Writers’ Conference Prep 101––Part I

DiAnn Mills & I at ACFW 2014

A writer friend of mine recently returned from a her first major writers’ conference. She had a great time, and learned a lot. She’d done most of the things she needed to do to prepare, except for one important thing she didn’t realize. That’s the topic for today. Traditional publishers and even agents require a finished manuscript before consideration of first-time authors. Click to Tweet #amwriting #conferenceprep101 #finishyourmanuscript

I was actually a little surprised to learn she didn’t know that. Sometimes I take for granted that most people I know––know what I know. But, we are all unique individuals and each of us has a unique track of training.

Traditional publishing has changed drastically in the last ten years. It is extremely difficult for a first-time author to get published traditionally––nigh on to impossible. On occasion, it does happen, but first-time authors must realize it’s an uphill battle which has a high probability of not succeeding.

Here’s why traditional publishing has changed so much. Within the last ten to twenty years, a plethora of wannabe authors have flooded the market. It was much easier to get published traditionally around twenty years ago, than now. If your story was good, even if your writing wasn’t quite stellar, you could get published, because publishing houses had on-staff editors who would polish your manuscript for you and get it publish-ready.

The publisher did all the hard work of editing, cover design, production, distribution, and promotion. The author wrote the story and made changes as the publisher asked––then reaped the benefits from royalties.

If the story was good, the manuscript didn’t even need to be completed during that time. And that’s where publishers (and agents) got burned. Think from the publisher’s POV right now. They’ve offered a contract, maybe even a large advance (which publishers used to do), and they get no return on their investment. It didn’t take them long to realize they needed to change that.

First-time authors––finish your manuscript before pitching it. That just makes sense. Trust that your story is worth telling. Get critiques and professional edits before submitting it to publishers. It’s unusual for a first-time author to get a contract from a traditional publisher, but not unheard of. Increase your odds. Finish your manuscript. Click to Tweet #amwriting #conferenceprep101 #finishyourmanuscript

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