The Best of Times or the Worse?

At Sleuthfest 2017, held in Boca Rotan, Florida last week, I heard both encouraging and discouraging words about the publishing industry. Some presenters (agents, editors, and authors) listed the increase in small, but viable, publishing houses as a plus and that many writers were now going hybrid (published by traditional publishing houses and self-publishing their own work). Other presenters spoke about the decrease in young readers (ages 20-40), and the proliferation of self-published books. More than one presenter talked about how little a writer might make in a year, and how the ease of getting rich with e-books has passed.

Yet, there were also stories of those who persisted (didn’t let the rejection letters stop them) and lucked out by having the right story in front of the right person at the right time. Those few have done fabulously well.

The agents said they receive over a hundred queries a week. (Multiply that times 52 and it becomes a bit mind-boggling.) Out of those queries, they may only take on 5 new writers. (Not very encouraging.)

The editors said being at a conference, such as this one, and talking to an editor or agent (either during a pitch session, casually during a meal, or in the bar) is one way to get past the “No unagented submissions” dictate. (In your cover letter, do let the agent or editor know that you met him/her at the conference.)

The advice from many was if you can NOT WRITE, then your wisest move is to stop writing and find something less stressful to do. If you simply MUST write (you get frustrated and irritable when unable to write), then you are doomed to be a writer, whether you’ll get rich doing so or not.

Next week I’ll give a more in-depth summary of the agents’ panel.

Sleuthfest is an excellent conference, well run and informative. They tape most sessions, which is good since often there are two I want to attend at the same time. They run four sessions at a time, broken down by where a writer is in his/her career: beginner, more advanced (possibly already published), career oriented, and research (usually forensic or law enforcement information).

Agents, editors, and writers (published and unpublished) are brought together during meals, at the bar, and during a cocktail party. There’s a lot of laughter along with serious information. There is an auction on Friday night (one attendee won a half hour with David Baldacci, several others won critiques from agents/editors/and NYT authors.) Saturday night they drew the winning tickets for the baskets that had been donated. I really lucked out (bought 10 tickets and came home with 3 baskets). In those baskets? 3 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of bourbon, 2 boxes of candy, a picture frame, and 14 new books.

Saturday Night Editors and Agents Cocktail Party. Men wearing the boas were up for the Flamango Award.

Yes, Sleuthfest is a great conference.

Oh, and by the way (but not related), I’m the guest at two blogs this week.

Today I’m experiencing some “Speed Dating” at Dana Nussio’s blog:
And Saturday, March 4th, I’ll be a guest on E.B. Davis’s “Writers’ Who Kill” blog:

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10 Responses to The Best of Times or the Worse?

  1. Hi Maris,

    A very interesting blog. I believe I’m one of those doomed to write regardless. Sleuthfest does sound like a great writer’s conference. I appreciate you sharing the info with us.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    What a fun time! I love the prizes you came home with! I hope you drove so you could get it all home!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Yes, Melissa, I was lucky enough to be riding with another writer who had a vehicle with lots of room. I wouldn’t have been able to fly with the bottles of wine and bourbon, and I may like to drink, but that would have been too much to drink at one time, even for me. 🙂

  3. Janni Nell says:

    Yep, I’m another one of the doomed.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of this conference.

  4. Julia Masters says:

    Sounds like a marvelous conference to attend, especially in sunny Boca Rotan. (I’m writing this from the land of snow and ice in Michigan!) Thanks for sharing the publishing industry’s perception of the market. I think I’m doomed to write until my last breath.

  5. Sharon says:

    Very interesting. !! How does one know if they are good at writing? Lots to think on while I finish my book.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Sharon, there’s no answer to “are you good at writing?” Think of the many books that reach the NYT best sellers list that many say are poorly written. I think I’ll write a future blog on this subject. Meanwhile, don’t worry about it at this stage of your career. Just finish the book.