Phil: Back in February, Candice sent over a link to a conference taking place in London organised by the people who publish the important “Writers and Artists Yearbook“. It had the tempting sub-title “How to Get Published in 2011”.
Well we want to be published in 2011 and the price wasn’t too scary, especially with the discount for booking early, so how could we go wrong ? Anyway, doesn’t that nice Ms Rowling recommend the book, and she’s not done too badly out of this writing lark.
I was ticket number 5, Candice number 6.
On the train down to the big city we pondered on the sort of people who we would be sharing the event with. All would be aspiring authors and pretty serious ones if they were willing to book on to an event. At the very least it was going to be a chance to size up the competition in the marketplace. The advert promised the chance to network with high-level agents and publishers and meet the successful teams behind the scenes. Maybe an agent or publisher would spot us in the crowd, recognise our potential and sign us up on the spot for a huge advance !
The venue was the Welcome Collection opposite Euston Station. It’s proximity was handy thanks to the torrential rain that greeted our arrival in the capital. Inside we joined a queue to register. At this point I realised I’d forgotten the ID we’d been told to bring but as it happens, nothing was asked for one we presented out tickets. I guess that in the event of a duplication, details would be requested and the imposter sent packing.
More importantly, inside there was tea, coffee, water (still & sparkling) and loads of cookies ! I opted for the one with raspberry like bits in as it’s always sensible to pick the healthy choice early in the day. Sadly, the lighting wasn’t conducive to quality photography hence the slightly soft focus and reaching for my camera I forgot the glass on my hand and made a bit of a puddle on the nice wooden floor. Sorry about that.
The crowd looked disappointingly normal. None of the gentlemen were wearing elbow pads or Terry Pratchet style fedoras. As for the ladies – if you think I’m going to have a crack at fashion commentary then you’re mistaken. One outfit did make me think, “I bet she’s writing chick-lit” though. That’s all I’m saying.
Most of the day was spent in a pleasant auditorium deep in the bowels of the building. Tube train noises could be heard through the walls and I suspect were at about the same level. Half way through the day, it was pointed out I didn’t need to balance my notepad on my knee as the fat arms of the chair housed a fold-out table. Very clever !
I’ll cover some of the lessons learned from the speakers in a post later this week but the overall impression of some of the audience was interesting. Most people didn’t ask any questions but many of those who did betrayed a complete lack of understanding of the commercial realities involved in writing. One lady proclaimed that her book, “MUST be published this year”, perhaps a rather literal interpretation of the “How to Get Published in 2011” and this drew an exasperated, “But we are planning our books for 2012” from an agent on the panel. Another was upset that the process of applying to agents differed between companies – she wanted to be a writer, not waste her time with all the different formats people wanted.
For many of us, this opened a window on what it must be like being on the receiving end of all this output. As authors we are all writing with various degrees of detachment from the real world and yet at some point someone gets the results of our efforts land with a thud on their desk, and at that point the difference between on of the guys working in an ivory tower and people like us (hopefully) who are thinking commercially, become obvious.
Another common thread to the day was people dropping names. Inevitably, the very first person to get the chance to speak did this. He boomed that he’d watched something literary on the TV a few days ago and proceeded to frame his question mentioning this and relating it obliquely to those appearing on his magic fish tank. This happened at least three times during the day – each time you could hear the thud as the name landed and I certainly squirmed with embarrassment. Sadly, it is considered bad form, but very tempting, to turn around and explain to someone that saying a famous name does not make you their friend, and telling us you watched them on telly does not fool us that you are and insider in the publishing world. Let’s face it, if that were the case you’d be sat at the front answering questions instead of in the audience.