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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Maxwell

SleuthFest 2014 - Part 2

With my panel over, I was able to enjoy Saturday at SleuthFest as a regular attendee, i.e., someone eager to soak up the wisdom of mystery professionals who are way more experienced than I am. I attended five panels in all. If I've misquoted anyone or left any names out, I humbly apologize. It was a lot to take in and I tried to keep track as best I could.

At the Editor's Roundtable, we were reminded to make our manuscripts the best it can be before submitting, and to follow each publisher's guidelines, which are always available on their websites. This might sound like common sense, yet each editor could give examples of writers who seemed to believe that little mistakes didn't matter, and who submit under the assumption that if the editor doesn't like something, "she'll fix it for you." So not true! Whether this is about story content, grammar and style, or formatting, even little concerns add up. The last thing you want an editor to think is you either don't have an eye for detail, or you're just not trying hard enough. Editor's want good stories, but they also want authors who are easy to work with--who are accommodating when it comes to house styles and are willing to adjust. And they are just as likely to reject a manuscript with dazzling writing but so-so content as they are to reject a fabulous plot with not-so-great writing.

Most of the editors seemed willing to point out a reason or two when they reject a manuscript, especially if the story showed potential and they might like to see it again. Deni Dietz of Five Star believes that kind of editor feedback is an important tool in helping aspiring authors grow and develop their craft. Shannon Jamieson Vazquez of Berkeley especially doesn't like to see too quick of a turnaround when she sends a rejection with an invitation to resubmit with revisions. She cited an example of someone returning a manuscript within a couple of hours with a message indicating that all concerns had been addressed. Not possible!

At lunch, keynote speaker Laura Lipman reiterated this notion of taking time with your manuscript and not to rush into submitting or self-publishing because "you want it now." Her example was of a woman she'd met who spent 3 months working on her book, and two "heartbreaking" months submitting and being rejected. And for that reason she was self-pubbing. It's so important to be sure your manuscript is "ready" for publication, whether traditionally or through self-pubbing, and we all know that takes time, effort, and several objective points of view--which means every manuscript should be critiqued and then edited by at least one professional editor.

Laura also reminded us that traditional and indy/self-publishing are both viable options, and there is too much squabbling these days between the two camps. In fact there shouldn't be any camps at all, but rather authors seeking out the best options for their careers, whatever that may be. We should be able to come together as colleagues and be supportive of each other. I'd add to that the fact that what works for an author at one time may not be right at another point in his/her career. So we should always keep an open mind.

This was only part of my morning. I also attended the panels on Taboos and Setting, but I'll cover those in my next post. Lest you think it was all work and no play, though, at lunch an author popped out of a giant cake, there was a wild (and wildly funny) auction where, among other things, the gentleman next to me bid $1500 and won a one-on-one session with special guest, author Ace Atkins. (I was afraid to scratch my nose.) Raffle tickets for fabulous baskets were sold by FL MWA members in pink boas (yes, even the guys), and ballots were circulated for "The Most Interesting Man at SleuthFest." But more in my next post.....

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