Tag Archives: Colorado Gold

The Secret to Scoring a Tradtional Book Contract

By Shannon Baker

IMG_westernslopeI’ve got a new book coming out! This has been a dream of mine for a very long time. In fact, if the first novel I completed had been a baby, it would be able to drink in any state of the union now. If you’re here on the RMFW blog, it’s a pretty good bet you’ve got this dream, too.

This message is for everyone struggling to land a traditional publishing contract. I do know the world has turned and this isn’t the only road to publishing. I’m dabbling in indie publishing, too, which is a story for another day.

Congratulations! You’ve come to the right place and you’re doing exactly what you should be doing—along with writing every day. (Okay, I know successful writers who don’t actually write every day. But unless you know you are special, I’d recommend “touching the ball” every day.)

That other thing you should be doing? Getting informed and involved. You’re here reading about writing, learning what’s new, what people are publishing and reading, who the publishers are. That’s good. You need to understand your market and how it works. While remaining isolated and researching publishing might work for some people, I don’t think it’s enough for most of us.

There is no substitute for good writing and you must study your craft and practice it. I highly recommend peer critique. (Again, I know bestsellers—CJ Box, Joseph Finder—who never had critique partners. But most of us are regular folk and need help from our friends.)

There is something else you can do to get more involved. In my case this made a huge difference in my road to publication.

Volunteer.

Yeah, I know how it goes. We’re all busy. If you volunteer it takes time away from writing and improving your craft. That’s all very true.

Baker_Broken TrustI remember sitting at my first RMFW Colorado Gold conference watching this boisterous, supportive group of writers who had known each other for years. Most of them were published. One of the speakers gave full credit for her success to RMFW and pointed to a table of published writers, all of whom were volunteers in some aspect of RMFW. Every one of them.

But I lived in Nebraska. How could I volunteer from out of state? (Remember, this is before everything was online.) I kept returning and meeting more people every year but still felt like an outsider, shy and afraid to join in. Then my chance came. Someone suggested I volunteer to run the agent/editor pitch appointments. It was something I could do long distance. I jumped at the chance. The first year was a disaster. I didn’t notify the agents and editors of their schedule, assuming they knew they had appointments starting at 8 A.M. They didn’t. The next year was a little better. With the help of dedicated writer friends who volunteered beside me each year, we got better and better. I worked in that position for nine years. After that, I was registrar for three years, and now I serve as board treasurer.

Every single one of these positions has been purely selfish. In the truest Ayn Rand tradition, there is no altruism. I am not that good at meeting people. I am a terrible self-promoter. (For instance, I’ve had business cards printed for each of three books I’ve had published. I have never made it through handing out one box of 250.) But working with conference, I met so many people. While I got tongue-tied around the agents and editors, I felt comfortable joining groups of my writer friends and these Golden Guests would be part of the group. That made getting to know the professionals very easy. I even learned most of them are regular folks.

I didn’t parley volunteering into a book contract overnight. Some may argue volunteering had nothing to do with signing with Midnight Ink. I know otherwise. Because I’d met so many people through working at the agent/editor pitches and registration, I felt at home and comfortable at conference. I’d learned that editors and agents are real people. So when I had an opportunity to meet Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff at conference, I didn’t pitch her my book. We spent time getting to know each other.

Terri didn’t acquire my book because we’d made a connection at the conference. But she read it with a more open mind than she might have. She also was willing to take on a book that needed an extensive rewrite and I don’t think she’d have done that if she hadn’t met me first. Or, if I’d missed my opportunity to get to know her because I was too nervous to talk to her.

So here are my bullets on getting that traditional contract:

  •  Write every day
  •  Read a lot
  •  Learn all you can about the publishing industry
  •  Get involved
  •  VOLUNTEER (especially with RMFW)

Roll call: Who’s going to join us in Denver in September for the Colorado Gold conference? What a line-up! Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords and William Kent Krueger, the amazingly wonderful mystery writer. Also, loads of Golden Guests (agents and editors).

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Shannon Baker writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Broken Trust, due March 2014, takes place in Boulder, CO. Tainted Mountain, the first in the series is set in Flagstaff, AZ and is a New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards finalist. She serves on the board of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and is a member of SinC and MWA. Visit Shannon at her website.

About Broken Trust:  Nora moves to Boulder and lands a job as an accountant at an environmental non-profit. But the trust is rife with deceit and corruption. Nearly half a million dollars is missing and one person has already been killed for knowing too much. Complicating matters are Nora's uninvited visitors: her mother, Cole Huntsman, and a Hopi kachina that technically doesn't exist. As the body count climbs, Nora races to stop a deadly plot to decimate one of the planet's greatest natural resources.

Look What You Missed….and What You Can Still Sign Up For!

If you thought you could wait until the last minute and then sign up for Trai Cartwright's screenwriting class, too bad. That class filled up in a hurry.

There's lots more going on with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, so peruse this list, follow the link if something looks interesting, and join others looking to learn and make contact (eye or virtual) with their fellow writers.

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First, there's the online class that starts tomorrow. "Writing Meaningful and Memorable Sex Scenes" is presented by Katriena Knights. The two-week course starts Monday, March 3rd, and ends on Sunday, March 16th. Cost is $25 for members and $30 for non-members.

"There’s no question about it: sex sells, and the current romance market is thriving on more explicit content than ever before in the history of the genre. However, readers are discerning, and even the most daring content will fall flat if it isn’t integrated into the story on an emotional level and on a story level."

Katriena's class is not focused on romantic novel sex or erotica. It's all about the right use of sex scenes in all genres. Don't be shy. You know you want to put a sex scene in your next book. Learn how and when it's appropriate and not gratuitous. For more information about the class, visit the RMFW website. And if you want to pass information and go straight to registration, you can do that too.

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2014 Conference Proposals Reminder: RMFW's conference chair is accepting workshop proposals for the 2014 Colorado Gold Conference through March 31, 2014.

Go to the Conference page on the RMFW website for suggestions to help you make your workshop stand out and the link to the proposal form. If you have any questions, email Susan Brooks at conference@rmfw.org

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March Program free for members and non-members: "Think You’re Ready for the Colorado Gold [Writer's Contest]"?

Presented by Chris Devlin on Saturday, March 15, 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm at the Belmar Public Library, 555 S. Allison Parkway, Lakewood, CO 80226.

"Making the finals in RMFW’s annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest is a great way to get your work in front of agents and editors. Many past winners and finalists have gone on to have their books published. Finaling in the well-respected Colorado Gold is also a clear badge of honor to help market and promote your work. Don’t miss this opportunity to spend an afternoon with contest chair Chris Devlin. Come learn what makes a good entry great, what catches a judge’s eye, and how to avoid common mistakes."

For more information, head on back to the RMFW website and check out this program page.

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If you live within snowshoeing distance of the Western Slope, RMFW has a program for you as well. Presented by Cindi Myers, this workshop is called "Agents: Myths vs. Reality.

This event is free for members and non-members on Saturday, March 15, 8:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. at the Grand Junction Business Incubator, 2591 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, Colorado. Please RSVP to Vicki Law at vruchhoeft@bresnan.net.

Expanded continental breakfast will be served at 8:30 A.M. and the workshop will begin at 9:00 A.M. and end approximately noon. From noon to 1:00 P.M. is networking, socializing and clean-up.

"Do you need an agent in order to get published? What will an agent do for you? What can’t an agent do? How do you find a good agent? Do you really need an agent in today’s publishing world? Award-winning author Cindi Myers discusses the myths and realities of dealing with agents, how to find the best agent, and how you can get published without an agent. In this frank discussion, Cindi will share her experience and that of other multi-published authors, and answer your questions about working with agents."

For more information and directions to the event location, hop back on over to the RMFW website to that program page.

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becomeamember01If you aren't convinced by now that you need to become a member of this fast-growing and extremely prestigious writers' organization, which you can do by going here, then take a look at the upcoming retreat in Golden, Colorado March 16-21 (flexible day registration open until March 15th) and some of honored guests for the September 5-7 Colorado Gold Conference in Westminster, Colorado.

Members get a fantastic newsletter, opportunities to guest star on the RMFW blog, and more.

Making the Long and Winding Road to Publication a Little Shorter with RMFW

by Mark Stevens, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers President

As she accepted the Writer of the Year plaque at Colorado Gold, Linda Joffe Hull talked about living and writing for a decade in the “purgatory of almost” before finding a publisher for one of her books.

As she will tell you, it was a long and winding road.

But Linda credits a certain organization (its initials are Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) for the final break-through. As she talked about the two books she has launched in the last 12 months, she talked about the relationships she developed by taking an active role in the group.

Our group.

Yeah, yeah, yeah—for the last few weeks it’s been all Colorado Gold this and Colorado Gold that. (See paragraph #1 above.) It was three days of good times for us fiction nerds.

But RMFW is so much more than Colorado Gold and, I dare say, the tremendous variety of other events on the calendar offer an even better chance to develop relationships and make new friends who might have that one key introduction to an agent, an editor, a publisher. The conference can be, you know, intimidating. Fun, sure, but pressure too.

I’m not saying the conference isn’t cool, but now it’s another 12 months away (Sept. 5—7, 2014).

In the meantime, there are plenty of other chances to dive in and make friends—and develop your network—in a more casual setting. (And, in some cases, free.)

Check it out:

  • Later this month, a free two-hour workshop titled “Diving In: Character and Motivation” by Courtney Koschel. Location: Arvada Public Library, downtown Arvada. Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1p.m. Courtney is the senior acquisitions editor for Month9Books. Senior. Acquisitions. Editor. Enough said.
  • Also this month, the experienced Trai Cartwight is offering a dirt-cheap online course called “Building a Better Book” that will help you demystify the process of novel building. It’s all about asking—and answering—key structural questions at the heart of every well-executed novel. Trai has roots in Hollywood, among other places. Get to know Trai and it’s one degree of separation between you and Stephen Spielberg. Or something like that.
  • Next month, there’s a free two-hour workshop titled “World Building: Don’t Let the Dream Collapse.” Location and times are still being finalized, but the program will be given by Colleen Oakes, author of the best-selling Elly in Bloom.
  • Also online soon, Sharon Mignerey (a true RMFW legend—she helped start our group about 30 years ago) is running a dialog workshop called “Let Your Characters Do the Talking.”
  • Also next month, over at our Grand Junction home away from home, best-selling author and RMFW stalwart Jeanne Stein is leading a day-long workshop titled “A Publishing Primer.” The first 20 people who register have the chance to pitch to Angie Hoddapp with Nelson Literary Agency and/or receive a two-page critique and 10-minute meeting with Warren Hammond, author of the KOP science fiction series. (Warren also won the Colorado Book Award this year!)

Cool programs, great opportunities to improve your craft and, maybe give you a chance to get to know other writers, develop connections and work your way out of the “purgatory of almost.”
All the details are available at www.rmfw.org. You probably knew that.

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2013conference66Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

You can learn more about Mark and his novels at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

I Took Way Too Many Notes at the Colorado Gold Conference

By Patricia Stoltey

I felt obligated to stick to the same word count I suggested for the rest of our blog’s contributors and guests, but it was hard. I took so many notes, and I learned so much, that I still feel as though I fell off my diet and stuffed myself too full. Let’s see if the post will be lean enough if I give you the name of the session, the instructor’s name, and one thing I learned (all paraphrased). I’ll skip details about the guest speakers and just tell you they were all wonderful.

On Friday, I worked the registration table until 2:00 PM and then had to check into the hotel room, so I didn’t get to my first session until 3:00. That was Bill Konigsberg’s Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue in Young-Adult Fiction.

First deadly sin: Overuse of slang

Agent Panel with Sally Harding, Natalie Lakosil, Kathleen Rushall, and Sarah Joy Freese.

One of the worst things an author can do in his query letter is not talk about his book. The format to follow is “The hook, the book, and the cook,” and all need to be brief.

In the Middle: Pluses and Minuses of Small Press Publishing, Katriena Knights

Contracts with small presses tend to be shorter in duration and often for only one format. This allows a book to have 2-3 good life cycles.

Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony

Denver Skyline from Our Conference Hotel Room Balcony

Saturday was an amazing day filled with difficult choices. Picking which workshop to attend was hard, and I often changed my mind at the last minute.

The Artist’s Way: Still Fresh, Robin Owens

When challenged to write pseudo-morning pages for ten minutes, I discovered some authors (Janet Lane, for instance) are very creative at 8:00 AM. I, however, was just grumpy and mostly scribbled on about needing another cup of coffee.

Why Would Librarians Buy Your Book—Or Not?, Mary Gilgannon and Alice Kober

The mini-synopsis (story blurb) on the back cover (and often included in book catalogues) is critical to librarian selection.

How to Art Direct Your Book’s Cover Design, Karen Duvall

The latest trend in covers is to use models in headless shots, or silhouettes, or from the back.

The Point of No Return: Crossing the Threshold from Traditionally Published to Self-Published, Jeff Shelby

The new exploding market is New Adult for young women age 18-25 with plenty of romance, sex, drama, and bad boys. Normal length: 65,000 words.

An Agent Reads the Slush Pile, Kristin Nelson and Sally Harding

Don’t do world building in a prologue. If you use a prologue, it should set up a question or establish a scene that will become important later in the story.

Who’s Your Narrator?, Ronald Malfi

Dialogue needs to reflect each character’s voice, even when the chapter or scene is not from that character’s POV.

The Hybrid Author, Karyn Marcus and Kristin Nelson

I learned all about the story of Hugh Howey who began by self-publishing and was later picked up by a major publisher for his compiled book, Wool. I’d never heard anything about this author before. The story is too long to tell here. Sorry about that.

Sunday morning I skipped the continental breakfast of fruit and pastries and joined friends in the restaurant for a real breakfast. The waitress forgot to bring my bacon. Can you believe that? Forgot to bring my bacon!

I attended the 8:00 AM session, still upset, but quickly settled in to enjoy The Road Map to a Successful E-Pub Career Shift, Cate Rowan

Cover art for e-books needs to pop when it’s displayed in thumbnail size (that’s where the online bookseller shows a line of books that were purchased at the same time as the search book).

I, You, Them: How Perspective Powers Your Story, Trai Cartwright

Holy cow! I still have new things to learn about Point of View. Do you know the difference between Third Close Dramatic and Third Close Limited? I had them confused. Sigh! I’m not going to try to explain them here. I’d probably get it wrong (even though I think I took really good notes).

And that’s my super-condensed version from twenty-seven 4 1/2” x 6 1/2” pages of notes. I could go on and on…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatricia Stoltey is the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries published by Five Star/Cengage in hardcover and Harlequin Worldwide mass market paperbacks. The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders are now available for Kindle and Nook. Her blog is known for featuring guest authors who write in a variety of genres.

She can be stalked on Facebook and Twitter.

Passion is Inspiration

By Nicole Disney

We've all had that moment. You're driving on the highway, in the middle of your shift at work, in the shower, and inspiration comes. The words draw each other together like reunited lovers in bursts so poetic and fleeting you must find a pen. Whether that means leaving the steering wheel of your speeding vehicle in the hands of your seven year old or turning your hair into a gum of leftover conditioner is hardly the point. The only problem is that there is an equal and opposite force out there that will leave the cursor blinking on a screen much too bright for the black room hours of paralysis have darkened.

Following another brilliant Colorado Gold Conference, I suspect most of us are still feeling buzzed on new ideas and potential agent and editor connections. Now may seem an unnecessary time to muse on inspiration. But like a New Year's Resolution, this energy of immersion can so quickly fade into the tedium of reality. How do we hold onto this magical feeling of hope and motivation?

I can easily recall an uncomfortable number of times I spent my entire day fantasizing inside my characters' minds and worlds, counting down until I could clock out from work, go home, and write. But something happened around hour nine or ten of work. Thoughts of my keyboard and favorite pens turned to thoughts of cuddling with my kittens, a movie, and bed.

Now I've learned to remind myself to compare writing not with what else I could do at home, but what I don't want to do at work. Family time, meals, and sleep was never what we writers set out to replace, that's just the way it often happens. But if we ever want to reach the coveted combination of laptops and cuddles, we have to boot the day jobs to the curb. It's not writing versus reading a good book and sipping on wine; it's writing versus waiting tables and double shifts.

That may be enough to get you to the keyboard, but what if all your brain will manifest is a vague and distant knowledge that you should probably blink more often to temper that kind of blank staring? Some will say write anyway. Force it, even if you know you're going to delete every word of that cumbersome garbage. While I do appreciate the value of getting the pen moving, I've recently discovered something much more entertaining, something more fun than sheer will power.

I sit down and make a list of questions. Not just any question will do, these must be the most thought provoking, hot button, or otherwise offensive questions you can muster. Compile every subject a socially unobtrusive person would avoid and then go there. If you can figure out what makes other people mad, then you know what makes them care. Figure out what makes you care, and you're a short step away from inspiration. A warning should be inherent in this exercise. Whether you go out and actually provoke people is completely dependent on your sense of adventure. What follows may be a disaster or great material, depending how you see the world.

Even if you only consider these issues in your mind, and even if you never actually write a story about any of them directly, these arguments with multiple valid and understandable stances are the guts of great stories and of believable characters. How they make you feel can be the oil that starts the wheels turning again. Passion is inspiration.

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Nicole Disney is the debut author of contemporary lesbian fiction novel, Dissonance in A Minor. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she continues to write dark, edgy novels. She is also a martial arts instructor and teaches Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Karate. For more about Nicole, please visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Post Conference Post

By Julie Kazimer

Well it’s done. Another fabulous Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference is the books. My head swells with information, not to mention a little too much time in the hospitality suite. I met new and old friends alike. This conference had over 100 new attendees. First timers are the lifeblood for us old hats, at least for me. I love the excitement and buzz in the air as people explore new writing and craft territory.

And let me just say, there was plenty to learn. Being a total, all knowing publishing pro, I opted for the business/career track of workshops. I was not disappointed. Okay I was, only in that, I found out I am NOT a total, all knowing publishing pro.

Bestselling author and indie pub guru, Jeff Shelby led us on a few wonderful forays into e-publishing. Carnia Press editor, Jeff Seymour (a personal hero since he saved my workshop by loaning me his laptop) taught a riveting class on how to write back cover copy for indie publishing. I took advantage of this right away, and I swear my cover copy has never sounded better.

The famous Susan Spann did her stuff by teaching us some legalness when it comes to author and publisher rights. Bree Evrin taught us social media illiterates how to hashtag like the best of them. Lynda Hilburn shared secrets on how to fix that one thing…the thing writers dare not mention…rhymes with Biters Lock. Rockstar Angie Hodapp shared her expertise on vivid description. Mario Acevedo, Warren Hammond and Betsy Dorbusch crushed it with a panel on two of my favorite things, crime and noir. The agent and editor panels were, as always, fascinating. And how could I forget Karen Lin’s Book to Script workshop. I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Deville. And all the billions in royalties once I become the darling of Hollywood. (No, I am not still drunk from my extended time in the hospitality suite). There were plenty of other amazing workshops and presentations. Forgive me if I didn’t mention yours. The editors, Pat and Julie like me to keep my posts under a million words.

What else to share? The Friday night booksigning was a blast. Nina and Ron Else from Who Else Books (The Broadway Book Mall) are two fo my favorite people to see at the conference. Not only do they sell my books, and make me look good while doing it, but they are wonderful people. As I arrived at my booksigning station this year, a small package sat in front of me. Nina had given me a tiny princess who grows 600% in water. Now I should’ve read the directions more carefully, because it did say in water, not whiskey. But I love my tiny princess at the same, and Nina for giving it to me.

That same night, Writer of the Year, Linda Hull, gave an inspiring speech about persistence, pain, and the joys to be found in both publishing and in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization itself. This is a woman who spent years waiting for her big break, suffering the ups and downs of the industry, and now is quickly rising to the top. I wish her and the other Writer of the Year nominees the best, as well as all those who finaled and won the Colorado Gold contest. You are great writers who are moments away from achieving your dreams.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who made this conference possible, especially Vicki Law and her cohorts, who raised over $4000 for CO Flood relief. And a huge shout out to Susie Brooks, the conference chair. Great job by all.

Here’s to hoping all of you who pitched to an agent or editor fulfill your publication dreams. And thank you to all my new writerly friends and my old ones as well for a fantastic weekend. Now quit reading this (in a few more sentences) and go write!

There was so much more to share, but I’m exhausted.

What was your favorite conference moment? And does anyone know where I left my left shoe? I can’t seem to find it. I know I had it at dinner…

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

 

Pitch Like a Pro (Part 2)

By Susan Spann

Last month, we took a look at the four vital elements of a winning "elevator pitch." This week, we’re putting the elements together - just in time for Colorado Gold!

To play along, you'll need a list with your novel’s protagonist, active antagonist, stakes, and high concept. (Remember: high concept might or might not make it into your pitch, but you need to keep it in mind throughout the process.)

It's easier to see a pitch in motion when you're actually seeing it thrown, so I’ll use my novel, Claws of the Cat, as our pitch example today. I'm using it mostly because the pitch worked as intended–it found me an agent, piqued an editor’s interest, and (in a slightly expanded form) ended up on the dust jacket of the completed novel. In other words: I know this one works, and when you need an example it's nice to have a functional one at hand.

The original pitch:

When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, a master ninja has just three days to find the killer in order to save the life of the Jesuit priest that the ninja has pledged his own life to protect.

(Note: Yes, this is rough. I'm sharing my original pitch to show you this can be done fairly quickly and doesn't have to be absolutely perfect to do its job.)

Can you spot the four critical elements?

1. Protagonist: Here, a master ninja. Always lead with your protagonist, and use an archetype instead of the character's name. Archetypes are more descriptive and harder to forget. Also, they give information about the novel that names alone cannot convey. Would you rather hear that "Sam" has to go find "Charlotte" or that "an undead barber" must locate "the kitten he left behind"?

Good pitches put the protagonist front and center. The listener must have no doubt who your book is about.

2. (Active) Antagonist: The pitch must tell us who or what the protagonist is fighting. (And It’s OK to imply the antagonist, as long as the stakes are high enough.)

Ask yourself: what’s the easiest way to describe what my hero is fighting? That’s your active antagonist, and you have to either state it outright or strongly imply it in your pitch.

Note: The active antagonist is NOT the various bells and whistles, twists and turns, hot dogs and lack of doughnuts that plague your antagonist along the way. Those are window dressing (even if they seem important) and don't belong in the pitch. Big hero, big villain, big stakes get the job done here.

3. The Stakes: In Claws, the stakes are a ticking clock and the imminent execution of an innocent man, both of which appear in the pitch. Secondary stakes appear there too: the ninja has pledged his life to protect the priest – so if the ninja fails, he's going to share the Jesuit's fate.

Your pitch MUST explain what’s at stake in your novel. Fail at that, and the listener will not care. Stories require tension; tension requires stakes. In many ways, the stakes are the most important part of your pitch, because only the stakes make the listener need to hear the rest of the story.

4. High Concept: In my case? “Ninja detective.” However, you’ll notice my pitch never says those words. The pitch as a whole makes the concept clear.

The little details of your pitch convey high concept. “Master ninja,” and “find the killer” give a ninja detective vibe. “Kyoto teahouse” sets the novel in Japan, and suggests there’s a geisha or two in the mix.

Find the unique details in your novel. Wedge them into the spaces between your protagonist, your antagonist, and your stakes.

Every word in your pitch must add something to the whole. You don’t have room for filler words that do not “earn their keep.”

Try to use no more than one adjective per noun. Try not to use adverbs – they break the flow.

From your elements, build one sentence that describes your story in one breath's worth of words.

If you can’t say your pitch in a single breath, cut it until you can. Then–and only then–revise until that sentence rolls off your tongue as easily as your name.

Don’t over-rehearse, but make sure the pitch is smooth and easy to say, because it’s easy enough to trip over simple phrases when you’re stressed, to say nothing of overcomplicated prose.

A single sentence is easier to remember, flows off the tongue, and inspires the listener to start asking questions–exactly what a good pitch ought to do.

Pull the four elements from your work and build your pitch. Build it strong and polish it to a shine–and then get out there and pitch with confidence!

Thank you for joining me here this week - I look forward to seeing many of you at Colorado Gold!

Bio: Susan Spann is a transactional attorney and former law school professor whose practice focuses on business and publishing law. Her debut Shinobi mystery, Claws of the Cat (Minotaur Books) released on July 16, 2013. You can find Susan online at http://www.susanspann.com, or on Twitter @SusanSpann, where she created the #PubLaw hashtag to provide business and legal information for authors.

Getting the Most Out of the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

By Mike Befeler

Writers conferences are a blast. Having attended a number of different ones, the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference ranks up there right at the top. This will be my twelfth year, and I get something new out of each one. Here are my thoughts on getting the most out of the conference.

1. If this is your first conference, jump in and meet people. If this is your umpteenth conference, make an effort to meet the people who are here for the first time. At my first conference, I knew one other person attending. Now I have many friends I’ve made over the years.

2. Take the time to peruse the schedule and pick out a variety of sessions. For my first few years, I concentrated on craft. Then I migrated to sessions on how to pitch and sell your manuscript. Then with my first publication, I focused on how to promote your books. Now, I find myself jumping in at all levels. It’s said you need to write a million words to learn the craft of writing. I’ve written over a million words, and I’ll still learning. We all can continue to tune our craft.

3. Think about what you’re currently writing and go to sessions with the frame of mind that you’re going to learn something to improve that manuscript.

4. Volunteer. It’s a great way to meet people. I’m coordinating moderators this year and moderating. We all can contribute to making the conference a success.

5. At the meals sit with someone you don’t know. Although it’s great to catch up with old friends, meal time is a chance to also make some new friends.

6. Make an effort to pitch to agents and editors. This works much better than sending in blind query letters. I sold my first book as a result of a pitch at the 2005 RMFW Colorado Gold Conference. Just don’t follow agents or editor into the restroom to pitch to them, particularly if of the opposite sex.

7. Spend time at the book sale on Friday night. Go around and meet the published authors. If you’re a published author, stand up and greet the people coming by. For the first five people who stop by to see me at the book signing and mention they’ve read this blog, I’ll give you a free book.

8. Drop by the hospitality suite after the conference Friday and Saturday nights. This is an excellent opportunity to schmooze with editors, agents and other writers. By the way, the hospitality suite is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Hug a mystery writer.

9. Have fun.

Mike Befeler has five published books in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, the most recent being Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. He also has two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. Mike is president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Learn more about Mike and his books at his website and blog. He can also be found on Facebook.

 

Interview with Agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

By Jeffe Kennedy

Since the Colorado Gold Conference is coming up, pitching and querying seem to be on people's minds. So I thought I'd interview my agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.

You’ve been an agent now for about two years, right? First with Larsen-Pomada and now with the new agency you helped form, Foreword Lit.

I was at Larsen Pomada for a year when Laurie McLean and I left with Elizabeth and Michael's blessing to for Foreword Literary. We wanted to dig into the tech and new fields of publishing and forge some industry standards for agents while still maintaining ethics. We're super excited to have gotten Gordon Warnock on board early on and are very excited about the new agency.

In a relatively short amount of time, you’ve sold a lot of books. Would you share your stats – how many books have you sold, to which publishers, in which genres? And how many clients do you have now?

Some of the sales are secret ;). But I've sold 38 books (soon to be 40 probably by the time this interview posts) to Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Entangled, and other large and small publishers. Most of my sales are romance or adult, with YA and MG following closely behind. I have twenty-two amazing clients!

Who is your favorite client?

Jeffe, of course. Don't tell Vivi.

What made you decide to become a literary agent?

I was offered an internship a few years ago at Kimberly Cameron as a reader. I fell in love with the entire process of making a book and when Laurie offered for me to be her assistant agent I took it! After I learned from her and sold a book on my own she let me go and I've been running forward every since.

Do you like it?

It is literally the best job ever. To know that you are in some small way influencing what people read and making author dreams come true is a heady experience. It makes all the bad stuff (rejections, clients who didn't work out) tolerable.

What did you do before you became an agent?

I left college to manage boy bands from Scandinavia. Then I met Marco and worked at Yahoo for a while before deciding to stay at home with my young son who I later sent to daycare because he is of Satan. Ok, maybe not Satan but he because a toddler.

While I was home with him I created a book blog that did pretty well on the interwebz. Bookalicious is still going strong with tons of reviewers and good books being recommended.

One of the things that I think gives you a different – and useful – perspective of the world of books is the time you spent being a book blogger. How do you think that informs your career as an agent?

I think book bloggers are some of the most publishing informed people in the world. We know the market, we know what's coming out and what has already came out, and we know the publishing staff (if the blog is big enough to have worked with publishing staff). Transitioning for me may have been easier than it is for some new agents. I didn't have to introduce myself, I only had to introduce my authors.

In which genres are you most actively acquiring right now?

Middle Grade, contemporary romance, and genre fiction (except mystery and thriller and horror).

What’s your philosophy about digital-first publishing vs. “traditional” publishing vs. self-publishing?

I love them all for different reasons and different books. I think digital/digital-first is a great way to prove your work has merit and to finagle into a print deal if that is what the author wants to do. Traditional publishing is still going strong no matter what naysayers say and has the distribution and marketing that authors desperately need in this ever-shifting marketplace. Self-publishing has brought on a new reading level (NA) and made erotic romance a household item. These ladies are making tons of money and getting big traditional deals. They have the best of both worlds.

What’s the most common misstep writers make when querying you?

Not following my very easy submissions guidelines.

What do you think is the worst advice out there for writers querying agents?

There's this new thing where authors query in their character's voice. That is so weird. SO WEIRD. I'm going to work with the author not the character.

What about the best advice?

Keep it short and simple!

Any final words?

Thank you for having me.

Pam's bio:

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg started her literary career as assistant to Laurie McLean in early 2012. By April Pam was promoted to Associate Agent at Larsen Pomada. In January of 2013 after selling twenty-one books in her first year of agenting Pam was promoted to agent. When Laurie McLean mentioned creating Foreword, Pam jumped at the chance to follow her mentor and create a new agency together.

Pam blogs at Bookalicio.us, Bookalicious.org, and Brazen Reads. She partners her blogs with her local bookseller Hicklebee’s where magic happens daily.

Pam grew up on a sleepy little Podunk town in Virginia. She’s lived in the UK, several US states, and now resides in the Bay Area of California. She has two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, but only one husband. You can find her mostly on Twitter where she wastes copious amounts of time.

To query please send a query, 1-2 page synopsis, and the first chapter of your manuscript (no attachments) to querypam@forewordliterary.com.

Pam is interested in the following genres:

High concept young adult in any genre. Some of Pam’s favorite recent YA books are: The Masque of the Red Death, Cinder, Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Small Damages, and Insignia.

Middle grade in these genres: fantasy. Pam’s recent favorite MG books are: The Peculiar, The Emerald Atlas, Storybound, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Icefall.

Romance in these categories: historical, fantasy, contemporary, and erotica. Pam’s favorite romance titles released recently are: Loving Lady Marcia, Be My Prince, Rogue’s Pawn, and The Siren.

New Adult in all categories will be considered. Pam has enjoyed Suddenly Royal, and Leopard Moon in this genre.

Speculative fiction in these genres: urban fantasy, paranormal, and epic/high fantasy.

 

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Author Head ShotJeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Conference Gold: Dos and Don’ts for the Upcoming RMFW Conference

By Julie Kazimer

It’s my favorite time of the year. As the leaves start to fall, hundreds of fellow writers descend on the Colorado Gold Conference. In case you’re not signed up, you still have time. The conference starts on September 20 – 22nd. Learn more and register at http://www.rmfw.org/conference.

If you’re already registered, I look forward to seeing you there. I attended my first conference in 2007. I can’t believe how naïve I was about writing and publishing at the time. I honestly believed I’d be a bestselling author by Christmas that year. Yeah, I was a wee bit deluded.

The delusion continued, and now I find myself about to attend my 7th Colorado Gold Conference. I still get that swell of excitement and anticipation as the conference draws near. Thankfully I’ve learned a lot since my first conference. Now I will pass my vast (yeah, right) amount of conference knowledge on to you.

Do:

1) Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Friday is usually more casual. Saturday night there’s a banquet in which some dress to kill while others wear jeans. Make sure to say hi to Marc Graham, he’s the guy in a kilt.

2) Network like mad. Too often writer make the mistake of thinking their pitch or talking to an agent or editor about their book is the most important aspect of conference going. It isn’t. The odds of getting an agent or selling your book during a pitch are low, very low. On the other hand, the odds of meeting someone at the conference, whether an agent, an editor, or a fellow writer on the same journey, who will eventually affect your writing career is all but assured.

3) Pitch a finished manuscript. And only a finished manuscript. If you don’t have the book done, then wait, and query the agent and/or editor when it is finished.

4) Meet Patricia Stoltey one of the RMWF Blog Editors. She is an amazing woman.

5) Have a 30 word or less elevator pitch ready and memorized to spout at will to anyone who asks. And they will ask.

6) Attend workshops. It’s amazing what you can learn from your fellow writers.

7) Ask Writer of the Year, Linda Joffe Hull, about her journey to publication. It’s a good one.

8) Take a risk. Do something out of your comfort zone. I’m not suggesting you dance on the bar, but why not head up to the hospitality suite for a before bed nightcap. Or take a workshop outside your genre. Join a group of writers bashing the latest bestseller even if you haven’t read the book. Hang out. Soak it in.

9) Join RMFW if you aren’t already a member. It’s worth every penny.

10) Say hi! I can’t wait to meet you.

11) Have FUN! The Gold Conference is unlike any other. Enjoy it.

Don’t:

1) Look up Marc’s kilt.

2) Be shy. Here’s an icebreaker for the shy writer. Walk up to anyone and say: “What do you write?” This is an instant conversation starter and even better, helps you to focus on your own 30 words or less description of your book.

3) Throw up on the agent/editor you are pitching. As hard as this is to believe, pitches are not the end all be all. So don’t be nervous. Your entire career isn’t on the line…

4) Hide in your hotel room. Oh, I know you…well, I know me. My name is Julie, and I’m an introvert. It’s not a sin. I just need more time by myself to recharge, especially when faced with hundreds of fellow writers. It’s tempting for introverts to stay tucked away in our hotel rooms, but don’t do it. You’ll be amazed by how much you can learn and grow in 48 hours. Be present.

5) Eat alone. If you’re planning to eat lunch at the hotel restaurant, when you’re standing in line, look for others who appear alone or in a small group and join them for lunch. You’ll be amazed by who you can meet.

6) Put too much pressure on yourself. This weekend is about learning your craft, enjoying fellow writers, and gathering energy to keep on writing.

7) One more thing, try not to laugh at Mario Acevedo’s Hawaiian shirt.

Anyone have other advice for conference season? Is there anything you are looking forward to doing or workshop you plan on attending?

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.