Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Editors, Agents, and Conference

Registration opened last week for the ACFW writers’ conference in Minneapolis in September. It took a little scrambling for me to make final decisions on which editors and agents to request to see, but I took my courage in hand and got registered before the first day was over.

Even before registration opened, the conference buzz had begun on the forums. Pre-conference weight-loss challenge? Hone your tag line? (A tag line is a 20-words-or-less teaser for what your book is about.) Discussions of conference clothes? Searches for roommates, discussions of airline tickets—-everyone is getting into the mix.

With the registration fee, one gets a fifteen-minute appointment with one editor (from a major publishing house) and one agent (remember that agents are almost essential these days since publishers no longer accept unsolicited materials). On the registration form, you get to list four of each, putting your four in order of your choices (first, second, etc.). Between now and September, a scheduler works it all out.

I did my homework by reading the online descriptions given with each editor and agent. Those descriptions gave an idea of what a publishing house is looking for or what genre of fiction an agent represents. I say I did my homework, but that didn’t guarantee anything. Only God knows whom I should talk to, so when it came right down to it, I had to use my best judgment for my choices and then leave it in His capable hands.

The good news is that those fifteen-minute conferences aren’t the only times one can speak to a faculty member. Each dining table carries the name of an editor or agent, so we get to mix with them at meals, asking questions and learning from answers given to others. I’m told the faculty often go around the table asking each writer for a nutshell about his or her book. That’s one of those times when we have to be ready to pull out those one-sentence taglines--and then see where the conversation goes from there. I’m told we’re free to talk to editors and agents most any time during the conference—except we’re not to follow them in the restrooms to sneak a little one-on-one time. Horrors! I hope not.

Curious about my tagline? This is only one version of it, but it is one I hope will stir curiosity. “She tossed his love aside for a ride on a whirlwind—-until her iridescent bubble burst in the wind.” Now if I can just become comfortable enough with those first words to be able to launch into them on a moment’s notice. Hopefully by September . . . .

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