I learned a lot during this all-day event, but for now I'm going to tell you one thing that really stuck with me.
Steve said that you become a professional writer the moment you start acting like one.
- Don't make excuses and don't apologize for not being published yet.
- Be confident about your writing--you worked hard--but remember not to get a big head; maintain some humility (but not to the point of humiliation).
- Keep track of where you submit and when. Follow-up with your submission one month after sending it and ask if it was received. Continue to follow-up each month.
- Be patient. You already know that writing a book takes time. Selling a book takes time, too.
- Stand when speaking on the phone--it gives you a greater sense of power.
- Don't be an ass, and don't burn your bridges. The literary world is big, but it's also small--every editor and agent knows most other editors and agents. It's a tight business and you don't want to make a fool of yourself by burning a bridge with someone who later turns out to be your publisher or who knows your publisher or who knows your old agent...
- Overall, treat people with respect. Respond courteously. And remember that writing is a business as well as an art.
I was most impressed by Steve in the way he acted. Not only did he give good advice, he seemed to live according to his own words. On Wednesday night Steve gave a free, 0pen-to-the-community presentation and Q&A session. One woman asked a question obviously looking for a specific answer. Steve answered and asked if that helped. She said it didn't and continued to present her question a different way. This went on for quite some time and the woman cut Steve off several times while he spoke. She was loud and seemed a little obnoxious, and most of the audience seemed annoyed by her. Steve however, responded graciously to everything she said. He tried to answer her question as best as possible and in doing so left the rest of us with some good information. Not once did he seem irritated by her, although he did say that she asked hard questions.
I want an agent like that.