I talked to a couple of prominent agents, who both gave me a green light to submit material to them; and also to an editor at Penguin, whose interests are a little off from what I'm doing, but who had some leads for me to follow. Contacts like these are probably the main reason to go to conferences, and are alone worth the price of registration.
Points that were driven home for me at the conference, whether or not they were the intention of the presenters:
- Even successful writers take years to get published, and get rejections after successful books have been published. Don't despair.
- Even successful writers have book-signings where nobody shows up.
- If Hollywood buys or options your material, don't waste time visualizing how perfect the film will look. It won't be perfect, and likely enough it won't even get made. Instead, content yourself with visualizing what you will do with the money they give you. "Hold your nose and cash the check" is how the authors put it.
- I don't mean to sound conceited, but: I present myself better than about 80% of aspiring authors, if the Sea-Tac crowd is a fair sample. Some dress better than me, but have weird off-putting personalities, and/or cannot describe their book in fewer than 10 paragraphs. Others cannot dress or groom themselves to save their lives, which is distracting even if they can describe their book succinctly. The ability to be professional, charming, and concise is apparently less prevalent than I thought. And I can do that! Usually...
- Women's fiction, chick-lit, young adult, and paranormal novels are all very much "in" right now. Once again, I can do that! In fact I already do that.
- If there's one thing the agents all agree on, it's that the first chapter is vital. I have some polishing and rewriting to do before I submit anything.
- Titles are important too. Choose them very wisely. And keep in mind your stupid editor may change them and mess everything up.
- When submitting manuscripts or chapters, do not print on both sides of the page. Do not bind the pages. Number them and put your last name and manuscript title on every page's header. (If a gust of wind blows them all over the agency floor, along with 15 other submissions, the interns need a way to figure out how to piece them back together.)
- Read, read, read. Read everything. Outside your genre and in. Books and screenplays and articles and cereal boxes. Read good writers mostly, but bad writers too. You'll learn something from them all.
That should do for now. Back to work!