— Kim Fairley (@kimfairley1) March 25, 2017
Mar. 25, 2017 (Novi, MI) — It’s not every day that hundreds of writers congregate in Novi. The area is known more for its flourishing population of sushi restaurants than budding J.K. Rowlings and Steven Kings. But after my near two-hour voyage through the rain, I discovered 279 other “pre-published” authors packed into the conference rooms of the Baronette Renaissance hotel.
The Michigan Writing Workshop (#MichiganWW)— a collaboration by coordinator Jessica Bell, former Writer’s Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino, and our very own Michigan SCBWI chapter—focused on providing guidance and opportunity for “How to Get Published.” By opportunity, I mean the 14 literary agents (and one editor) who accepted pitches (for a nominal fee).
I should have known, I thought, as I stood elbow to elbow in the line for the bathroom. I wasn’t there to pitch, but I must’ve been the minority. MichiganWW proved at least one thing to be true:
Good advice on the publishing industry +Pitch opportunities to agents
= small army of writers frothing at the bit
While the introverted part of me (hates crowds, introductions, loud noises) was horrified by the mob, I also was thrilled to find so many others sharing my passion for the craft in such close proximity. Oh, good! There are other weirdos like me.
But short of introducing myself in the bathroom line and before the workshops, I found connection opportunities few and far between.
My prepared introductions went something like: “Hi, I see you are also a voluntary slave to the red pen. Care to chat over Twitter or a nice bourbon?”
My actual introductions were less charming: *Enters room. Flings business cards at unsuspecting writers. Flees.*
Who knows? Maybe you’re here on my blog because you caught one in the eye and were wondering who to sue.
Hopeful writers flocked into the “first page contest” (aka Writers Got Talent), a returning event where attending agents try to read through the first pages submitted. Of course, with such a massive group of authors, they only made it through a fraction of the pile, quickly dubbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. An even smaller sampling of those survived a full reading, and the ending feedback was not always positive. Sometimes, the agent just wanted to know where the heck the writer was going with it.
The contest was a humbling reminder of why you need a thick skin in the industry.
When agents are getting hundreds of submissions a day, sometimes “good work” isn’t enough. They’re listening for the voice that will rise above. A lasting impression.
Workshop topics, as promised, included How to be noticed by Agents (my interpretation: “Agent-Senpai”). Since I attended the 2015 workshop for Michiganww where this topic was thoroughly covered, I opted for the workshops specific to my genres: YA & Fantasy.
While these panels were more craft-focused, it seemed many of the other writers were, embarrassingly, in the wrong class during the Q&A session:
“But how do I get an agent?”
“Are you taking submissions?”
“When will Agent-Senpai notice me?”
“How do I get published?!”
These are not hard answers. Many are better addressed over Twitter than a conference. Most of them involve improving your craft. It’s the mechanics of how to improve I’m interested in at this stage of my manuscript. The agents, when not distracted by the publish-me-fever, were able to provide some useful insight useful to all.
Chuck Sambuchino’s talk on building presence and platform was an insightful addition to authors interested in taking online marketing into their own hands. For me, it felt like an undercover sting operation, as I am a marketing professional by day. I’m happy to report that Chuck, for only having an hour on the subject, killed the presentation and provided sound advice on SEO, email marketing, blogging, among other options.
On a less technical, more heart-warming note, Chuck spoke on the value of giving to others and being open to connection.Put yourself out there. Market yourself.Ultimately, those who know you will buy your books because you’re you.
Side Note: In the future, I’ll probably provide my own list of marketing tactics relating to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), as this is one issue I get the most questions on.
Official Event Website: https://michiganwritingworkshop.com/
Did you attend the 2017 Michigan Writing Workshop? I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways in the comments below. Thanks again to Jessica, Chuck, and SCBWI for orchestrating this event!
Thanks again for reading! If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, do feel free to hit me up with your best book recommendations or dankest internet memes. And if you’re just here for a few laughs, I have a slew of awkward writing moments to share on this blog.