I spent last weekend in New York City, one of my favorite cities to photograph. A last-minute spot opened up at the 2011 BlogHer Writers conference and since I can’t resist New York or spending a few days with a roomful of writers, I packed my camera and made reservations.
On Thursday morning, I boarded the train in Springfield. A woman in her late-40s sat across the aisle from me. She traveled with her younger sister who was teaching the woman how to travel alone. Her sister sat three rows ahead and would reluctantly reply to the many questions the woman asked about a crossword puzzle, where to board the connecting train, or what their plans were once they arrived.
An hour into the ride, the woman complained to anyone who would listen to her that she felt nauseous. She called out to the I don’t care who you are or why you’re on this train ticket guy who collected asked for our tickets at the beginning of the ride, tagged the bags, and went on with his business. Except that he happened walk down the aisle at the right moment.
“Excuse me, excuse me…what’s your name?”
“Okay, Peaches, I mean Pete…”
The woman was sweet, funny, vulnerable and she even took “Peaches” off guard. She was the highlight of my trip.
By the time the train arrived at Penn Station, I was tired and hungry and decided not to walk the half-a-mile plus to the hotel with a backpack and small but weighted suitcase. Instead, I hopped out of the long taxi line and followed the guy who approached me in line, Car service? He whispered to me.
I studied the line, looked at my watch, then followed him in a somewhat hypnotic state. Fifteen minutes and forty-five dollars later, I realized the driver didn’t kept his so-called luxury car service status silent for a reason—he was about to seriously rip me off and probably sensed I was too tired to ask or care. Circling Midtown Manhattan in a black Mercedes-Benz while listening to the local jazz station on the radio doesn’t equal $45 worth of luxury to me. I mean come on, I expect free tickets to an Off-Broadway show at the very least.
By the time the reception began, I canceled 5:30 dinner reservations at Candle 79 (sorry, next trip to the city) and camped out at the cocktail party talking kids, bra inserts, and spanx with these hilarious women who had me laughing until the end. Five hours later, I finally ordered take-out and walked back to my hotel.
Sponsored by Penguin, the conference went all day Friday. The focus was on how writers can use social media skills as authors, a topic I’ve immersed myself in this past year. Industry experts like Barbara Marcus (Strategic Innovations Advisor, Penguin), Dominique Browning (Author, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness), Jean Kwok (Author, Girl In Translation), Amber Qureshi (Executive Editor, The Viking Press), shared their publishing insights among others. Check out the official BlogHer conference Liveposts for a free account of all the speakers, mentors, and sessions that took place. You can also buy a Virtual Conference Pass for $49.99 if you need to. Whatever works.
For those of you interested in becoming an Author (via the agent path), here’s the not so quick 5-step guide to getting published:
1. No matter what form your writing takes, it’s always about the writing. Write with passion. Develop your writing craft and make sure the writing is terrific. Be coherent.
2. Develop your Platform (no matter what stage of the publishing process you’re in) and come up with an original book idea. Do both successfully and agents will take note. If you haven’t met the dreaded ‘P’ word (meaning all the places people can find you: a blog, social media, seminars, classes, speaking gigs, etc.) yet, you will soon enough, so get this in order before you start contacting agents.
3. Become an expert in your field and get to know your audience. Know what makes you an expert and why your book is necessary and timely for today’s marketplace.
4. Learn to write killer query letters: be clear, know where you fit in the market, leave them wanting more, and don’t forget to proofread. As a general rule, don’t send attachments. If an agent or editor is interested in your work, they’ll request a proposal (non fiction) or a manuscript (fiction).
5. To find an agent, do your research. Check the acknowledgments in books you like, most everyone thanks their agent. Search on LiteraryMarketplace.com and read guides on how to find an agent in your field. Most agents have online profiles where you can find not only what they’re interested in but what they’ve sold in the past.
I also sat in on the following sessions: Blogs to Book, How to Turn a Book or Two into a Writing Career, Lunch with Publishing Veteran Dominique Browning, Alternative Publishing Models: It’s Not Only about the Printed Hardback, Mentor Brainstorming Session with Sarah Pinneo (Author of Julia’s Child, Co-Author of The Ski House Cookbook), and Successful Authors…Their Different Journeys to Writing Nirvana.
By the way, my mentor session with Sarah was terrific. She’s generous and warm and knows her stuff and if you’re curious about how handle publicity as a new author, be sure to check out her blog Blurb is a Verb.
Anyway, I’ll tell you about my visit to MoMA, Occupy Wall Street, Chinatown, and Babycakes next time.