Super Saturday

I’m trying to concentrate on writing this blog post but I hear my husband snapping shut the latches of his suitcase. We are leaving tomorrow for a multi-city Europe trip, part work, part play. He’s always ready early and I’m the one pleading, “Don’t call the cab yet! Give me ten minutes!” As you can guess I haven’t packed, but I think it is more important to give an overview of Litquake’s Digital Publishing Conference.

I’ve been reticent to spend money on writer’s conferences this year. While I’m sure I’ll never become rich by being a writer, I also don’t want to lose money. There are many people out there preying on the hopes and dreams of writers and this scares me. On the other hand, I love Litquake, the conference was reasonably priced and local, so I figured what the hell.

I’m glad I went. It was a small conference and everyone there was super intense and very friendly and very professional. Whereas at SF writer’s conference (no disrespect, it is a great conference) I met many people who were in the early stages of writing a book, at digi.lit I met published authors, publishers, editors, and other industry professionals in a very casual setting.

keynote

Case in point: Rudy Rucker, a great science fiction author and one of the speakers, sat next to me at lunch and told me how his publishers have developed a “meh” attitude towards him since his current books (he’s written over 30) aren’t selling as many copies as his former blockbusters. Self-publishing has allowed him to keep distributing his books to fans. I was pretty horrified that book publishers would treat such a well-known author with such disrespect, but everyone assured me this is very common.

RRatdigilit

A real eye-opening moment for me? Remember, we are at a digital publishing conference. A panelist asked the audience how many people would like to see their work in print (aka hardcopy). Nearly everyone raised their hands. Then she asked how many people would be happy with a digital-only release. I WAS ONE OF ONLY THREE PEOPLE TO RAISE MY HAND. Sorry for the all caps, but woah. WFT? San Francisco, heart of the internet, 2014? Hello?

Maybe I’ve got a jump on this because I’m a science fiction writer, but I was shocked that so many people didn’t think digital things were real, that words had to be on pieces of trees and shipped around the country in gas fueled trucks or planes. And, worse, held awkwardly in bed at night. I’ve got a signed copy of a steampunk-esque book that weighs close to three pounds and I roll from side to side like a chicken on a spit, wishing I’d gotten it on my kindle instead.

Speaking of which…I’ve got to pick out some books for the flight tomorrow. Isn’t that the best thing about digital? I do patronize my local bookstore (got my dad “The Martian” from Borderlands for father’s day) but at 9 p.m. on a Monday night, when the bookstores are closed and I’ve got an early flight and a 50-pound limit on my luggage, I am beyond happy that I can buy and download any book that ever existed right here and now–and it weighs nothing.

Agent Search Begins…Now

I just emailed my first query letter to an agent. I’m excited but bracing myself for the inevitable string of rejections.

Why try to get an agent? I’ve attended several “First time authors reveal all” panels at Litquake, and heard stories of successes and failures, both with and without agents. Self-publishing The Perfect Specimen has given me a glimpse into the publishing world and even the pathetic attempts I’ve made to market the book have cut into my writing and editing time. I haven’t written anything new in months. Plus, I believe in the value of an expert. An agent can market my book better and faster than I can, and now that I’ve tried to do this myself I’m not going to begrudge them their commission.

Even if I don’t find an agent, everything I did in preparation for this needed to be done. I created a two-page synopsis of my 140k word novel. That was tough, but I found a technique that worked for me. First, I did a synopsis of each chapter. Then, using only those as source material, I created a ten-page synopsis. From that, I got down to two pages.

Though I’m annoyed that I have to paint my intricate artwork in such broad strokes, I realize I can do the same thing to other books I’ve read with no qualms. “Bookstore employee solves centuries-old mystery with the help of modern technology.” (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore), so I need to get over thinking my work is too precious for the same treatment.

Also, I finally created a decent query letter. It helped when I imagined it being read by a voice actor. “In a world…” It has to be big, dramatic, and easy to grasp. I’ve got only a couple of paragraphs to tempt an agent into reading my synopsis, and that has to interest them in the first five pages of the book.

Here is the frustrating part. I really like my book. It is as good as anything you’d grab off the shelf of your local bookstore, but agents and publishers are drowning in a sea of creativity. I’m doing little more than throwing another bucket of water at them…but hey…we both have a job to do and I’m doing mine to the best of my ability and I have to trust that they are as well.

Why the photo of the 280z? This was my dream car when I was in high school. It was a vehicle, a way to transport myself and my friends. Now, I’ve found a much better way to transport people. : ) (I know, groan!)