Summer Publishing law (& a contest): Conference Style!

Summer conference season is upon us, and since it’s time to start a new Wednesday series, I thought I’d take the next few weeks to talk about conference etiquette, pitching novels, and a few of the legal issues that arise during conferences and events. If you have questions about conferences, or legal issues that arise there, please ask them in the comments and I’ll gladly answer them in the coming weeks!

I’m also running a summer #Publishing Law contest through the month of June, and giving away two ARCs of Claws of the Catmore details at the end of this post.

Today, we’ll start with the three of the cardinal lessons of conference etiquette (all of which I discovered the hard way. Please … learn from my fail).

Lesson 1: Don’t pitch (or publish, or promote) until you are certain your work is polished and ready for the world.

My agent, Sandra, was drawn to the polished state of my manuscript for Claws of the Cat. She was the only agent I pitched it to, and she signed me right away.

But this wasn’t my first rodeo. Four other full-length manuscripts lurk on my hard drive (not counting the 80,000-word epic fantasy wonder blunder I wrote in high school), and none of those “trunk novels” will ever see the light of day. The “Books Which No Longer Say Ni” are not failures. They were necessary the training courses where I honed my skills. That said, I queried each of them too early. In the earlier ones, my writing wasn’t ready for publication. In some of the later ones, I queried several drafts too soon.

Patience isn’t a virtue writers have in large supply. Even so, it’s well worth learning. Take your time and hone your skills. Publishing will still be there–and the world will receive you better–if you’re fully ready before you launch the book.

Lesson 2: Homework, Homework, Homework.

Choose your path on the basis of research, knowledge, and an honest understanding of your goals and personal skills. Don’t let anyone persuade you that there’s only one “good” road to published status.

Conferences feel a lot like drinking from a fire hose – so much information, so many stories, so much to learn. Take your time and sort it through. Publish in haste, repent at leisure, as the saying (almost) goes.

Listen to everyone. Evaluate what you hear. Follow the good advice and discard advice that won’t work for you (but don’t disparage anyone – what works for you may not be right for someone else’s needs). Above all–be the master of your ship. Publishing is your business. Treat it as one, and do your homework before you make decisions.

Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid to speak up…but speak politely.

Agents and editors do not bite. Traditionally published authors will not give self-published authors leprosy–or vice versa.  Make as many connections as you can, and don’t discriminate against or disparage anyone. I’ll repeat that for emphasis, in a simpler way:


Meet people. Smile. Ask what they do or what they write. A conference is, first and foremost, a chance to celebrate with your tribe–the tribe of writers. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Learn.

And for those of you who suffer anxiety, remember: Everyone else at a conference puts on their pants the same way you do, except that, hopefully, they use different pants. Because using yours would be creepy.

Have questions or comments about conferences or publishing legal issues? Leave a comment – I would love to hear from you!

Also, if you leave a comment on a #Publishing Law Wednesday post (meaning any post tagged as #Publishing Law and dated from now until June 30) I will enter you in a drawing to win a signed ARC of my upcoming shinobi mystery novel, Claws of the Cat!

And, of course, the legalese: To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years old, leave a valid name and email address in the comments and and live or have a mailing address in the US or Canada. No purchase necessary to win. Odds of winning vary with entries received. One entry per household. One winner will be drawn at random from eligible comments.


9 thoughts on “Summer Publishing law (& a contest): Conference Style!

  • May 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Did you just call me a jerk? Geez. I really, really, really want to win a copy, mostly so I can read it now!

    Great advice. I agree with 1 the most. My first conference I pitched and my book wasn’t ready. Second one, same thing, third yep… It takes more than writing one book before you ‘know’ your craft.

  • May 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Pick me, pick me, pick me! 🙂 Can’t WAIT to see this beauty – way to go, Susan!

  • May 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Given the rapant degredation of society’s norms it sure seems hard to follow your simple rules/suggestions: patience, knowledge, respect, kindness, professionalism. I don’t know how any new writers can hack it.

    Did you have to make it so hard?

    I thought “Liking”, “tweeting” “ranting” and “Linking” were the golden tickets….

    (Would love to win the book!…I’ll be patient and speak kindly of your blog, etc.)

    • May 30, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Difficult rules to be sure! 🙂 I’m old-fashioned that way. 🙂

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  • May 31, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Great advice – and I’m thinking “Don’t be a jerk” applies to most of life (if not all). And I’d love to be included in the contest for your book– Thank you.

  • June 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm


    Very happy for you and your impending release. I know it will be great!

    – Walt

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