"If you can get a good agent publishers take you seriously."
Louise Titchener, Author of 40 published novels
A Special Conference Report
Baltimore Writers Alliance: "Writing and Getting Published"
By Mary Stearn Conto, Authorlink! Washington Correspondent
BALTIMORE, MD/11/15/97–"Knowing your market" was a recurring theme throughout the day at the 4th Baltimore Writers' Alliance Writers Conference November 15.
More than 200 attendees sought seats at "Writing and Getting Published" presentations by agents, editors, published authors and academic giants held at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Ellicott City, Maryland.
Louise Titchener, one of Baltimore's leading authors with 40 novels published, was the Keynote Speaker. Whether writing under the name Jane Silverwood or her own, Ms. Titcheners' titles include bestselling mysterys, science-fiction fantasy and romance books. She also teaches novel writing in the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins University.
Ms. Titchener cautioned writers of the difficulty of selling a manuscript that does not fall under a specific genre, and urged those in attendance to find an agent that handles their particular type of work.
"If you can get a good agent, publishers take you seriously," Ms.Titchener said in her address. She said that including writing credits in an initial query to agents strengthens its appeal.
"Tell me about you," Howard Yoon, literary agent with the firm of Lichtman, Trister, Singer & Ross, Washington D.C., said when asked what to include in queries.
"Tell me why I should be reading this," Yoon continued. "Find out what it is that you can bring as an author to the table, and really capture that; you need to find a way to distinguish yourself."
On the issues of phone calls to agents, both Yoon and literary agent Jenny Bent, from Graybill & English in Washington, D.C., said most agents preferred query letters with SASEs.
"Most of our work is on the phone," Yoon said. Phone calls regarding queries, especially repeated ones, were "one of the easiest ways to alienate a prospective agent."
Should there be no response from a queried agent after six weeks, a follow up letter would be appropriate.
Marsha Berman, publisher and editor at Perry Publishing, Columbia, MD, offered several considerations for writers. She told those present to ask themselves before beginning a project "Should this book be published, and is there a market for this book?"
Or, a writer can focus on local history, or highly specialized books, and "fill in a market that is always available" said Joseph L. Arnold, professor of history at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and author of five nonfiction books
Robert Tennenbaum, an architect and urban planner, did just that as the editor of Creating a New City: Columbia Maryland. He said he saw a market for the book as the 25th anniversary of the city neared, and began collecting articles for the publication.
An idea can also be revised to fit a particular market. "The same piece of work can be reworked into other materials," said Arthur Hirsch. Hirsh is a feature writer for The Baltimore Sun "Today" section.
The technological advances of today make that rethinking, reworking and researching much easier for writers, as evidenced by Bradley Kirkland, President and CEO of the Writers Club on America Online. Kirkland showed an enthused group a wealth of informational resources that are available by a simple click of a computer mouse at the Writers Club on AOL. Soon, those same resources will be available to all those with access as the Writers Club expands to the internet. A "members only" area will contain among other things a referral sevice, on-line courses, and web pages for each member.
Other noteable figures in the literary world offering their expertise to those attending were: Robert Broomall, author specializing in Western novels and historical fiction, and teacher of historical fiction in the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins University; Linda Joy Burke, freelance writer and performance poet, and poet-in-residence for the Traditional Acupuncture Institute, Columbia, Md.; Judy Colbert, specialty features newspaper and magazine articles writer; Sarah Crim, self-published Washington Frugal Mania: a Money Saving Guide to the National Capitol Area, and self-publishing and "frugality" consultant; Vonnie Winslow Crist, professional illustrator, designer, writer and literary editor, published in English-language publications worldwide; and Hank Entwisle, CPA, MS Tax, individual taxation and personal financial planning specialist, Ernst & Young LLP, Baltimore office;
Also Ken Fuson, reporter and features writer at The Baltimore Sun, with publication credits including Esquire, GQ, and the 1996 Best American Sportswriting Anthology; Elizabeth Mary Larson, Maryland State Arts Council 1997 Individual Artist Award in fiction, 1997 finalist F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest, and 1996 Artscape Literary Arts Award for the Short Story; Apryl Motley, Assistant publisher for Black Classic Press, Baltimore, publishing books by and about people of African descent; Nancy Patz, author and illustrator of children's literature, lecturer and professional artist with numerous awards for her work to her credit; Mark Scharf, whose plays have received readings and productions in New York City, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Washington, DC.; and Gregg Whilhem, Director and editor of Woodholme House, dedicated to publishing books of regional interest or by local authors.
The closing presenter was Bob Carr with a demonstation of how music and words assist him to bring poetry to life in song. Copyright, Authorlink 1997