Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflections on CAPAU

I went to CAPAU on Saturday. I'm breaking up the blog so that you can see the highlights of each event!

Opening speaker: Gina Barreka. She is a professor at UCONN and super sassy. I suggest everyone hear her speak at least once in your life, she's awesome. Her books (think feminist humor) have been added to my ever growing list of things to eventually read. She talked about what actually makes a writer. The most memorable attribute being EXPERIENCE. A dreaded word to a green writer like myself, but yeah. There is a reason why they say you have to write a million words before you can consider yourself a good writer. Practice makes perfect. There is a reason why my publishing professor told me to read more in my genre before attempting to publish. You need to be able to draw parallels between you and other writers. There is a reason why I have a list of things to read. I know I haven't got the experience I need, but I'm trying to publish anyway.

Agent Panel: Most of the 9 agents that were there handled non-fiction...that made me sad. The interesting stuff they had to say was mostly for people who were publishing in non-fiction and the other stuff they had to say I already knew.

Panel 1: Three professional editors (Beth Bruno, Rita Reali, Roberta Buland) talking about the editing process, the different kinds of editing (did you know there are three kinds of editing?), and why you should edit. It was interesting to learn about the different kind of editing:
1. Structural/Directional editing (which is basically someone reading your work to tell you what does and doesn't function well and where the big story gaps are),
2. Copy editing (someone going through and fixing grammar and sentence structure),
3. Proofing (going through with a fine toothed comb and fixing places where you didn't space things properly. Then someone asked the dreaded question: "What if your attempting to get published through a publishing house? Don't they provide you with an editor? In that case, I don't need to hire a professional editor before I submit to an agent, right?" Of course, the answer was: "Of course you need to hire a professional editor before submitting to an agent! It's so competitive these days that if you aren't perfect they won't even look at you!" Well, something to that effect. That just made me feel awful cause I know I need an editor and I certainly don't have the money (upwards around 50$ an hour) for one.

Panel 2: A self published fantasy novelist (M.J. Allaire) shared her thoughts on fantasy writing. It seemed like she basically pulled a bunch of research off of the internet, fed it to us for the first ten minutes and then talked about being self published for the rest of it. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was pretty interesting to learn how the self publishing process works and how she'd been marketing her series. It was obviously her element, so I don't blame her for being all over it like white on rice. It definitely opened my eyes and made me decide never to self publish. Why? You have to pay for it all up front, then do your own marketing and hope that you eventually break even. Though, the good side is that you are in charge of everything, from book contents to cover to where it gets sold.

Panel 3: This was a panel put on by Shel Horowitz who is like the promotional marketing whiz. I didn't get a lot out of this, mainly because my agent pitch was right in the middle of it and I got lost in translation. What I did hear was obvious marketing stuff Such as: Look for unlikely allies to sell your books. Basically that means: If you've written a book about troubled teens, try approaching youth hospitals and guidance counselors. He also put a big emphasis on the internet and social networking sites. I knew this already, that's why my blog is here.

Agent pitch: This was the thing I was most nervous about. Let me explain something to you first. When I applied to CAPAU, I was an early bird sign up. When you sign up, you go through a list of agents attending and pick the top three you'd like to meet with. Then CAPAU matches you up with one of your choices. The list, as mentioned earlier, was sadly lacking in distinct fantasy/sci-fi agents. There were a couple, they went on my list. Then the coordinator emailed me and told me my first choice (Susannah Taylor) wasn't coming, so he'd certainly put me with my second choice (Gina Panettieri). I had to mail in my query letter so that the agent could look at it before hand...the query clearly states that I have a FANTASY NOVEL. When I get to CAPAU I'm told that the agent I'm supposed to meet with isn't going to be there. So, I look at who they sign me up to meet with, Jessica Regel. Jessica Regel clearly states in her agent bio that she DOES NOT handle fantasy/sci-fi. That gets me a little upset. Not only did I not get my third choice (the only other agent who handles fantasy), but I end up with one who handles mostly non-fiction and clearly wants nothing to do with fantasy.

The story has a happy ending though. Jessica Regel was super nice and critiqued my query letter for me. Other than one or two little tiny things, she said that the query letter was very good. She also gave me the contact information for Jennifer Weltz, someone in her agency who DOES handle fantasy/sci-fi. So, special thanks to Jessica Regel for being awesome and not-so-special thanks to CAPAU for not putting me with someone who handled my genre when they obviously had my FANTASY NOVEL query and I should have had spot preference because I was an early registrant anyway! Okay, I'm done being bitter.

Final notes: Anyway, I had a fairly good time. I made some new friends and I'm considering joining CAPA. I felt like CAPAU was more for self published authors and small time publishers, but it doesn't hurt to know any of those people in the business.

EXTRA: I picked up the physical mark-up of Book 1 from my friend. I'm able to divide my friends by their editing abilities (now that I know the different kinds of editing). So far, most of the readership has only been able to give structural/developmental support. My friend who did the physical mark-up is the only reader I'd consider a copy-editor sort of reader. She made a lot of corrections, all very good ones. So, I feel a little better about not being able to afford an editor before I submit to an agent. It will take me a while to do the corrections, and she still has to do Book 2, but with a newly polished query and the types of updates I'll be giving to my manuscript, I'm feeling very confident about my book. I'm aiming for a final edit completion around mid-June and queries will be going out shortly after that.