Questions About Editors, Countries, and Awards

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This blog is a continuation of my question-and-answer session in response to queries posted on a recent post.

1) Would you be able to get access to briefs from editors on what they are looking for and suggest to the author if there are any mutually interesting topics or genres?

Yes. Between the three of us, our agency has 81 years in publishing experience. During this time, we have forged individual relationships and true friendships with editors, publishers, marketing people, and of course, authors. We are first on many editors’ lists when news strikes. Because of our reputation for working with top authors and our knowledge of the publishing industry, many times we have been informed exclusively of opportunities for our clients.

Each year, I travel to conferences, particularly ACFW to strengthen relationships and gain information. Even more all-encompassing is the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) , where I am able to meet with even more editors. Our President, Steve Laube, has attended ICRS 31 years in a row. Speaking of which, because The Steve Laube Agency works as a team, we share information among ourselves regarding what we learn at conferences. For instance, both Steve and Karen Ball usually attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference each year. This year I will be on faculty at the Florida Christian Writers Conference . Other opportunities present themselves each year. By splitting our travel, we are able to have additional meetings and gain a great deal of information for our clients.

2) Do you have reach outside the geography you are supporting – ie, since you are in North America, do you have collaborations with agents in the European zone or in Australia / NZ?

While our focus is the U.S. Steve has partnered with foreign rights agents in other countries like South Korea. But it is rare to have a literary agent (vs. a foreign rights agent) based in the UK, Australia or Europe contact us for help with selling their projects.

Our clients tend to be from U.S. and Canada although one is currently living in Mexico and another spends a great deal of time in Panama.

3) Would you be helping with various prizes and help nominate my book?

First, let me say that prizes are great but do not always translate into sales for an author. I know of several ABA and CBA authors who could line their mantles with trophies but can’t pay the electric bill from book sales. There are various reasons this can happen. One is that the awards are given long after the release date of the book and the publisher is no longer proactively supporting it via publicity or additional marketing. And other than a few major awards, no one outside of the industry realizes the book has been honored. Sometimes industry insiders love the book but the public does not share their enthusiasm (as can also happen with TV and movies).

Agents have very little sway in nominating books or helping authors garner awards. For example, publishers nominate books for the Christy Awards and all the editors know how we agents will vote on our authors’ books. We all think our authors should win Christy Awards. With many other awards competitions the author must enter the book and pay the requisite fees.

What agents can do is talk with the author on the best contests to enter when those are the author’s responsibility. This is important for two main reasons. First, contests get expensive because of entry fees, copies of books, and mailing those books. Entering contests also takes time away from writing. Second, contests are not equal. Winning certain prestigious contests will help you more than being recognized by much lesser contests. Still, go back and read the first paragraph in this answer. Agents can help you sort out where best to put your time and money.

Your turn:

As a writer, which conferences do you think are best for fiction? For nonfiction?

As a reader, does an award influence you to purchase a book? Why or why not?

28 Responses to Questions About Editors, Countries, and Awards

  1. Avatar
    Diana Harkness January 17, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    I have attended the Indianapolis Christian Writer’s Conference, the Columbus State Writing Conference, Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing, and some local conferences. I have found them all beneficial for both fiction and non-fiction. My absolute favorite is the Festival of Faith and Writing because it covers so many genres and has fabulous speakers.

    As for awards, I generally peruse the award lists for my reading choices. I have read most of the Pulitzer Prize winning fiction writers and many of the Christianity Today Books of the Year (and runner-ups). Most often I happen upon an authors book through a referral or review from another publication. My current find in Michael Morris. I also read literary magazines like the Kenyon Review and Ruminate to find authors I want to follow. The latest issue of Kenyon review features a compelling very short story that I will remember for some time.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      Diana, I think you have outlined a great plan for identifying top works. I hope others will consider doing the same!

  2. Avatar
    Jackie Layton January 17, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    So far I’ve been to one conference. I went to Dallas for the ACFW conference in September.

    I learned so much and hope to go back this year.

    One day I hope to go to more conferences, but first I’m committed to getting my youngest through college. So for now I write, read books on writing, and visit writing blogs.

    Tamela, do you have any other suggestions?

    Thanks.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Jackie, thank you for including our blog on your list! Another suggestion is to go to a live critique group near you, if there is one convenient, and to find a critique group online for advice and fellowship. Hope to see you at a conference in a few years!

  3. Avatar
    Jeanne T January 17, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Tamela. I hadn’t even thought about the questions, much less their answers. 🙂 I have only been to one conference so far, and that was ACFW, last fall. I loved it and hope to go again this year. If money was no object, I’d also love to attend the Mt. Hermon conference and the Blue Ridge comference.

    I’m with Jackie in that I spend time daily on writer and agent blogs to learn more about the craft of writing.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      Jeanne, you have certainly named three of the top conferences. Hope to see you at ACFW this year!

  4. Avatar
    Debby Mayne January 17, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    Another great post, Tamela!

    For a Christian fiction author, I think the ACFW conference is the best. It’s well organized, and you get to meet and interact with a larger number of editors than some of the smaller events. However, for someone just starting out, ACFW might be overwhelming due to the size, so a smaller regional conference might be better for a first-timer.

    As for the awards influencing my decision about which books to buy, I look at who the judges are. I prefer reader-judged contests over those judged by other authors. However, I don’t generally seek out award-winning books. Many of my favorite “keepers” were never entered in a contest.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Debby, good point about the conference size. Many smaller conferences attract top editors and are excellent no matter where you are in your career.

  5. Avatar
    Rick Barry January 17, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    I’ve been privileged to attend various writers conferences. In their own ways, each one has either enlightened me in some area or opened opportunities. Once, just meeting one editor led to several short story assignments, which easily paid for that conference.

    I won’t claim one conference is better than another (sometimes that can depend on the conferee’s level of achievement and personal needs), but allow me to plug the ACFW national conference planned for my back yard of Indianapolis this September. Last time ACFW came to Indy, I was privileged to coordinate rides from the airport to the hotel for faculty, which was fun. Everyone, consider yourselves invited! (To the conference, that is, not to get a free ride. 😉 )

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

      Rick, you are right about how meeting just one editor can make a difference!

  6. Avatar
    Meghan Carver January 17, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Tamela, I appreciate your candor about how winning a prize may not help an author. Our society glorifies that sort of accomplishment – if you have a stack of ribbons or a shelf of trophies than you must be a valuable person. Yet so many so-called little people often touch the most lives. As a reader perusing the shelves in a bookstore, I will pick up a book that has that little award-winning sticker on it. But it still needs to have a great hook. Otherwise, no sale.

    • Avatar
      Carole Lehr Johnson January 17, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Meghan,

      What a great point. You are so right. Just because there is an award attached to a book does not necessarily mean it is a great book (or hook!)–especially if we hold it up to Christian standards. Of course I am speaking of secular books as well.

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

        Meghan and Carole, you both illustrate my point about how we may or may not agree with book judges and critics. And because awards are few, many fine books don’t win prizes but still deserve readership.

  7. Avatar
    Sharyn Kopf January 17, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    My favorite conference has been Write-to-Publish at Wheaton College, though I’ve enjoyed a few others too.

    But this year I hope to finally attend ACFW. It’s only a 2 & 1/2-hour drive & I have a friend I can stay with to save money. Very excited to finally check it out!

    On a related note, do you have a list of the conferences you all will attend throughout the year?

    Thank you!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      Sharyn, I don’t have a formal list because our schedules change each year. However, the conferences I mentioned are our regulars. The exception for me is the Florida conference. This will be my first year there.

  8. Avatar
    Jenni Brummett January 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    The first conference I attended was at Mount Hermon in 2012. I had the privilege of sitting at a table with Steve Laube during the first meal.

    I plan on going again this year. It helps that I live only 35 minutes away. I hope to feel less overwhelmed this time since I know what to expect. My goal is to send the first 20 pages of my MS ahead for critique. Let me stop and pause to dab at the perspiration appearing on my forehead. Whew, okay…

    In future I would like to attend the ACFW conference since I’m getting to know local authors through the SF Bay chapter.

  9. Avatar
    Iola January 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    “do you have collaborations with agents in the European zone or in Australia / NZ?”

    If the person asking the question is writing for the Christian market, I can tell them the market in Australia/NZ is small, and all of the publishers (a very small number) accept direct submissions. An agent isn’t necessary. A well-written story, revised and edited, is necessary.

    However, I can’t speak for the general market in Australia/NZ, or for Europe.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      Iola, if an author decides to submit on his or her own and gains a contract, it’s still a wise idea then to engage an agent for contract and career advice.

  10. Avatar
    Rachel Muller January 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Great post! I love these question/answer sessions!!

    As a member of ACFW I have been blessed with so many helpful, insightful authors to guide me along the way. However, due to other obligations I have not had the chance to attend a conference yet.

    I have had many discussions with ACFW members about the conference and have learned enough to know that the yearly meetings bring amazing and influential experiences to those who attend. If God allows, I will one day attend the round-up of prestigous authors, agents, and editors. For now, I can only imagine what fun lies behind those conference doors.

    On awards – Most of the time I read the blurb on the back cover of a book or go off a writer’s review. If it sounds intriguing I WILL buy it, and in most cases enjoy it. It usually is not until after I’ve read the book that I read the author’s notes, preface, or advertisements. So I end up finding out the book won a award after I’ve read it. (Unless the Christy Award sticker is plastered on the front cover =)

    In closing, I would also like to know the answer to Sharyn’s question above.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Rachel, I feel confident that God will open a door for you to attend the right conference in His time.

      And since you are the second person to mention a list, what I will say is that I’ll try to keep everyone apprised about my plans and will encourage Steve and Karen to do the same.

      • Avatar
        Rachel Muller January 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

        Thank you, Tamela! I will keep checking back with you. – And I agree, He will move me when the time is right. 🙂

  11. Avatar
    Carol Moncado January 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I love ACFW! I’ve gone the last two years and was amazed both years. I did go to a smaller local conference before that but it wasn’t fiction focused [had very little fiction anything] and not much in the way of appointments etc that I would benefit from. I did make some friends and it was a good way to get my feet wet :). It wasn’t THAT much cheaper than ACFW and for bang for your buck, ACFW is the way to go.

    I pick books based on word of mouth a lot of times. Being Facebook friends with so many people in the Christian writing community, I see what people are reading, what reviews they’re writing and which books are being gushed about [as opposed to mentioned in passing]. Plus I have lots of favorites on my “auto-buy” or “auto-request-to-review” list now ;).

  12. Avatar
    Jan Cline January 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    As a regional conference director, I find that a lot of first time conference goers choose smaller conferences. I’m always so happy to see the first timers raise their hands at the first session. My personal goal is to be at ACFW this year since I’m focusing on historical fiction now. I am thankful for agents and editors who are willing to take a chance to come to smaller conferences too. There are quite a few like mine popping up here and there.

    I’d like to know, if I do make it to ACFW, what should my main goal be? I hear a lot about making connections. But what else?
    Thanks for the good info as always.
    Here’s our website just in case anyone is interested in a Northwest conference. http://www.inlandnwchristianwriters.com.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      Jan, my apologies — I didn’t realize I had not responded to your question.

      I believe that when attending a very large conference such as ACFW, you should focus on THE editors and agents you want to meet. Register as early as you can to get in line for an appointment. If you miss out, do all you can to sit with the editor or agent at dinner. Sometimes I have seen these efforts fail so authors will snag me in the hallway, or have a friend introduce us. I really don’t mind if someone writes my assistant at ewilson@www.stevelaube.com after the conference to tell me that all efforts to see me at ACFW failed and is submission still possible? (It is.) Also be sure to take advantage of as many of the wonderful workshops as you can, and try to set up times for informal meetings with other writer friends.

      I will say that by the time we have the banquet at the end of the conference, everyone is ready to relax and talk more about life in general than pitching proposals. Enjoy that time to connect, too!

      • Avatar
        Jan Cline January 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

        Thank you Tamela, I like the idea of setting up small gatherings with other writers. I can see how that would add to the de-stressing and networking as well as having more fun! I will keep in mind all your suggestions. I appreciate you getting back to me :).

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