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Panel With Gena Showalter Recap

Had a busy, yet great weekend.  Should have spent my time writing Friday night, but instead, I spent it unwinding and playing a silly, but fun video game on my computer.  Winemaker Extraordinaire.  Yes, I not only had a glass of wine, but I pretended to run my own vineyards for a little while.  (I tell you, I’m a complete dork.)  I went to a graduation party Saturday night and had too much caffeine–ended up outside pretty late discussing politics with my friend’s son, my husband and a few others.  One of those good politics conversations–not the scary, angry yelling ones.  And we had a Republican, a Communist and two Democrats in the convo. heh heh


But during the day Saturday, I was on a writer’s panel with Gena Showalter.  (Here we are at last year’s OKRWA Christmas party.) I really feel the panel went well.  I’d been reluctant to speak, to be honest.  My relationship with my agent still feels pretty new despite having signed with her a year ago, so I wasn’t sure what helpful info I’d have to share.  Gena has been with her agent over a decade.  Turns out having two writers share different levels of their relationships with their agents made for a more rounded program.  Having two writers in different stages of their careers also helped.  Gena is doing well… okay, Gena is kicking butt.  The woman is publishing a LOT of books and she’s hitting bestseller lists, including the New York Times.  I’m still in the beginning phase with my first book making publisher rounds. 

We told the stories of how we ended up signing with our agents.  I shared that I kept getting very positive feedback, but after several possible agents told me the beginning didn’t grab them, I listened.  I rewrote the first chapter and had “all” full requests after that.  But it wasn’t until I caught the interest of an editor that things picked up.

Gena shared that she was approached by another agent originally, but they had different ideas for her career.  She told the group to make sure the agent you pick will have the same projections–if you plan to write in different genres, make sure he or she will handle all of them. 

One question was, “If we could go back to being unpublished writers again and kn0w what we do now, what would we change?”

For me, it would be to truly understand that you have to write everyday or at least five days a week.  No matter how busy with jobs, kids and everything else, make at least an hour a day yours even if you have to get up earlier or stay up later.  Yes, I work better when I have hours of uninterrupted time, but if I’d truly grasped how important it is to stay in the story daily, I would have… well, I think I’d be further than I am now. ( On the drive home, I thought of like five other answers I’d add to mine.)

Gena said she would go back and tell herself to write the books of her heart and not try to conform to what she thought others wanted to read.  She shared a story of writing a book that had one part she really loved and it was that part her agent or editor picked as the best part of the book. 

She also shared that in the beginning, her relationship with her agent was tentative–kind of the way mine is at this point.  But that will change with time and experience and I look forward to that. 

We discussed how we work with our agents as far as new material.  Both of us run new ideas by them.  One of the writers in the audience raised her hand and shared that her agent only reads finished proposals before they go out to editors.  So again, it’s something to discuss with your own agent–set up how you both like to work.

We shared that agents have different preferences as far as what they handle, but both our agents prefer to at least see all our contracts, even for the short-not-so-profitable pieces.  Every contract is a part of our overall portfolio. 

I shared that I’m luckier than a lot of writers in new relationships with their agents because I’m also a part of a group of writers who are also her clients.  I hear how my agent goes to bat for her authors and this gives me a lot of confidence when it comes to my future contracts, etc.

I also told them that if I could go back even one year, I’d change my expectations.  I’d been around writers who snapped up agents then had the fastest turnaround possible in getting book deals.  After experiencing a couple of those right before my own signing, I kind of expected the same.  Truth is, that is a rare situation.  Most book deals take longer.  I thought having an agent would cause an instant sale.  It doesn’t.  There are a lot of writers and a LOT of manuscripts and yes, an agent will get you in quickly, but that doesn’t guarantee a quick read or response. 

So, keep your expectations reasonable and you’ll be in for less disappointment.  But don’t give up.  I truly believe success in this business comes through self-discipline and perseverance and writing the best possible books you can.

Oh!  And Gena brought me a present! An ARC of…



  1. May 18, 2009    

    Wah– sorry I missed your panel! I’ve been soooo out of the OKRWA loop lately. I didn’t even know it was the 3rd Sat of the month. 🙁

    Glad it went well!!

  2. May 18, 2009    

    I looked for you immediately, too. Was hoping to see you! I’ve been out of it, too. Had even forgotten I was speaking. So had Gena. We showed up with gifts thinking we’d wing it but it turned out pretty good, I think.

  3. May 18, 2009    

    Thanks for sharing the advice; I’m still trying to get the hang of the Write Every Day No Matter What thing, so it’s good to have a reminder that yes it is That Important.

  4. May 21, 2009    

    I had hoped to come, but I was sick. I realized early Saturday morning it just wasn’t meant to be. 🙁

    Glad it went well! This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  1. You Can Win Some Great Books! « Rinda Elliott on May 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

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