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Debut Novel Panel

I gathered more than writing tips at the recent DFW Writers' Workshop
I gathered more than writing tips at the recent DFW Writers’ Workshop



I hope it was a sign of something. On the afternoon of my pitch I attended a panel discussion call The Debut Novel.

What’s a Pitch?

If you’re not one of my writer buddies, you might think pitching has something to do with baseball.  Pitching in my world is a face-to-face meeting with an agent.  Writers usually query agents, which means they contact an agent via snail or email and send them an unsolicited communication about their work.  Meeting in person gives witers a chance to build rapport, cut through the routine query process and stay out of the slush pile.

Used to, you mailed a query letter and got either a rejection letter or a request for materials.  Then the author would send however much of the manuscript the agent had asked for and then sit around waiting for another rejection letter or THE CALL.  Nowadays, websites and email make the transaction somewhat easier.  Agents post on their website what they’re willing to look at.  Authors email query letters, synopsies and/or pages.  And so forth and so on, until the final rejection letter or THE CALL.

My pitch went well.  She wanted to see pages and seemed enthusiastic about the project.  What I want is for her to do after reading the pages is request the whole manuscript and then give me THE CALL.  At that point I’d still be a long way from publication, but I’d be agented, the first big step in a traditional writing career.

What’s a Debut Novel?

Well, that would be your first novel.  When I went to the panel discussion I wasn’t sure what it would be about.  I thought it might be suggestions about how to get your manuscript out of the query process and onto publication, but instead, it was about what happens after THE CALL.  The information was interesting, inspiring and heart-breaking.

Newly published authors and almost published authors made up the panel, people like Natalia Sylvester, Julie Kibler, Julie Murphy, Heather Webb and Lindsay Cummings.  (Click on their links to see their websites.)  These are people who are further down the road than me.  Each has gotten THE CALL, making them agented and they’ve found a publisher.  Some like Julie Murphy, already have a book. (Becoming Josephine is Julie’s Historical Romance and it’s delicious!  I devoured my signed copy in a matter of days.)

The panel talked about their post-call experience, adding reality to the dream all authors dream.  They reminded us that you don’t go from being agented to being published over a weekend.  In fact, from THE CALL to publication is about two years and if you thought getting rejected by an agent was tough, there’s also a publisher submission process to endure.  At least, the agent is the one doing the submitting.  One of my fantasies was sitting at a bookstore, meeting all my fans and signing their books.  The reality of it is that if you want to have a book signing, you better have several hundred folks ready to appear on demand or Barnes and Nobles’ just not that into you.

And what do you do in those two years while you await publishing?  Well, you go through all sorts of edits where charcters and scenes that you’ve lovingly created are tossed on the floor.  You’re ramping up your marketing skills, increasing your digital presence and doing exciting activities like blog tours.  You have to explain to everyone why your book isn’t available yet, and should someone also buy your film rights, then that’s a whole ‘nother explanation.  Oh yes, and while you wait, you’re getting the next books written and edited, so they can follow the first book at the right time.  Still think writing is something you want to do?

So Why Go Through All This?

As the Debut Authors explained the process you could feel the air in the room compress.  Then a nice man on the back row said, “So that’s all the problems.  What’s the best thing you’ve experienced?”  Rainbows and unicorns came back in the room.  For some, nothing could surpass the call.  For others it was sharing the news with a loved one.  And that’s when I lost it.  There are no grandmothers or grandfathers for me to share my news with.  No mothers or fathers.  Not even any aunts or uncles.  They’re all gone now.  Will I have freinds and family to share the good news with.  Of course!  But there are so many more that have invested so much more into this journey of mine.  I just didn’t realize just how much it would have meant to share those moments until I realized I couldn’t have them.

So that was the Debut Novel Seminar.  Only a few more to go.



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