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Conference – Oh My!

Conference – Oh My!

Hey y’all,

Many of us are preparing to head to Dallas to stay in an ultra fancy hotel for the annual American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference. If not this year, possibly some day in the future. So many writers show up with their hopes and dreams. A few go home with a contract. Some go home with hopeful hearts due to requests from agents or editors to see more. Some of those requests are followed up with contracts. Some are rejected. Some hopeful writers get rejected at the conference and leave with their dreams dashed.

I’m not trying to depress anyone. Really. The first conference I went to, I really thought that if I dressed just right, I’d look like an author and I’d get published. Really. Instead I cried on my husband in our hotel room. Dreams soar at conferences and dreams get dashed. Notice–I didn’t say die.

Last year’s conference was a roller coaster of emotions for me. I showed up depressed–with the line I write for, Heartsong Presents terminated taking two of my contracted books into oblivion. I was determined to break into the longer length lines where there was more opportunity–I thought.

The first night in St. Louis, I learned another publisher was in the process of buying HP and it would live. I soared. The last day of the conference, I had an editor tell me they wanted to do a book with me. A longer length book I’d dreamed of. All I needed was an agent. I soared.

Once home, I queried several agents. By the time, I chose one and we sent the proposal she loved, the line that wanted to do a book with me cut their number of releases. The editor wouldn’t have room for me for years–if ever. I crashed.

But I’d spoken with another editor interested in my longer length book. My agent sent out my proposal. By that time, the line was in serious jeopardy and the editor wasn’t sure if it would continue. I crashed.

My agent suggested I stick with shorter length for now until the economy improved. She sent out proposals. I got not one–but two rejections. Yep, 6 published books and I still get rejections. I crashed. But the good news–my new editor read one of my rodeo books and loved it. She asked my agent if I had anything like that. I didn’t, but I sure came up with something quick. So now instead of my three book rodeo series, there will be six books. Yee Haw! I soared!

It takes conferences and crashing to get to the soaring.

I’ve heard the conference phenomenon discussed countless times at writer’s group meetings. Why do agents and editors act like what you’ve shown them is the greatest thing they’ve ever seen, make a request, and then reject your work? Here’s the answer to the deep probing question all writer’s want to know. Ready?

It’s business.

Here’s a few factors I’ve learned that business decisions in publishing are based on:

  • The economy, the rise of e-books, and countless other factors. In September or whenever the conference is, agents and editors are sent out en mass to find the next big thing. By December, the sales numbers have come in. Agents learn your genre isn’t selling. Editors get the news from the top that the line isn’t selling and might get cut or the number of titles will get cut.
  • The rest of your book didn’t live up to your opening. It didn’t go in the direction the agent or editor anticipated. They either don’t like where your story went or they don’t think they can sell the book because of where your story went.
  • Your book lives up to your opening. The editor loves it, but the pub board doesn’t.
  • Your book lives up to your opening, but readers’ tastes are changing. The agent or editor doesn’t think they can sell your book.
  • Your polished to gleaming opening caught their attention, but the rest of the book didn’t follow through. The rest of the book hasn’t been critiqued by a dozen people or entered in contests for feedback. It doesn’t gleam yet.
  • Your writing isn’t quite there yet. You’re not far along enough in your journey.

Here’s an equation you’ve probably all heard: Patience + Persistence = Publication.

The persistence part doesn’t mean keep sending the same work out over and over. Persistence means keep learning, keep getting critiques, keep entering contests, keep going to conferences and writers group meetings. Do everything you can to keep improving your craft and keep submitting.

Here’s my advice. Go to every local conference you can afford. Go to every ACFW conference you can afford. Do your best to learn, network, sell yourself, and sell your book. Get your hopes up. Soar. If you crash. Go again next year and start all over again. I went to ACFW for 3 years and got requests, followed by rejections. I already had in 5 1/2 years of writing and local conferences.

When the next ACFW came around. I almost didn’t go. I was so frustrated I honestly thought that editors were seeing my name on the envelope and automatically rejecting it. Money was tight that year and it didn’t make sense for me to go if all I was going to do was get rejected. Besides, it was too far anyway–Minneapolis.

But things started happening. A woman I’d met once at a writer’s meeting asked me if I wanted to ride with her. My critique partner lived in Minneapolis and invited me to stay with her instead of in the expensive hotel. Unexpected funds materialized. I decided God was trying to tell me something and registered. That year, an editor’s eyes lit up over my book and four months later, I got an offer.

Yep, my journey took 9 1/2 years and I almost gave up. But these things take time. These things take rejection–I stopped counting at 200.

We’ve all heard it before–writing is a journey. It’s also all in God’s timing. If I’d gotten published back when I wanted to, I don’t know how I’d have met deadlines when my son was younger.

So keep your chin up and eventually you’ll learn that last nugget of wisdom that will take your writing up to publishable level. Or maybe God’s timing will line up and you’ll get the exact right manuscript to the exact right agent or editor at the exact right moment. Maybe it will happen in Dallas, or maybe next year in Indianapolis, or the year after that in St. Louis. Or maybe even between conferences because you sent an unrequested query.

Where are you in your journey?

  1. Jenny Carlise09-03-12

    The title of your post should be “The truth will set you free.” Knowing that it’s business, not a personal attack makes rejection so much easier to take. It’s much like applying for a job. The people doing the hiring may really like you, but someone comes along who has exactly the right experience to fit into the position with little or no training required. It’s not about you-it’s business.
    As for me- it’s not a good time for me to go to the conference, since I’m also in job search. So, I’ll add words to my story to get it ready, and when the time is right- It will be right! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Shannon Taylor Vannatter09-04-12

      Hey Jenny,
      My critique partner went to conference in 2009. She got several requests followed by rejections. The next year, she didn’t even get requests. In 2011, she stayed home and concentrated on polishing her story all year. This year she was a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest for two different categories with two different books. And she finaled in one of them. She’s going to conference this year. Sometimes, you just need to work and plan conference attending the future.

  2. Nichole Hall09-03-12

    Thank you for posting this Shannon. I am attending my first ACFW conference this year and this helped put my mind at ease. I know it will be information overload and I hope to walk away with a lot of knowledge. Yes, I’m nervous about meeting with agents, but I have come to learn this is a process and all will happen in the Lord’s timing.

    • Shannon Taylor Vannatter09-04-12

      Hey Nicole,
      It will be overwhelming and exhausting. If you feel like crying, look me up. Been there, done that. But it’s so worth it for the knowledge and connections gained. I haven’t missed and ACFW con since 2005.

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