Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trends, Agents, and Other Scary Things - Lessons from the AWC

I have SO MANY things to say about my trip to the Auburn Writer's Conference this past weekend. I got to see a ton of amazing writers and panels, workshop with hilarious Rachel Hawkins and her agent Holly Root, and take my picture with the infamous Archer Barbie, courtesy of conference organizer Chantel Acevedo. (Archer is from Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall and the upcoming Demonglass.)

Archer is full of WOE! I am not. Oops.
While talking books is fun, I was really impressed with how much I learned about the business side of writing. Rachel's morning workshop "Are You There Ghouls? It's Me, Buffy," covered the hows and whys of writing a paranormal coming-of-age story. We talked about fun stuff and her process and all sorts of good info. (Did you know that vampires represent SEX? Let me tell you, we discussed the heck out of that.) *wink* I'm not going to tell you the rest because she might ban me from reading her books if I give away her secrets. And then both Archer and I would be full of woe. WOE.

Of course, we also touched on market trends, completely freaking me out. You may not realize this, but a book that's coming out right now was purchased by a publisher roughly two years ago. So if the current trend is "YA Books About Skateboarding Koalas!" you can't say "Well, that's FAB because I'm writing (or should write) a book about a skateboarding koala!" You've already missed it. UNLESS your book is fresh and new and amazing and defies trends anyway.

(We're going to pretend that my book is the latter, and luckily there are no skateboarding koalas in it.)

So what's a writer to do? In Rachel's words: "Write the damn book."

Then I was lucky enough to take a query seminar with Holly Root, Rachel's Agent of AwesomeTM.
Rachel Hawkins and Holly Root
Holly went over some of the workshop participant's query letters, gave us all pointers, and was basically the most excellently accessible person EVER. She was sweet, funny, honest, and - most importantly - not scary. I know, I was shocked. I mean, she doesn't look scary, but agents are these amazingly powerful people who laugh at your manuscripts and rip you apart on twitter, right? Uh, no.

Agents are normal people. Well, as normal as people eat, sleep, and breathe books can be. The most important things I learned from her? Holly said that she strongly believes that "Talent will find a way." That good agents respect you as a writer. They want you to be the best you can be, so that they can sell the best book possible. If you hear 'no', it's not necessarily 'no' to you - just not the right book, not at the right time. Prove that it's the right book at the right time by being you and using your voice.

If you're lucky, which I believe Rachel is, you get exactly the right person to be part of your team. If you want proof as to just how normal an agent really is, get her to admit what the last book she read 'just for fun' was. No, I'm not going to divulge her secret, but trust me. She's normal. 

So what did I take away from this conference? A desire to write the best damn book possible, and faith that it'll find its way. But I'll leave out the skateboarding koalas. (And maybe vampires too.)


Cheryl said...

FANTASTIC post, Leigh! So glad you got this opportunity. Thanks for sharing what you learned with the rest of us. And yes, your book will find its way because it's damn good.

Heather said...

It was really great to meet you at the conference! And I think you and Archer look cute together ;)

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