In Part I, I talked about how I’d gone to a Con to mingle with editors and agents in the fantasy field, and how I’d ended up getting a phone call response to my book out of one of the connections I made there. I just want to note again how I don’t feel like that description really does the process justice. On paper, it seems so cut and dry. I went to the con, mingled, got a good contact. It wasn’t that way in real life. For one thing, I don’t know if Joshua would have given me the time of day if it hadn’t been for Brandon’s introduction, although for the life of me I can’t remember now if Brandon introduced me to Joshua personally when I first met him or not. Moot point.
What I mean to say is that I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly endorse the Con approach to meeting PWMs. If you’re naturally outgoing and can mingle with the best of them, then maybe it would work for you. I failed to note in my last post another key thing: I essentially crashed the Tor and Del Ray parties. I certainly didn’t have an invite, and though I generally believe that the parties aren’t “closed,” it didn’t do much to help me feel like I belonged, if that makes sense.
I did go to one more Con: WorldCon in LA the next summer. World Fantasy was more of an intimate Con. No hordes of fans, just a couple thousand. WorldCon . . . was much bigger. Very easy to feel lost in the mix there. I once again went with friends, and this helped somewhat. I once again went to parties. But in the end, I had a lukewarm feeling about cons. I personally am not a good enough extrovert to be able to go up to total strangers with the purpose of getting them to publish or represent my book. (Of course, I plan on going up to strangers and trying to get them to BUY my book, so perhaps I’m going to have to get more practice. One hopes that actually having a book makes a difference. Sort of a tangible piece of evidence that I am not crazy. Who knows?)
So . . . Cons can be very useful. You certainly get to see and talk with some of the movers and shakers in the industry. Could that be spun into a successful novel pitch and an eventual book deal? Theoretically. But keep in mind that there are tons of other aspiring authors doing the same thing. These poor editors and agents get a lot of requests. Some are just flat out crazy (trying to shove a manuscript to the editor while he’s in a bathroom stall, for example). Some are weak. (My approach). None are guaranteed.
In my case, I sent Joshua the next 50 pages of my book and waited a few weeks. I got a very nice two page letter explaining what he saw as the flaws of the book, and how he would have to pass on this one, but also saying he was very interested in seeing more from me. A few days later, he even called again to see if I had any more questions for him. So while I didn’t get an agent on my first submission, I did make a very good first impression.
So. He wanted to see something else. At that time, I was working on a very different book (Ichabod), but I wanted to send Joshua something similar to what he’d just seen. Building on the suggestions he’d made on the first book I sent him, I wrote a new one, workshopped it, and sent it off. Joshua passed on it, once again writing a very nice letter detailing the reasons why.
This set up a pattern for me. Over the next five years, I sent Joshua Weaver of Dreams, The Adventures of Barboy, Vodnik, Ichabod and Pawn of the Dead. Each one of them received pretty much the same answer–a letter saying there were things he enjoyed, but that ultimately it was another no from him. Each one felt like I was close enough that I just needed to make a few tweaks to my approach to writing, and I’d be solid for the next book. Each time I wrote a new book instead of revising the current one.
This was stupid for a number of reasons, some of which are obvious, some of which might not be.
But all of which will have to wait for Part III. I’m all out of lunch break, folks.