Day one of the Northern Colorado Writers Conference is now history, at least for me. There were still writers and agents schmoozing in the hotel atrium when I dragged my tired body home. Since I live less than ten minutes by car from the conference hotel, I commute.
Immediately following the noon registration, a big crowd was on hand to hear screenwriter, author, businessman Stephen J. Cannell speak about his experiences in television and writing. This amazing and prolific writer is dyslexic, a condition that challenged rather than defeated him. We can thank him for Rockford Files, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, and more. He is the author of the Shane Scully mystery series. His latest release is The Pallbearers. When discussing why he thought he had been so successful with agents, writers, and actors, he talked about good manners, behaving as a professional, and cooperation.
Following this event, I attended a session presented by California-based agent Ken Sherman — Selling Your Book to Film and Television. In this informative session we learned a bit about how books and scripts are handled in the agent’s office as well as the studio’s location. The first read is usually done by a very young person at the studio, probably an intern, who writes a logline, short synopsis, and comments for the submission. Submissions that come through Sherman’s office, however, are also read by Sherman as well as his own first reader. He knows he can stand behind any book or script he sends on to a studio.
The next presentation I attended was mystery author Mike Befeler‘s Establishing a Marketing Platform. Always a popular topic for writers of fiction, memoir, and non-fiction, platform is pushed by some agents and publishers as critical to an author’s success. Others say platform is essential for a non-fiction writer to establish his credentials, but not so important to a fiction writer. Mike has built most of his platform from frequent personal appearances in a variety of venues. He uses social media, but does not post to his blog more than once a week. He provided an extensive list of “opportunities” for authors to build a network of potential readers, even in advance of publication.
The agent panel at a conference usually draws a large audience, and that panel is where I spent the next hour. Primarily a Q&A session, the three agents and one editor fielded a variety of questions about their preferences, pet peeves, and how things work in the publishing world. Agent Rachelle Gardner, when asked what she would consider the ideal client, drew a laugh when she suggested a name celebrity with a huge fan base would be at the top of her list. Overall, though, Rachelle, agents Joe Monti and Ken Sherman, and Milkwood Press editor Ben Barnhart, agreed they wanted clients who behaved like professionals, very much like the comments Stephen Cannell made earlier in the day. And the agents reminded us again, that our mission was to write the very best work we could write.
After an excellent buffet dinner, our evening speaker, award-winning YA author Todd Mitchell, gave a great pep talk, full of inspiration…although he did admit it might take us four or five or seven practice books before we got to that best work the agents and editors were looking for.
Saturday, as you’re reading this post, I’ll be attending five more sessions, lunch, and an hour of entertaining improv. I’ll be back to post a report sometime during the evening or early Sunday.