Virginia Festival of the Book – Fourth and Final Day

It seems like yesterday when I attended my first panel at the 18th Virginia Festival of the Book, but here I am done at last and eager for next year.

Today was “Pub Day,” with panels focused on all aspects of publishing from eBooks to agents. Running concurrently were “Crime Wave” panels, featuring authors and publishers of crime fiction, mysteries, and thrillers. I picked some from each.

My first disappointment in a panel for the entire festival was “Pub Day: eBooks,” so I won’t list the panelists. When the first question from the moderator to the panel is “What is an eBook?” and the answer from a panelist is, “It’s a book without pages where the text flows,” you know it’s a waste of your time. I’m certain the vast majority of attendees at the Festival were aware of what an eBook is, given the number of Kindles and Nooks I saw about. Add in the fact that the opening panelist hemmed and hawed and even asked the audience for the word she sought, I decided to leave and prowl the Book Fair.

“Pub Day: Making the Breakout Book” was an interesting offering. On the panel you had Robert Goolrick (A Reliable Wife); his agent Lynn Nesbit; his editor and publisher Chuck Adams of Algonquin Books; and his publicist Kelly Bowan, also of Algonquin Books. This was an in-depth glimpse to the entire process of querying a book, having your agent sell it, editing and revising it, then having it marketed.

I broke away from Pub Day to go to “Crime Wave: Thrilling Me Softly,” which featured four authors of successful suspense, mystery, or thriller books. Jane Bradley (You Believers) based her novel on a true story–after a visit from the dead victim in a dream. John Milliken Thompson found the idea for The Reservoir while researching Richmond, VA’s Civil War history. Gary Kessler also drew on a real event and some local Charlottesville history for What the Spider Saw. John Gilstrap writes a series of books featuring a hostage rescue team, the latest of which is Threat Warning. All four had lots of good tips about pacing, and though there was a difference of opinion about the importance of characters versus plot, each had good suggestions for doing your best on both.

It was back to Pub Day for “Agents Roundtable.” Three agents–Erin Cox of Rob Weisbach Agency, Byrd Leavell of Waxman Agency, and Deborah Grosvenor of Grosvenor Lit–gave a frank and detailed talk about how to approach an agent, how to query them personally, and to “match” your work to a specific agent. The most interesting aspect of this was none of them indicated they would be deterred by a query from someone who had self-published. Each of them stated that with the publishing industry in such turmoil right now,  they couldn’t ignore a prospect from any source. That was more open-minded than I had expected.

And, the day was done for me. It’s hard to believe that this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book was over so quickly. Even though it’s not particularly craft-focused, I got a wealth of helpful information in bits and pieces. I’m glad my Commonwealth supports creativity in this way. I’m already looking forward to next year.

As each of the moderators said, the Festival is free but it’s not free to produce. Please consider going to the Web site and contributing to a great way to bring writers together.

I live for your constructive comments.

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