Tag Archives: DFW Writer’s Con

Fun with Grammar: Lessons from DFWCon

This is my cat, Tavi. He is not a Grammaticat. Maybe one day. We all need dreams.

This is my cat, Tavi. He is not a Grammaticat. Maybe one day. We all need dreams.

Five weeks ago (wow, has it been that long already?) I had the privilege of attending DFWCon, where I got to meet Tex Thompson, grammar-clarifier-extraordinaire. She runs www.thetexfiles.com, which, in addition to general greatness, is where she posts “Grammaticats”–cats teaching lessons in grammar.

I know. My mind was blown, too.

It is no surprise, then, that she led an excellent presentation on Grammar and Style. I hadn’t planned on attending, but my schedule worked out and I made it, and I am so glad I did.

I’ve been a copyeditor and proofreader for years, but I’ll tell you a secret: when editing stuff, we don’t typically talk about it in fancy grammarian-speak. Mostly we just say “ugh, you did that wrong.” For that reason, it was great to brush up on my grammar in Tex’s class: I don’t think I’ve heard some of the fancy titles since high school (if then).

Mostly for my own benefit (and because, who knows? Maybe it’ll help you out, too), here are my notes from Tex’s class.

  • modifier:
  • non-restrictive modifying phrase:
    • 1) Can be deleted
    • 2) must be close to the thing it modifies
    • 3) needs a matched set of commas or dashes
  • Types of modifiers and errors: relative clauses; restrictive vs. nonrestrictive modifying phrases; dangling modifiers; misplaced modifiers; ambiguous modifiers (the phrase being modified could be interpreted two different ways); implied simultenaety (which is fine as long as the actions being given really could be happening at the same time, eg. “Sally walked while talking to Jim.”)
  • Pronoun: subs in for a noun or noun phrase
    • Pronoun case error: using the wrong form of the pronoun (I/me, for example)
    • pronoun antecedent agreement: the pronoun needs to go with the thing it refers to (a group = them; he = Bryan)
    • pronoun reference error: it’s not clear what the pronoun is referring to (“I took my boat and my girlfriend for a ride. She’s a real beaut!” –the boat or the girlfriend?!)
    • wandering body parts (this one’s my favorite)-when anatomy causes confusing issues (is the eye literally falling on the jacket? Ew)
    • dialogue tag: said/ asked/hissed/etc. – it should describe how something is said
    • comma splice
  • Fragment: an incomplete sentence; it needs a subject
    • implied subject (ie. “Run!” The “You” is implied)
    • coordinating vs. subordinating conjunctions (rules for whether or not to use commas)
    • Fragments are often okay if you are writing in deep POV–we don’t always think in complete sentences.

Look at all the words you learned! Don’t you feel like a smart cookie now?


Filed under Conventional, Editing, writing

Writers’ Rates by Type of Publication

This is big, guys. I got to attend a lecture on the “Economics of Publishing” led by agent Evan Gregory while at DFWCon. His talk was great, but this one slide was earth-shaking for me. I think I’m still quivering.

I’ve had to replicate it, as the photo I took with my phone illustrates said shaking.

Royalties By Edition

Publisher Book Price Royalty Author Receives
Amazon, self-pub $2.99 $2.05
Nook, self-pub $2.99 1.76
Smashwords, self-pub $2.99 $1.49-1.74
Hardcover, traditional pub $25.00 $2.50-$3.75
e-book, traditional pub $7.99 $1.40
Trade paperback, traditional pub $14.99 $1.12
Paperback $7.99 $0.64-$0.80

That’s a estimated breakdown of what an author will get, per book sold, using different publishing options.

Pretty sobering, isn’t it?

Now, I realize some people are going to look at this and instantly cry foul and say self-publishing is definitely and always the right way to go, because there’s a big difference between $2.05 and $0.64. And I don’t disagree. But Mr. Gregory had an excellent point: sure, you get more per book, but you are likely to sell fewer–because you have only whatever marketing efforts you personally can generate, without help–and you have a lot more up-front costs, like editing and cover art, and a huge amount of your time, so while this compares the profits you stand to get, it doesn’t accurately reflect the time-and-money investments for each arrangement.

Still, knowledge is power, and learning this figures really changed my perspective.


Filed under Publishing

Path to Publishing: You Wrote a Book, Now What?

After the DFW Con, a family friend heard I had requests for manuscripts from agents (squee!) and asked what the process was. When you’re just starting out, it’s really hard to get a sense of how this whole crazy publishing thing works.

To help you out, here’s a summary.

  • Write a book.
  • Celebrate! You just wrote a book! That’s really freakin’ hard! Most people never even get that far, so bask for a bit.
  • Give it a rest, then go back and edit it with “fresh eyes.” Make it polished.
  • Consider giving it to someone else to edit. Or give it to a “beta reader” who will be honest with you.
  • Decide whether you want to self-publish or go the traditional route.

If you want to go the “traditional route”:

  • Write query letters. They’re like cover letters/resumes for you and your book.
  • Send your queries to agents after you’ve carefully researched them. (The internet is your friend).
    • An agent is the first gatekeeper. You need an agent to get a publisher. You should never have to pay any reputable agent anything to read your stuff. They get paid by taking a commission off of anything you eventually publish. Sort of like a real estate agent. Typical timeline for acquiring an agent? 6 months to a year or longer.
  • Go to events, like the conference I just attended. Turns out a risk I was taking in my query was the reason I was getting rejected. Meeting in person got me the attention I needed, and I got requests.
  • Find an agent you like (and who likes you) and sign a contract saying you’ll work together.
  • Your agent will then sell your manuscript to publishers. This can take 6 months to a year.
  • Then, if they want to publish you, you’ll get a contract, an advance, and (hopefully) royalties.
    • They’ll do edits, a cover design, prepare marketing materials, provide some advice on how to market yourself, and make all the decisions related to actually constructing a book. You’ll get the prestige of being published by a “big publisher,” (even if it’s not one of the “Big Six”**) and know that someone other than your mom and dad was interested in your work. You’re more likely to have your book sold in print form from a bookseller.
      • The “Big Six” are: Hatchette; Macmillan; Penguin Group; HarperCollins; Random House; Simon & Schuster

The self-publishing/indie path (they are separate, but overlap in a lot of ways):

  • Hire a reputable editor to look over your work. Yes, you’ve already edited it at this point, but the biggest distinguishing feature of a poorly constructed self-published work is bad editing. Do it again. Be willing to invest in your work.
  • Decide what format you’d like to publish. Is it a book that needs to have a physical copy? Is ebook-only ok? This really depends on your goals and the kind of book you have.
  • Hire a cover design artist. You need a cover even if you are publishing e-book only. I suggest looking somewhere like Writer.ly.
  • Here’s where it gets tricky. There are several places you can self-publish, and lots of resources about them. Do your homework before you give your book to anyone. While there are reputable places (Lightning Source, PubIt!, CreateSpace), there are also more sketchy places that aren’t suitable for a large-scale book production (Lulu, AuthorHouse, etc), and there are people who are outright looking to scam you. Don’t let them. Do your research first.
  • If you’ve got an ebook, format and upload your book to all the places you can (Smashwords, Amazon, Nook, Apple). Again, do your research, because this gets complicated. (If you don’t care about saturation, just upload it to Amazon. That’s the easiest and has a pretty solid market share.)
  • You make all your design, book construction, marketing, and pricing decisions yourself. You also get more of the royalties per book, but you’ll sink a lot of time into this process, and there’s still no guarantee that anyone will buy it. You get speed, and more per book, but may not end up with a printed copy to show off in your bookcase.

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Filed under Publishing

Total Recap: DFW Writers’ Conference

DFW Writers' ConventionOne of the things discussed in a session at DFW Writers’ Conference this year was not to blog about writing. I’m gonna go right on ahead and break that “rule,” because when I was first starting out, there were so many mixed messages and people with a bias making proclamations that it was hard to tell which way was up. I wish I’d had someone “in the thick of it” to tell me what was going on, so I’m going to provide that resource.

I’ve had a little bit of time to recover from the sugar-and-caffeine soaked two-day marathon that is DFW Writers’ Conference, and I’m here to tell you it is money well spent. I was a little nervous going in that I wouldn’t get as much out of it as I had last year, in my first visit, but this year was better. I was more comfortable, had better business cards (based on experience from the year prior), and knew to wear a sweater because some of those rooms are cold and because I sweat with nervousness during a pitch. All good lessons!

If you’re on the fence about attending a writing conference–maybe you’re worried about the cost–I’d recommend you do it. I can’t vouch for any but DFW Con, as it’s the only “big” conference I’ve attended, but if you even think there is something you’ll learn, go. And if you’re querying agents, DEFINITELY go.

On that note: My pitch session(s)
At DFW Con you get one pitch session with an agent included in the ticket price. You look through all the attending agents, pick your top three, and are assigned a pitch session.

A pitch session is basically like speed dating. And you’re speaking on behalf of your book. You have 10 minutes to convince the person across the table that you have something they could sell. If they’re interested, they may ask for you to query them, or for pages. Or, if you’re really lucky, for a full manuscript.

She asked for a full manuscript!

And then, at DFW Con anyway, you can pay $40 for a second pitch session. So I did that, with another agent who I’d seen around and who I thought maybe would like a zombie gamebook.

And then SHE asked for a full manuscript.

So I’m like:

That alone made the conference worth it to me. Especially when my query letter was read at the Gong Show at the end of the conference, and my letter got triple-gonged before they even read the third line (no, I’m not telling you which letter it was. I’m embarrassed. I swear it was going to be SO GOOD, if they had only read a little further!)

But that explains some of the trouble I’ve been having. I’ve gotten nothing but rejections from my letter. If I was only sending out that letter (continuing to make the mistake/take the risk), I may never have gotten the chance to put my manuscript in front of an agent. By going to DFW Con, I get to do it TWICE. That’s huge.

Even without those parts of the conference, there’s a lot to learn. I went to an incredible session on how to do your taxes as a writer. In fact, I wish I could explain it well enough to do a post on it, because it will be so useful. (The short version: It’s pretty complicated).

I also got to meet lots of other writers, of all kinds of backgrounds, and got to hang out with some pros. I took sessions on grammar and dialogue and social media. I got the inside scoop on the different royalty rates (and I WILL be blogging about that. That was too good not to share), and had an excellent session with Jenny Martin on finding your voice.

In short: Conferences do a lot for you. Go try one out.

And let’s dance a little more.


Filed under Conventional

Prepping for DFW Writers’ Con

This weekend I’ll be attending my second DFW Writers’ Convention, held in the Hurst Convention Center.

It’s the biggest gathering of writers of all sorts in my area, and–importantly!–is attended by authors of all stripes, as well as editors, marketers, agents, and other folks interested in books and writing. It’s kinda a big deal.

I went last year, and it pretty much scared the pants off me. Like, I don’t think I could have been more nervous if you’d told me it was a walking-on-hot-coals-over-a-volcano conference. But I went, met some nice people, got to chat with two agents, and felt it was overall a good experience.

So I’m trying to prep for this year. My goal last year was a) to show up (accomplished!) and b) talk to people, even though I found that really hard. This year, I’m going to try to “connect”/”network” with two people. That sounds low, but I’m not naturally comfortable with small talk, so my goal is basic: just make a connection with two people that can continue after the conference.

I bought two sets of business cards, one advertising my book and one advertising my editing business. I’m planning out my outfits and going to build my schedule of what I actually hope to attend and where (so hard to choose when good classes are simultaneous!).

I’ve been doing a bit of research on Louise Fury, who I’m lucky enough to have a pitch session with, trying to plan out what might appeal to her. I feel more relaxed about it than last year, because now that I’ve done it (twice!) I know a little more what to expect, and my expectations are a little lower. (I’m writing a genre that has fewer affiliated agents and guests, unfortunately, so I am not sure Ms. Fury will have a definite interest in my novel, but she has such a great reputation with her clients that I hope to get a lot out of our talk.)

Maybe it’s just because we’re still a few days out, but I’m feeling a little more zen about the conference. Perhaps it’s just the “calm before the storm.”

If you haven’t yet attended a writer’s conference in your area, I recommend it. It makes you feel so much more “official” and you’ll learn a lot. It can also be a humbling experience; you’re definitely not the only person with a great idea looking to get some attention.

If you have, what is your best advice?


Filed under Conventional, Publishing, writing

I’m Writing the Wrong Genre

I’ve seen two kinds of scuttlebutt online about “what to write.”

A: Write what you love and what you want to read!
B: Research the genres that are selling and fit your writing to that mold.

One of my personal rules is to maintain my own integrity, so I’ve been following advice A (which is how I ended up writing a 63,000 zombie apocalypse gamebook/CYOA). And yet I have fits of anxiety when I see things like this:


This is an edited version of a list of agents who will be at DFW Writer’s Con and what genres they have a particular interest in. (I added the highlighting and cropped out the agents’ names. You can find the full list here.)

The yellow areas are Middle Grade and Young Adult respectively. Look at all those delightful excited happy faces!

The blue area is science fiction. Only 3 happy faces and one big ugly poison Do Not Talk To Me About This.

Hm.. Zombie apocalypse. Gee, where does that fit?  Blue column of sadness. Maybe horror (it’s not really that scary, though) or humor (because being a zombie is funny!). Well crap. Those columns are pretty depressing, too, 2 and 4 happy faces respectively.

The agent pitch sessions are one of the most exciting parts of DFW Con, but dangit, I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of success this year. I’m in all the wrong categories. (Though I feel a certainty in my bones that just about every adult would get a real kick out of determining their own path in a zombie uprising book. I was talking about it with a friend in a restaurant and a passerby interrupted to say “excuse me, did you just say zombie apocalypse CYOA? Cool!”)

And my prior novel that I’m not actively pitching? Squarely sci-fi dystopia. *sigh*

I have no real interest in writing YA or MG (aside from a dalliance with The Boxcar Kids, as a kid I never even read books that would fit those categories!), but seeing this kind of heavy-loaded listing is depressing and has made me wonder if I should be trying something different. It’s hard to do while continuing that whole “to thine own self be true” stuff, though.


Filed under Conventional, writing