As you may already know, I attended my first SCBWI conference on September 17th and 18th. I already blogged about some suggestions for you if you attend one of these wonderful events. You can read that blog post here.
Today, I want to talk about some things that occurred to me during the conference that I wish the publishing professionals who attended might have picked up on.
First item: PAY ATTENTION!
My third rule for conference attendees (see Part One) is that you should just forget about that fantasy of being signed right then and there. Forget about their noticing how wonderful and amazing you are. But you know what? They should be doing precisely that. Looking around at those workshops, I wondered why they wouldn’t. There were some projects at that conference that shouldn’t have to wait four or six months and then plop on their desks with the 800 other queries that will arrive in that same random week.
This industry already moves too slowly. Why buy into the idea that it has to?
Second item: Please be honest with us
Otherwise, you’re just wasting our time. I understand that you want to start off with the positive and as one agent said, “I don’t want to make anyone cry,” but you know what? Whether a story is “good” is subjective; whether the writing is good enough is not.
I’m not talking about being mean: “You suck and you have no talent.” I’m talking about being honest: “You need to hone your craft.”
A writer who is jumping point of view three times on their first page is not ready to submit and should be told that. It’s not doing anyone any good for that person to be sending his or her work out like that: not the writer, who will get rejected but not know why; not the agents who will have this work needlessly cluttering up their desks; and not other writers who ARE ready but who will be overlooked because the agent will be exhausted and frustrated after reading too many samples like that guy’s.
Third item: Listen to Adam Rex
Our keynote speaker, author/illustrator Adam Rex, is a wonderful artist and a wonderful speaker. Anybody who starts a presentation with a drawing of a chicken sitting on top of the word “Hello” has to be great. Check out his website here.
One of the things he said really hit home to me. He said that, early in his career, when he was sending out his portfolio art – the equivalent of querying for a writer – he would send along a stamped postcard with multiple choice check-boxes on it, such as:
___ Not for me; you’re not my style
___ I like it but don’t have a use for you right now; I’ll keep you on file
___ I love it and I’d like to see more
And the people he submitted to actually responded to this.
This is something I’ve been thinking for a long time. A form rejection doesn’t tell us anything about where we are. We may keep querying the same piece of drivel because we don’t want to give up too soon, or we may start tinkering with a piece of perfectly respectable work out of rejection paranoia.
Give us a clue, agents and editors:
___ Not for me; you’re not my style but keep trying
___ I like your idea but your writing isn’t ready yet; find a critique group
___ This trend is done to death but you’re a good writer; try a new idea
___ Love it! Send me more!
Would that be so hard?