Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tennessee Writer’s Workshop Review (Chuck Sambuchino Workshops)

Now that I’m over two years into the Author World, I felt it was important to start going to workshops and conferences. My first conference was the Tennessee Writer’s Workshop which is the equivalent to the Kentucky Writer’s workshop and lots of others in which Chuck Sambuchino is the primary instructor. I researched for a few weeks discovering information on the conference before I went because as many budding authors, money doesn’t grow between the pages of a book. (Unless you’re a NY Times Best Selling Author – which I’m unfortunately not yet.)  So I decided that it would be good to review the conference to give others an understanding of what they can expect if they attend the conference. When I registered, I also signed up to talk with two agents.

A few days before the conference I received an email from the conference organizers. It listed the overall schedule, my agent appointment schedule, and a few other things about the conference including twitter hashtag. I drove up to Nashville the night before. In the morning, I arrived at the hotel 90 minutes before the conference so I could go over my pitch.

Soon, people were arriving, and we were ushered into a conference room. Chuck came in and introduced himself and passed out information on the items he was going to review. He was very thorough speaking about both Traditional and Non-Traditional publishing (Self-Publishing).  He went into the pros and cons of both, listed resources, and even discussed his own publishing history. He also spoke on building a platform, networking, and many aspects of the modern author.

In the midst of his lectures, agents received pitches from new authors. So the formula was five to fifteen minutes before you pitch, you would get up and exit the conference room. Then you would tell the pitch organizer that you were there and immediately at the time appointed, you would enter and give your pitch. Afterward you’d thank the agent and return to your seat in the lecture.

There were six agents at this particular conference with four focusing on Middle Grade / YA. This varies among Chuck Sambuchino’s other conferences. Some lean more toward Romance, others toward New Adult, or what have you. It seems that many of the agents to these events are local to the area in which the event occurs, which is both good and bad. It’s great to have local people, but many times local people may not represent the type of book that you write. So take this into consideration.

Chuck went over almost everything I had studied online. I’m an avid researcher. So I knew about 85-90% of what he had to offer which means that someone who does their research may not get as much out of the presentation. However, one thing he spoke about that is true is that much of the information you receive on the Internet is not accurate. It can be difficult to weed through the tangle of information. So having him to clarify what was useful and what was not was worth the time and money in my opinion.

Like many workshops, retreats, conferences, he spent an hour reading twenty or so first pages. Authors were instructed to print out six copies of their first page and he would read aloud them while the agents read to themselves. I was lucky enough to get my page read, so it was great for me to get feedback on my work. (Chuck couldn’t be responsible for any opinions of agents who spoke either for or against a work.)  However, this is the only area in which I think could be improved. But I say that lightly because I don’t think that is the purpose of this particular workshop.

So in Summary, I give Chuck Sambuchino’s workshops a 9 out of 10. This is a great workshop for budding authors, those interested in getting on the publishing road (right before self-publishing or traditional publishing), those who recently got an agent, and those interested in pitching to an agent. This workshop is not for those who want to learn more about what they may be doing wrong in their writing or who want to work out the kinks in their writing. This is a definite recommend for anyone who is navigating the publishing world especially those who research very little.

On the Pitch Sessions:

Many workshops and conferences have pitch sessions. I think the average time is ten-fifteen minutes per pitch. I didn’t enjoy this process at all. I’m a pretty outspoken guy. While I can have shy spells, I have no problem in any business-like conversation.

The pitches run like the following: An author walks over and sits down to speak to an agent. General formalities occur, as in “Hello my name is…” Afterward, the author recites the pitch/query of their book along with the word count, series potential, and comparable titles. Then questions are asked on both sides to see if a possible fit occurs.

The problem I had with the pitches was in the way that it happens. In my opinion the positioning is too close, the environment was too open (others around you are pitching as well), and the time limit makes for odd speed-ups and silences. Also it helps to have a page of information memorized (i.e. the pitch) which is difficult to do with a person trying to look interested because they are literally three feet in front of you.

I’m not sure how to make this better and make it economical for the workshop. I think I would have almost preferred just to get up in front of all the agents at once and just pitch, but I’m sure for many that would have been more nerve racking. At least this way more agents could hear at once, more people could pitch, and the odd closeness would be eliminated.  There are those who hate public speaking and I’m sure this new formula would be the horrid for them.

I’ll admit that if I had to do it again, I probably would. But I’m definitely not looking forward to it, even though I did have one extremely nice agent who guided me through the process.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going this year and I'm extremely nervous about the pitch. I'm not sure I would be able to get the words out if I had to stand up and say them in front of a room full of people. I'm not even sure if I can get them out in my one on one session! We'll see what happens. Thanks for the review.