I attended a workshop today that was hosted by the wonderful Literary Agent Louise Fury of the Laura Perkins Literary Agency. She was absolutely brilliant. She was friendly and she answered every ones questions even though at times she was bombarded by multiple questions at the same time. One thing is clear, there is a lot of aspiring writers in South Africa.
OK, so let me tell you more. There were about 30 attendees and we each got an opportunity to introduce ourselves. My brother and I sat at the back of the room, which meant we would be last to speak. Big Mistake! I had to listen to all the achievements and published authors histories and after a while I felt like a complete fake between all these experts. So finally when they got to me I was so overwhelmed and nervous that I started rambling and I started talking so fast that I still can't remember what I said. I just remember my brother turning all the shades of red possible. All he said is that ''you just embarrassed yourself''. But I don't worry about it. I know no one there will remember me because I was the least qualified to be a writer and the most inexperienced as well. I had nothing to offer a fellow writer in terms of help with their career.
Nobody was rude or anything but I just felt out of my league. Nobody said anything to me that was discouraging but I couldn't relate to anybody. They seemed so far ahead of me in this crazy world of writing that to this moment I am still struggling to decipher exactly what I was doing there or what happened. Don't worry I remembered enough that I can share what I learned with all of you.
So here goes:
Query letters should be professional and should not contain too much personal information.
In you first paragraph: mention why you are querying the agent, give the title and genre of your novel as well as the word count.
In the second paragraph: say what your book is about.
Third paragraph: a little information as to why you are the writer to write this book.
Always double space your work.
Use a header that contains your name and that of your book as well as some form of contact detail. Also remember to add page numbers to each page.
Use a Times New Roman font 12 Or Ariel 11.
One inch margins should be used on every page.
Maximum word count for first time writers is 100 000 words.
About writing in general:
If you want to be published in America you definitely need a agent.
Do your research about your genre. Educate yourself about the form of publishing you are seeking and the agent and publishers who deal with your genre.
Always share your knowledge with fellow writers because that is how the writing world works. You help someone today and tomorrow perhaps someone can help you. Louise called this networking and said that it is essential for any writers success.
You should have a critique partner that knows what they are talking about and participate in writing groups and public readings if you can. You need to get your work out there. Be part of an online community.
E-book publishing is very big at the moment.
Oh and another writer can steal your idea but they won't write it the same way you would. So he/she might steal your idea about vampires but only you will write it the way you would because every writers voice and style and even interpretation is different. (I am still paranoid though).
So that is all I remember for the moment, sorry. Most of our sessions turned into Question and answer sessions. Everybody was so hungry for information. You can't really blame us. A opportunity like today happens very rarely in South Africa.
Here is what I learned today: Know who you are as a writer. Know exactly what you are writing in the sense of genre. Be comfortable with who you are as a writer and your style of writing. Most importantly, know why you are doing what you are doing. Is it because you love it or is it because you just want to be rich or do you just want to be published? If you want to be rich choose another profession because becoming a published writer will take many years. And even if you are published it doesn't mean you will ever be rich or make enough money to survive on your earnings.
I learned a lot today and at least now I know how far I still have to go. I am barely just beginning. I am in fact an amateur and I am not ashamed of it because I have already grown a lot since starting this blog and who knows what my writing will be like in a few more months or even years?
So today all my fellow writers, lets believe in ourselves and our dreams, no matter how unrealistic they are. Because we first have to believe in ourselves before others can.
PS. Keep an eye out for my first chapter. I am strongly considering sharing it on my blog.