This year was my first ever to attend an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. It was in September and held in Dallas, TX. I have attended two other writers conferences held by organizations. The first was ACW (American Christian Writers) held in Mesa, AZ a few years ago, and the other was a FaithWriters held in Portland, OR.
The ACFW Conference was certainly the most phenomenal – phenomenal in that so many of my favorite authors were there: Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins, Cara Putnam, Deborah Raney, and others.
I loved that they prayed over everything. I loved that they had a praise and worship band led by Rachel Hauck that truly was praise and worship and not just entertainment. I loved the general sessions, the meals, the workshops, and our opportunity to have a one-on-one with top agents, editors, publishing houses, and mentors. I chose four agents with my understanding that I would get to meet with at least one of my choices, possibly two.
I got to meet with all of my choices except one, Karen Ball, with the Steve Laube Agency, because Karen was unable to attend. If Karen would have been there, I would've met with her, also. I’ll share what I gleaned from these meetings. Three meetings when I was expecting one, maybe two. Yikes!
The first thing I learned is to more thoroughly research who I choose to meet with. Why? Because they all want something different. And some personalities are not a match for me. Once I submitted my four choices weeks before the conference, I soon decided I needed to change two choices. When I contacted the ACFW person in charge of appointments, the if-you-want-to-change process seemed too detailed, plus I was in the middle of three weeks of stressful computer issues. I decided to not change my choices and simply take my chances. In hindsight, I should’ve made the changes – not because the agents I met with weren’t terrific people, but because by the time I got to two meetings, I already knew it wouldn’t be a fit for me.
My first appointment was on Friday with Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. (I really like the Steve Laube Agency). I was nervous going into this meeting and it showed. I wasn’t nervous because Tamela isn’t a delightful lady – she is. I was nervous because, #1: What I had to pitch to her had already been submitted to Karen Ball (same agency) in July. It’s kind of a no-no to submit to multiple people in an agency. I had to be honest with Tamela and tell her the minute I sat across from her that Karen Ball had this proposal. #2: From what I gather from Tamela’s website, she mostly represents Harlequin’s Love Inspired authors. At this point in my writing, I am not interested in writing for Love Inspired. My appointment with Tamela was not fruitful, but she is a lovely and gracious lady and I am glad I got to meet her. If I decide to do Love Inspired, I would love her as my agent.
My second appointment, also on Friday, was with Chip MacGregor. When I wanted to change my appointments prior to going to the conference, I wanted to change Chip and Tamela. But, as previously mentioned, I decided to just leave my choices the way they were. Chip MacGregor. What can I say about him? By his own admission (I follow him on Facebook and his blog), he is snarky. Trust me, he is snarky. But he is probably one of the most knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and one of the most successful agents in our nation. I wasn’t nervous meeting him because I decided I didn’t care. I had already sat in on a workshop with a panel of agents, and another workshop panel of indie authors. I am going to be an indie author, I decided, so I didn’t much care what Chip thought of me. But it was a good meeting. He was kind – said my writing was good, but he’s not the least bit interested in the book I was pitching him. No surprises there. I could go into more detail, but won’t, except to say prior to this meeting with Chip, I had had two other encounters with him. He was kind and gracious both times. My opinion is -- and this is strictly my opinion -- he's only snarky if you disagree with his political and religious views. But as agent, he will push and fight for you.
My last appointment was with Steve Laube on Saturday at 4 PM, one of his last appointments, I’m sure. He looked tired, and I was tired. I wasn’t nervous meeting with him, mostly because I had definitely, without a doubt, decided I want to be an indie author. So I was going to feel okay regardless of what Steve had to say. I will say, he is probably one of the kindest people I have met in the writing/publishing industry. )Another kind person is Deb Porter with FaithWriters and Breath of Fresh Air Publishing, but she’s not my topic.) I pitched my book – a different one than I pitched to Tamela, but the same I pitched to Chip. This book contains a controversial topic for the CBA – Christian Book Association – because it has a brief reference to abortion (the heroine has an abortion when she’s a teenager), and the main theme is an evangelist, the hero, has a brief, passionate affair. These topics will not fly in most CBA circles, especially from an unknown author.
Steve was very kind and gracious. I enjoyed my appointment with him the most – not because I landed him as an agent, but because of his personality. A sincerely nice person.
So what are the main things I learned from my agent appointments? * Research thoroughly. * Next time, pick at least one mentor or critique appointment. * Relax, they’re just human. * Ultimately the one I most want to please in my writing is God and not people. Still, to be successful, people have to read what I write or what’s the purpose of my message?
Write on, dear writers. Read on, dear readers.