Monday, 10 June 2013

Woodend Winter Arts Festival Review and ROW 80 Check In

I've just come back from a wonderful weekend staying with my parents who live in Woodend. Woodend is a wonderful little town just an hour of Melbourne, at the base of Mt. Macedon. It is becoming quite a hub for cultural events and one of the highlights of the calendar is the Woodend Winter Arts Festival. Among the music concerts and art shows, the Festival also holds a series of talks about writing and for writers. Yah!

Over the weekend I attended 5 different talks at the Festival. However, instead of summarising them all, I want to focus on one that interested as well as annoyed me and in the end gave me a lot of food for thought (and ideas for new plans!)

Saturday afternoon I attended the talk Getting Over the Line with Toni Jordan (writer and mentor), Christine Nagel (editor and assessor) and Sheila Drummond (a local literary agent, to whom I once submitted a query and she never replied, so had fallen from my good graces, but I was prepared to overlook that.) To be completely honest, I had never heard of Toni Jordan or Christine Nagel before the event, but they were interesting enough to listen to. The talk was on the role each of these people (mentor, assessor/editor, literary agent) played in taking a writer/manuscript and preparing them to approach a publisher. 

It was interesting and reinforced the importance of editing and being part of a writer's group, as well as attending writing courses etc. So in that way was worth going to the talk.

However, two things irked me. 

First is that they all saw themselves as graciously helping 'a writer's dream come true', as they said. They treated the writer as some poor misfit who needed their fairy-godmother talents to turn the work into anything good. That annoys me. It is rude to say about any client who is paying you for your services that you are doing them a favour. 

Also, it downplays all the effort and hard work the writer does. I think editors and literary agents (literary agents in particular, as I feel they offer the least to the writer when small ones such as Ms. Drummond don't appear to help market the work, or edit the work, or do much else than submit it to publishers and negotiate the contract) that they only exist because of writers. Writers would go on even if no editors or agents came into being, but the other way around can not be said. 

(Am I bitter because she wouldn't accept my manuscript? Maybe. Though not because she wouldn't accept it, but she was so rude as not to even reply. To send out a template email takes 2 minutes, and at least lets the writer know not to waste their time waiting. But to be honest, I had actually completely forgotten it was her I had sent the query too, and just got annoyed when I listened to her talk.  She started by saying she was a literary agent, and because there were so few in Australia, they wielded a great amount of power. Not at all arrogant!).

The second thing I found lacking is that they paid no attention to the online world and how important it is for a writer nowadays. When they spoke of self-publishing, they appeared to only be referring to paying a publisher to do a run of books and were very negative about it. They appeared to have no idea about the possibility of publishing just electronically online, or anything like that, as they kept saying how expensive and difficult it was.

When I was brave enough to ask whether they considered a writer should have a platform and whether that would help with attracting publishers, Ms. Drummond first asked me what I meant by a 'platform'. I felt like saying 'Well, I mean what everyone who knows anything about the current state of publishing means', but I just smiled and said 'well, in particularly I was thinking of an online platform, but other forms as appropriate as well.' 

Ms. Drummond answered that it might be useful for some genres, but she had no interest in these things. Toni Jordan then added that she didn't have anything, she didn't even have facebook except for her friends. To which Ms. Drummond said that must answer my question.

I couldn't believe that an agent who was meant to be preparing and marketing her clients as well as possible refused to look at anything online! Is it just me? Most of you, my readers, are also writers. Do you think people should be told that being online is of no important if they want to make a career of being a writer? Or have it suggested that only going through a literary agent and a traditional publisher matters?

For my ROW 80 check in: well, my own writing might not be going as fast as I might like, but things are definitely moving. Two particular ideas came up out of this weekend.

The festival was filled with older people who wanted to write the book they had been thinking of all their lives, and who probably won't ever find an agent interested. However, with some help, they would be able to self publish and at least their family and friends would buy a copy, and they could see their names on Amazon. 

Therefore, I'm developing plans to start small, personalised seminars for new writers on self-publishing and creating an online presence. I'm going to create a series based on the 6 steps of my Five Day Writer's books, which will take them from dreaming about being a writer to actually being published.

So it looks like my little company, The Buffy Group, is finally taking shape as a consultancy for online publishing and marketing. 

This is further supported by the fact I have my very first client!

Yes, my brother has just hired me to help develop and promote his new ebook, Tom Grafton Vs. The Environmentalists. I'm going to work on developing his webpage, getting traffic, designing a new cover, and getting reviews. He's going to be a bit of a guinea pig as I find out what is really the most effective and useful online strategies that I can present to others.  

It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm so excited about it all.


  1. Hear, hear!
    And may the literary agents of the world disappear in a puff of ink as we put our novels online without any help from them!

    1. Thanks!
      Though, small disclaimer: I don't want to diss all literary agents. I am sure that a lot of them work very hard for their clients. It's just that they don't offer anything to someone who wants to publish online. You would be better off getting a company like mine, who will offer services in book cover creation, fix you up with editors/assessors, help you format and promote your book. (Well, this is what my company is going to become.)

  2. Hey, whatever you are doing it, keep doing it. I just google Tom Grafton Environmentalists, and this and the book came up! Happy guinea pig :D