This weekend I went to my very first writer’s conference. You may be wondering what that means exactly and what it entails. Allow me to explain…
This particular conference was hosted in Manhattan and provided an opportunity for writers of various genres to work on their book pitch and then recite that pitch to three different editors from different publishing houses. There was also a panel with three agents from different publishing houses, which was both very educational and informative while also being incredibly depressing and disheartening at the same time because basically, it’s impossible to get someone to publish your novel.
The conference was three days, Friday through Sunday, and we spent our time with the groups we were broken into. My group had nine people in it and each idea was incredibly creative, developed, and different from the next. I feel like I really lucked out on my group because on day one I was the only New Yorker, people had traveled both near and very far, and everyone showed up ready to work. It also seemed like we collectively did a good job of checking our baggage and bullshit at the door because having an ego will get you absolutely nowhere in the publishing world.
I pitched my novel to two editors on Saturday and one on Sunday and they all had the reaction I anticipated; it’s a really great story, but I don’t publish work like yours. The words “brave”, “passionate”, and “intense” were thrown around which makes sense when you’re writing a modern day version of Girl Interrupted based on your own experiences in a loony bin while maintaining “fiction” status.
I have to say that overall this was a really incredible experience and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in something like this, but I learned a few things I wasn’t anticipating. But I guess that’s kind of how learning goes so I’m definitely looking it as a positive experience. So, things I learned:
The publishing industry is bleak.
Less than 1% of authors get published. Those are not great odds.
Opinions are like assholes.
Aka everyone’s got one (in case you weren’t familiar with that joke). The editors I met with didn’t have any interest in publishing my novel, but that doesn’t mean another one will feel the same way. I always think about The Beatles and the fact that dozens of records labels rejected them, one going as far to say that they would never amount to anything. I bet that guy feels like an asshole, and so will these editors when they see me on The Ellen Show sitting next to my book (come one universe, give me this one).
They still don’t get me.
Pitching a book about mental health is hard, especially when the word “suicide” is in your pitch. I kind of felt like I didn’t get the same kind of feedback that others got because my topic is so sensitive and I state the story is based on my life experiences. I mean it’s not like I’m used to be treated a little differently when people find out I have bipolar disorder, but I guess I didn’t expect that kind of “skating around” that I felt today. The main reason I wrote this damn book is to avoid those situations. When I say I have bipolar is should get the same reaction as I have diabetes or I have chronic migraines or insert whatever medical condition; I’m just a person who needs to take a pill to be function. Who doesn’t at this point?
I might ride solo.
In other words, I’m starting to seriously consider self-publishing. From what I’ve heard it’s pretty easy and you get to do everything on your own terms. The main reason I’m writing this book is to spread awareness and reach out to people who are suffering and let them know they’re not alone. I have my job to make money, I just want people to read this because I think it can help them. I mean, I would certainly love to make money and be able to quit my job and travel the world talking about mental health while simultaneously becoming BFF with Ellen since I keep appearing on her show so often. But I’ll take what i can get.
Basically, this weekend taught me that I might need to be creative with my approach and I am so extremely grateful for my day job. Because anyone who thinks they can pick up a pen (i.e., open a Google doc) and write a money-making best seller right off that bat is playing a fool’s game.