Friday, May 23, 2014

Should You? When to Con

Do you have a completed manuscript? Go to an RWA sponsored convention. It need not be National, though if you're a member of the organization, you should do that at least once in your life. The point is to put yourself in the same room as the editors buying books and into the same room as the agents who might represent the type of book you wrote. Several RWA chapters put up conventions. Check to find out whether there might be one close by. Then avail yourself of every workshop and learning opportunity you can. Also, there may be costume parties.

It was at RWA conferences that I learned the difference between internal and external conflict. It's where I learned I wasn't a plotter and that there was no faster way to take the joy out of writing than to attempt to be a plotter. I found mentors. Above all, and best of all, I made great friends at conferences. My sharpest critique group is made up of women I met at conferences. The first request I ever had for a partial happened at a local conference. An editor asked for the first three chapters. And when she rejected them, she kindly gave me some insight as to why. The first person to request a full manuscript was an agent I'd met at a conference. (She rejected the book and also gave me some feedback - something she wasn't obligated at all to do and which I appreciated enormously.) So, yes. Cons. 100% worth the time, effort and introvert dread - IF when someone requests pages, you actually SEND them.

However, all that said, I didn't find an agent at a conference. I did that by spamming every agent on the RWA agent list who even intimated he or she might read science fiction. There were nine. One of them read my sample pages, requested the full, read it over Easter weekend, and called me Monday morning. When my first book sold, it sold to an editor I'd never met. (Though later I did get to meet her in person - at a con.) Point being that if you cannot get to a convention, don't stress it. Makes no difference to the people who'll rep and/or buy your book. Do I think I got my work into shape faster because of cons and the workshops? Yes. But if you're taking workshops, trying new things in your writing, getting feedback on your work, and doing your damnedest to incorporate the feedback that makes sense to you? You're in good shape, don't sweat the conference.

Is there a time I'll urge you to pull every stop and get your butt to a conference come hell or high water?

There is. Once you're published, if you final in the RITA, go to National. Don't care what it takes. When I was lucky enough to final, it was the summer my husband and I were sailing the Inside Passage for five months. We were headed north into unbroken wilderness. I say unbroken wilderness and I mean 'no airport for hundreds and hundreds of miles'. To get me to the conference that year, we turned around so I could fly to NYC. Where I won absolutely nothing. But where I had the time of my life. If you final in the major contest for your genre, you are a princess (or a prince) for the duration of the conference where the winners are announced. People will see your finalist pin and ribbon and whether they know you or not, will ask for the story of how the book got published and what happened when you found out it was a finalist. Your editor and your agent, if you have one, will likely be at that conference. You'll sit with them at the finalists table at the awards banquet. You get nifty little 'finalist' flags for your spot at the great big book signing. Just for the number of people I got to meet and talk to - I will never regret interrupting the trip of a lifetime for the conference of a lifetime. Maybe my husband, who was trapped in Victoria Harbor for Canada Day and fireworks regrets it a tiny little bit, but he was also three blocks from his favorite chocolate store in the whole wide world. He doesn't seem to hold much of a grudge. :D


  1. That is such an awesome picture!
    And you totally would have won if I had a say in it. Really looking forward to your next book.

  2. Very nice post Marcella, good views on cons. And congrats on wearing a costume and actually dancing in it! :)