>Full of writerly zeal and resolutions, at the beginning of this year I signed up for lots of UK writing and publishing conferences, and today was the £42 Writing Industries Conference in Loughborough.
I’m so glad I went! It was fascinating not only because of all the fantastic authors and agents and the heady feeling of mingling with all the other like-minded budding writers, but because a lot of what was discussed was also relevant to my job at Unruly Media and I love it when these two passions collide.
Here’s a brief overview of the comment-cream:
The End of the Print Age: Graham Joyce
Graham has been writing the ‘British weird tale’ for 20 years and has 18 books to his name, with several fantasy award wins. He is going to write the storyline for Doom 4.
Graham advises all new writers that when it comes to the printed book/ebook/traditional publishing debate, we must “face up or fossilise.” Ebook readers mark the end of the print age. A book is like a tardis – bigger on the inside than out, a portal to another world, and an ebook is a better tardis.
Where they have both versions, Amazon will sell versions of the ebook for every 10 hard copies.
He predics that it’s not about the best new ebook reader, it will be the cheapest and most convenient unit that will win.
Surviving as a writer:
He says his 20 years in the ‘word mines’ have toughened him up and to protect ourselves, he advises all writers to be as independent and diverse as possible. Here are ways writers can make money:
1. The advance
2. Digital streams
3. Teaching writing
4. Performance, live spoken word
5. Lectures, talks, workshops
6. Non-fiction writing
7. Develop your story into script
8. Write online drama (e.g. Kate Modern)
9. Games writing
I found the last two points particularly fascinating, I’d never considered this before. As I work in online video, I really should have!
Do at least four of the above, and they won’t break your writer’s heart.
Graham finished on a lovely inspirational note, saying that people are hungry for narrative and though the vessels for story are changing, the stories themselves will always be in demand.
My favourite part of this talk was when I spotted the 80 year-old man sitting beside me write ‘GET WEBSITE’ in spidery capitals on his notepad.
I was given much more food for thought in the rest of the sessions, but the only other session which stood out was:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask an Agent
John Berlyne – Zeno
Oliver Munson – Blake Friedmann
James Wills – Watson, Little
So, here’s what the big cheeses at the agencies are looking for:
A good synopsis which gives a taste of the story, not overwhelmingly filled with plot points or themes. Should be just enough.
Nothing gimmicky, i.e. green ink, manuscript slipped under their toilet door.
Covering letter should be personalised and professional, don’t bother submitting if their website says they’re closed for submissions.
Don’t give them any reason to put book down within the first few pages: writing should be fantastic, attention-grabbing, start in the middle of the action.
Show that you’re serious and passionate about writing.
They are desperate to read something that will make them forget their cynicism – reading for pleasure is but a distant memory for them, try to rekindle this memory for them!
It’s their job to spot potential, so once you’ve done all of the above you stand a good chance of getting some feedback. They don’t have time to give feedback to most people though, so don’t be offended with a standard rejection letter.
I liked the sound of John Berlyne’s strategy. Not in the business of crushing anyone’s dreams, along with a standard form rejection he suggests some books which will show them how they can improve their writing. I had a quick look at the Zeno site and I like the fact they list resources for us, and that they only accept email submissions.
I was cream-crackered by 5pm so I legged it back to London. I bumped into one of the agents 3 times, she appeared to be running from one end of the train to the other fleeing from a wannabe author – I decided not to introduce myself, I felt sorry for her!
Overall the event was well-organised, though queuing for 35 minutes for lunch was a pain. If you go next year, bring your own. Wine at lunch would have been nice – this was a tongue loosener at the Verulam Writer’s conference ‘Get Writing 2010’ a few weeks ago. I think the venue was too small for 300 people, it got a bit claustrophobic.
I approved highly of the prominent Twitter hashtag #wic2010 displayed on the co-ordinator’s email signature, printed on the brochure. It was very handy for all 3 of the people using it to talk to each other!