It was quite the literary cornucopia around here last weekend. You know what I mean? Pointy basket lying on the ground with apples and beer bottles and paperback novels falling out of it. And of course when I say “literary” I mean marketing, or to use the more technical phrase, “begging for attention”.
I took part in two different conventions last weekend, in my capacity as a writer who ain’t nobody, hardly. The meeting I spent the most time at, thanks very much to my publicist, was a fantasy convention called Conjuration. If you’re a huge fan of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Star Trek or. . .Harry Potter, this was your meeting. And did I mention Harry Potter?
I don’t write those sorts of book, but I ain’t no fool either—I mean, not always, you know, about everything—and I’ll take whatever publicity I can get. Because I had allowed the convention people to use the space I rented a month ago for the book release party, they gave me a speaking slot at the opening ceremony. Thus I had the new experience of being introduced as a writer, going up to the stage in front of 300-400 people in a ballroom, to talk a bit. I wanted to be entertaining, so I took a pointed stick and a bag of dirt, but you needed to be there for that. I also tried to make sure the audience knew my name and the name of my new book (which is I’d Tear Down the Stars, just to make sure).
Before this occasion, when was the last time I stood in front of a ballroom of people saying, “Look at me, I’m a writer”? Never. Next to one of the meeting rooms was a rather large banner with (1) my photo, looking as good as I’m able, and I can’t help those limitations, and (2) a photo of the book. In addition, I was part of a table where my publicist was selling books of various people he works with. I sold a few, too, not many, but when you’re nobody, a few is OK. Right? Don’t tell me otherwise.
Regarding the convention in general, half the people there were in costume, including some striking, interesting outfits, some people carried short pointy sticks (“wands”) and some of them wore masks. I saw a young woman in the hotel restaurant keep her mask on while she was ordering dinner. People were having fun, there was music, they played games, they had drinks, they ate candy. I helped out with the drinking part.
In addition to the Conjuration meeting, completely by coincidence, the Atlanta Writers Club had their conference the same weekend, and I also went to that on Saturday afternoon for a few hours. If anyone was having fun there, it was a far more subtle form of fun. People were working there, but because we’re all writers at that meeting, we’re cool and impersonating confident, contented word artists. Ha ha, I’m so funny, so relaxed.
I went to the writers meeting because I’m trying to sell the novel I just finished, The Invention of Colors. This meeting brings in literary agents and editors from yon distant mecca of literary success and fame glitter. You knew I was talking about New York City there, right? I signed up ahead of time, or rather, I paid ahead of time, to meet with one agent and one publisher.
And I’ll tell ya, it went very well (i.e., what we call “well” in the brutal business of refined literature). The agent, who really seemed very pleasant, began by fairly meticulously critiquing my pitch letter describing the book (they call it “pitch letter” because you want to pitch yourself out a window when you have to write one). I figured, OK, she’s going to so much trouble to tell me how I should have written this, instead of how I did write it, that she’s going to say no. Then she told me I can send her the first 50 pages. Such an invitation, as it happens, is a very, very, very long way from “I’ll be your agent”—and yet it is well down the road from “No, thanks”.
An hour and a half later, I talked with the editor, from HarperCollins, and she said she liked the sound of the book and was interested. HarperCollins, however, has a company rule that she can only take manuscripts from literary agents, not from the unwashed, unpleasant writers who write them. (I added those adjectives, she didn’t spell that part out.)
So, if I can find an agent, the editor is waiting. Now when I send 50 pages to the agent, I will tell her that an editor already wants to see this novel. Will that be a magic charm and make it happen? I don’t know. Maybe I should have brought one of those wands from the Harry Potter people.