I’ve had the pleasure of working for Christina Tarabochia, as a proofreader for her publishing company, Ashberry Lane. Today, I’m excited to host her here at Writing to Inspire. Her article features her experiences at writers’ conferences, and I hope you find it helpful and interesting.
The Before and After—From Writer to Publisher
By Christina Tarabochia
Back in 2004, my mother, Sherrie Ashcraft, and I arrived at our very first writers’ conference with little idea of what to expect. We checked in and received our editor-meeting schedule—EEK! We had not gotten appointments with every agent and editor we NEEDED to meet with. This was life or death! What to do, what to do?!? Panic, then pray?
|Christina Tarabochia and her mother, Sherrie Ashcraft
I think it’s pretty normal for emotions and expectations to run high for authors who are new to conferences. So much emphasis is placed on those fifteen minutes when we get to sit down with those superhumans known as editors. We know we only have a few minutes to snag their interest with our practiced pitch. Oh, but we don’t want to sound too practiced—it’s got to be fresh and we need to somehow drag the enthusiasm we have for the project out of the nervous pit in our stomach. Which can be especially hard if we’ve just had a meeting with a mentor or other editor that didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. And forget our dry mouths and shaking insides.
(For those reading this that haven’t experienced a fifteen-minute appointment, it’s kind of like speed dating for your career!)
Eventually, we learned to relax. As the years went by, the appointments became more and more natural and we were able to develop genuine friendships with these mentors, agents, and editors because of the connections we made.
This past August (2014), we returned to the very same writers’ conference, but this time as Publishers representing our small, traditional press, Ashberry Lane Publishing (www.ashberrylane.com). Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference (www.oregonchristianwriters.org) is one of the best in the country, and we were supremely honored to be asked to attend in this new capacity.
And new it was! Beforehand, we read multiple proposals that had been submitted through their FREE-to-conferees Manuscript Submission Program. Then we met with authors for two 4-hour blocks of fifteen-minute appointments. A very different experience on the other side of the table.
|The Ashberry Lane family of writers
And guess what? Some of these authors seemed to have dry mouths and shaking insides. Some struggled to explain the plot of the books. Others whizzed right through their pitches with great enthusiasm. We tried to make the authors feel as comfortable as possible as we so vividly remembered presenting our work for someone to scrutinize. We loved giving specific feedback and pointing writers to resources that might help their novels rise to the next level.
Our greatest joy of the conference, however, was being able to offer, on the spot, TWO contracts to unpublished authors! (We’d been watching them for months after meeting at a previous OCW conference.)
I’d like to leave you with some practical tips for appointments, having been on both sides.
~ It was very difficult to give fresh attention to each story as the afternoon wore on. Unless you are the first pitch of the day, those agents/editors (AgEds) have cobwebs of the stories they’ve heard already hanging in their mind. Your job is to be very clear about what your story is—genre, word-count, theme, market. Think of this as sweeping out the cobwebs so your story can have the space in their brains.
~ Try to relax. I know, I know, what does this even mean? The AgEd is looking to find a great story that fits his or her needs, so don’t feel like you are facing an opponent. Think of your job as giving the most accurate depiction of your story as possible, then letting the Lord guide the results. The only pressure on you is to know your novel—that’s not so bad, right?
~ You’ve researched the house or company the AgEd represents, yes? Well, this is YOUR appointment. Feel free to ask questions, clarify what their needs are. This shows you know what you’re talking about, plus it reminds you that you have equal worth in this human-to-human interaction.
Christina Tarabochia’s jointly-written-with-her-mom novel, On the Threshold, recently won an Oregon Cascade Award. As Publisher at Ashberry Lane, she oversees the contracting, editing, and releasing of all Heartfelt Tales of Faith/Fun novels. Find out more about her on www.christinatarabochia.com
or www.ashberrylane.com .
Readers, what have you learned from attending writers’ conferences? Any tips you’d like to share with those of us who might be newcomers to them?
Thank you, Christina, for sharing your experiences on both sides of the table at writers’ conferences. Such information is wonderful, especially to those who are new to conferences. May you find more gems at your next writers’ conference!