At the beginning of this month I went to my first SCBWI conference (I wrote a little about it here). With the exception of a useless screenwriting conference I went to after moving to Los Angeles, this was my first time attending a conference geared at helping aspiring writers.
It was awesome. Yes, some of the information was repetitive, and as a writer with an agent and a book deal, I already knew much of what they were saying, but overall, it was wonderful. I met lots of writers who were just beginning to write, or just beginning to query, and they were thrilled to be surrounded by editors and agent and authors. They were there to learn.
But, like everywhere else in life, there were a few bad apples. And at one session I attended, many of the bad apples decided to come together.
I went to a session where an editor was giving a talk about what her house acquires. This was a major Big Six house and the woman was an established editor with several NY Times Bestsellers under her belt. The kind of woman you want to listen to, right?
When she opened the discussion up for questions the first one was not a surprise: “Do you accept unsolicited submissions?”
The answer, of course, was no. She and her team only accepted agented submissions, as is the case for almost every single major publishing house.
The follow up question: “Not even from conference attendees?” She said no apologetically.
Then 3/4s of the room walked out.
I sat there, stunned, as writers who had paid several hundred dollars to hear professionals speak left the room. We had a good 30-40 minutes left of the session, because the editor had purposefully left plenty of time for writers to ask her questions.
Let me say that again. The editor had purposefully left plenty of time for writers to ask her questions.
The people who stayed asked questions along these lines: What do you look for in submissions? What do you like? What types of books is your team looking for? Is cursing appropriate in YA? What are your thoughts on “boy” YA? What are your thoughts on middle grade? What is your editorial process like? What books do you like? How do acquisitions work? How do you feel about agents submitting to multiple imprints at the same house?
So ¼ of the room found out the answers to these questions. A ¼ of the room had the undivided attention of an editor looking to acquire the types of books they were writing.
A ¼ of the room was there to listen, to learn.
I didn’t know anyone in that room, but I know one thing for sure: That ¼ that stayed? You’re my people.
I’d say good luck with your writing and querying, but you don’t need it. You already know what you’re doing.