think I like it. :)