Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Muse and the Marketplace

Last weekend marked my first foray onto the speaking circuit specifically for writing and publishing. Luckily for me the venue was the superbly conceived and equally well-run Muse and the Marketplace conference organized by the world class team at Grub Street Writers. My first session was sharing with aspiring self-publishers the lessons of my journey so far, and was filled with interesting, accomplished people contemplating a similar route to publishing as the one I've taken. The follow-up questions have been great and I'm soon going to address them here, starting with a topic I've been wanting to cover for a while: pricing.

I also moderated a panel on literary agents that featured four terrific agents sharing their views of the role of the agent and the state of the industry, and taking questions. One comment from the agent Joseph Veltre stood out for me (not surprisingly): he encouraged anyone who'd been trying to secure an agent for years to contemplate self publishing, acknowleding that sometimes the traditional path won't be an option, but getting your work into the world is within reach to everyone these days due to the evolution of technology and its impact on production and distribution. I thought it was an honest and encouraging statement. I also took away from the panel (and other conversations with agents over the weekend) that they are bearing quite a bit of the load of this industry in transition. It's astonishing to me how much work agents do, essentially for free, for the love of a book. The agent Stephanie Aboud was describing a project that she'd done six complete edits on before even sending it out to any publishers! I think we writers need to keep this in mind the next time we feel frustrated by how long it takes agents to respond to our queries.

The other part of the conference that I loved was connecting with other writers who are in similar places as I am in terms of their publishing efforts. For example, Sharon Bially, whose novel Veronica's Nap will be out soon, Jane Roper, whose novel Eden Lake will be published in early June by Last Light Studio, and Wendy Dubow Polins who is at work on Fare Foreward. I encourage you all to follow these talented storytellers -- they are each sure to continue to make their mark in the literary world.

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