Boundbytheword Blog

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Ass Whoopin’ Time May 6, 2012

I attended the Ontario Writers’ Conference yesterday and like every year I came away inspired, enlightened, and needing a sedative.

The best thing about going to events like these – where the board member of the organizations put together a first-rate event with exceptional speakers, great food, and opportunities to meet with editors, agents, publishers and other authors – is that you come away feeling like your head is crammed full of gold nuggets. Whether it be the Writers Community of Durham Region, The Humber School for Writers, the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County, or the Canadian Authors Association (click any of them to check out their sites, upcoming events and activities) the organizers have put in hours upon hours (upon hours) to pull together an event that will blow you away. And somehow – it always seems to. Amazing really – since all of the organizations are run by volunteers who are working their butts off (and not working on their own writing all the while!) to make it an exceptional experience for other writers. Amazing.

The downside to these events is I always leave with more to do than when I came. ARGH!

Yesterday, the stellar segment was “Storytelling 360: Storytelling in a Digital Age” presented by Cynthia Good (founder of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber) and Mark Lefebvre (director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Inc). They educated the crowd as to what writers can embrace in terms of transmedia potential in order to engage with readers. Interactive websites, applications, enhanced  e-books, games, social media platforms that reach a wide audience and connect with people in a new way. So much to do, so little time. Now I’m looking at what activities I can have on a website targeted at young adults (or young at heart adults) to have them spread the word about my Beautiful Mess or Life as a Teenage Mutant (depending on who’s asking). Of course that segued into a perfect spot to insert my shameless self-promotion. Click to the left. 🙂

So in today’s publishing world, writers much reach. R-E-A-C-H! Get to people and places that writers from other generations never had the chance to touch. This digital world we live in is a progressive and scary place – but I’m in it to win it – so forge ahead I must. Needless to say – my to-do list became much bigger. I want to curse Cynthia and Mark, but I have to thank them – what a wealth of information from those two!

The highlight of the day came when my mentor and all-around wonderful person  – Wayson Choy gave the final address. He talked about being an active participant in the writing game – which goes beyond writing a novel, editing and revising the manuscript, plugging at query letters and the agent pitch. It’s a jungle out there – a writer’s road isn’t apparently paved with diamonds and padded with marshmallow filling. Wayson’s words for authors who just can’t seem to get a break? “WAKE UP!” and “What are you going to do about it, how are you going to change it?” Then he proceeded to tell us to get our butts down to the bookstore and get a current copy of Writers Market, and get our stuff out there. To anybody, to everybody – get ourselves an audience in magazines, literary journals, newspapers, anthologies. Rally our own troops. Get it done, and stop whining about it.

Okay – that last part might have been paraphrasing, but I heard it that way because I just spent the 10 minutes before he got up to the podium whining to him about that very thing.  I have always said Wayson has a way of making everyone in the entire room feel like he’s talking to them. It’s his gift actually – the ability to make his 20 minute conference closing an intimate conversation with every individual there. Afterwards, I went and told him so.

“It’s amazing,” I said. “You make me feel like you’re talking right to me every time.”

“I was talking to you,” he said, and lifted the Writers Market (as big as a Toronto phone book) in his right hand. “And if you don’t get it done by the next time I see you, no more hugs. This is what I’m going to beat you with.”

Again… a gift. How does he do it? I actually felt like he might beat me. Oh, how I love me some Wayson.

Today I am inspired, motivated and encouraged to stomp down the writer’s path. Good thing I have sturdy shoes.

Side note – if what I described sounds good and  you’re looking for an upcoming conference to get you going – I’ll be at the Canadian Authors Association national annual conference  – this year being held in scenic Orillia – over the May 17-20th weekend. Click the leaf, check it out and get your writer ass whooped and motivated too!


“Suck it up, buttercup” advice for writers: August 14, 2011


At the Humber School for Writers Summer Workshop, several agents spoke with the crowd and delivered words of wisdom for finding success in the world of writing. Here’s the inside scoop to what was said (deciphered from my many pages of scribbled notes):

Single most important piece of knowledge for writers:

The only source of income an agent makes is the money they get from your published book. If they take you on as a client and your book doesn’t get accepted by a publisher – and therefore isn’t published – they don’t get paid.

Here’s the skinny – agents normally make 15% of your book sales. If your book goes international, your agent gets 7.5% and the international agent gets 7.5%, Basic math: if your advance is $1000 the agent gets $150 once the publisher takes it on. They make no money before that time for what they invest into a client, or any of the stacks upon stacks of books they have reviewed but rejected from the slush pile. Understand that fact when you send off a query and expect personal attention in a timely manner. Bottom line – agents are swamped.


What agents look for:

  1. Books that will make money.
  2. Writers who understand the publishing business and how it works.


What you need to know:

Publishers succeed when they find a book that readers want; agents succeed when they find a book publishers want. They all look for projects that attract attention of more than one publisher, work that can travel internationally. Publishers are profit minded and conservative when it comes to projects – essentially – will we make money on this book?


Scary fact:

Only 20% of books published in Canada are Canadian. We compete with big name US authors. The internationalization of the books sales has changed the industry in the last 5 years.


Comparing your book to another (in your query) can be dangerous because you may not know how it really did with book sales. Award winning books don’t always bring in sales. Regardless, it’s not at all valuable to compare your book to one that is more than 5 years old.


Getting Ready to Submit to an Agent:

  • Learn as much as you can about publishing.
  • Read Quill and Quire, Publishers Weekly to understand the business.
  • Get news alerts from New York Times on publishing.
  • Look at publisher websites.
  • Working at a bookstore can help you understand how the book gets into the readers hands.
  • Be a good listener. Absorb feedback from an agent (whether it’s a note on your rejection letter, or an agent representing you). Better to hear it from an agent than a publisher and lose your chance with that house.
  • Be open to criticism.
  • Pay attention.
  • Understand how your work fits into the commercial machine. Do your homework!