Jody Lynn Nye’s Writers’ Intensive Workshop offered students and alumni yet another golden opportunity to learn from working professionals at this Friday’s workshop.
Ace executive editor Anne Sowards stressed that an emerging author must be able to summarize even a very complex story in a one-sentence logline. She urged writers not to follow popular trends. If you do so, and the trend fades, hang onto the project until it becomes popular again, she advised.
Although Ace only buys through agents, she recommended doing research about which publishers might take unsolicited manuscripts and when they will do so.
She revealed how all the new ways to get books are bringing out marketing challenges. Publishers are constantly trying to solve the dilemma of how to get potential readers’ attention.
So you want to be an editor? Sowards says to move to New York City and take an entry level job at a publisher. Although she had an English degree and some college journal experience, she really learned how to be an editor on the job.
Author and agent Lucienne Diver has been in the business for 25 years. She started in New York, but has now been with the Knight Agency for 10 years.
Counting N. K. Jemisin, Faith Hunter, and David B. Coe among her clients, Diver noted that all of her authors are traditionally published, but some may do hybrid publishing also, self-publishing some of their work.
Diver talked about the many roles that literary agents play. She emphasized communication, timeliness, and hard work as the three vital components of a successful author-agent relationship.
Distributing copies of her helpful hints and URL links (including where to find agents and writers’ organizations), Diver closed her talk with advice on what to include in query letters to prospective agents, stressing professionalism
Author S. M. Stirling delivered the capstone for the presentation. His latest book, Black Chamber (July 2018), features Teddy Roosevelt as a character. A description of the book touched off discussion of alternate history and related research issues.
In response to a workshop participant’s question about the difficulty of his inquiries, he said, “I am a history geek. Research is not a hardship.” Stirling lauded that “Everything is on the internet,” but cautioned that you must distinguish the good from the bad.
“You could not invent this guy,” Stirling said, referring to Teddy Roosevelt, the American president who appears in his novel. Admitting that he writes a book and keeps on researching, Stirling said “Where to stop, there’s the rub.” His impulse is to put it all in, and cut back in revision. Nye noted also that “research can make or break a book.”
On planning a series, Stirling commented that your imaginative world can be as complex as the real world, and said to leave space to extend the series. “World building is an occupation for lunatics trying to play God,” he said, smiling magnanimously.
As the saying goes, he said, “Mediocre writers have influences. Great writers steal.” Asked by Bill Fawcett what was the secret to writing a bestseller, Stirling replied “Dumb luck.”