by Jamie Carie
This year I attended my first ACFW conference. I'd heard that this was THE place to attend if you wanted to break into the CBA fiction market and I have to agree that between this conference and Mt. Hermon, they were probably right.
Back when I was trying to break into publishing I don't believe the ACFW conference existed (the internet was just getting up and running so that tells you how long it has been!). But I did everything that I could to help myself learn about this business: I joined a local group of writers who were very kind to me and helped me learn the basics of POV, dialog and plotting. I scoured the library shelves (Writer's Market Guide) for information on romance publishers and took extensive notes about each pub house. I was a big fan of Romantic Times magazine and the RWA (Romance Writers of America) organization. I attended a couple of smaller writing conferences (http://www.writehisanswer.com/) and a RWA conference when it was in my hometown. I remember Brenda Joyce was the speaker and I thought she was the most glamorous women I had ever met! I complimented her in the hall at the Omni Hotel so, of course, she asked which book I liked best. I blanked. Totally blanked. Couldn't remember a single title or character name from any of her books that I had read. Finally I rushed out, "Oh the one with Fabio on the cover!" LOL! Wow. Was that embarrassing. But I digress.
I have to say that I would highly recommend going to the ACFW conference if you are looking to break in to CBA publishing. There were lots of big name authors there (My star struck moment was meeting James Scot Bell!). All of them were very friendly and willing to give advice to anyone who asked. More importantly, there were editors from almost every CBA publishing house and several agents. Everyone I spoke with who had an editor or agent appointment was asked to send in a full manuscript and they were so excited. It reminded me of the time I drove three hours in the early morning to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to sign up for an editor appointment (it was first come first serve) and then I drove home. The next day I drove up again, early in the morning, to attend the conference as after paying the conference fee I couldn't afford to pay for the night at the hotel. Whew! When I got that editor appointment and was asked to send in the full manuscript for Snow Angel, I was thrilled! It ended up going all the way to committee, but wasn't accepted at that time as this pub house didn't publish very much fiction. Ironically, it was an editor from B&H who years later decided to ramp up their fiction department and I was the first one signed to spearhead the new program!
I'm saying all of this to say, I know conferences are expensive (pray and trust God for finances!) but they are a great way to bypass the catch 22 that says you can't submit to a publishing house without an agent and it's almost impossible to get an agent. Conferences provide that opportunity to make connections, learn about the business and craft side of writing, and hopefully score that golden ticket - a request to submit your work, rushing you past the slush pile and into the hands of an editor who just might be very excited about your story. So give it try and if you see me say hello! (I'll be the one in high heels not being sensible. I just hate rules!) I'd be glad to help you along on your road to publication.
What do you think? Is the ACFW Conference the best for breaking in?