His Honor drove southward seeking exotica

A-Punk – Vampire Weekend

PPWC Day 2

I awoke Saturday morning with my first coherent thought being “It can’t possibly be time to get up yet” followed by “Oh shit, I’m pitching in three hours!”

I took care of routine maintenance and headed down for a typical Marriott continental breakfast of coffee, pastries, fruit, coffee, rather suspicious hard-boiled eggs, and coffee. Did I say coffee more than once? I meant it. At breakfast, I sat with a group of guys from a Northern Colorado writers group (Word to Aaron, Jason, and Ross!) along with DeAnna. We talked shop, pitching, told each other about our books, and so on.

After breakfast, I went to the first half of a session called 20 Questions with Laura Resnick. I must admit I didn’t pay too much attention because my mind was on my pitch. I ducked out halfway through to go to The Seventh Floor. That term took on an ethereal, horror-movie mystique over the weekend. People would ask “where are you going” and others would reply in wide-eyed trepidation “To The Seventh Floor.” As far as I know, everyone who went up to The Seventh Floor returned, but in a conference this big I can’t possibly remember everyone.

While awaiting my turn, I ran into my friend and first reader Wendy, who’d arrived late the night before. We talked pitching for a few minutes before my name was called and I found myself at the agent’s table. I pitched quickly to her (she was sick and clearly wasn’t feeling up to much) and she asked for 50 pages. Then I said I had an offer on the table and she said I’d better send her the full and asked to have until Friday (May 1) to read it and make a decision. I agreed.

After my pitch, I decided to skip the next session (I was still a little verklempt). I brought my laptop down to the lobby where they had free internet and emailed the full to the agent. On an unrelated side note, to any Marriott executives who wander in here to read this post, I’d like to point out that even the Shitbreak Motels now have free wi-fi in their rooms. How dare you all charge $10 for yours? Asinine!

The third session on Saturday I went to: a new author panel entitled I Sold, Now What? I’m afraid to say I found it, uh, dull. I sneaked out and drifted to the bar where I found Wendy, DeAnna, and an author from Westminster named Julie (Hi Julie!). We were so engrossed in our conversation we nearly forgot to get in the lineup for lunch. Side note: lineups for meals at the PPWC are really, truly impressive. People jockey for early front positions in line so they can be the first ones into the dining hall at cattle call and sit at the table of their choice (usually one of the headline authors or agents). Fortunately, DeAnna and I had gotten around this by volunteering to moderate workshops. Our reward for standing at the front of a workshop, introducing the speaker, and threatening people who didn’t shut off their cell phones was getting a reserved seat at a lunch table on Saturday. I had the pleasure to sit next to Del Rey/Star Wars Books editor Shelly Shapiro. She may have been the one to inadvertently set me off on my current course of writing back in 2003. That’s a story for another day. Somebody please remind me.

After lunch, I moderated a workshop on Book Publishing by author Laura Hayden. It turned into a diatribe against self-publishing, which I found a little surprising. I know self-publishing is generally frowned upon by the traditional publishing establishment, and I understand why. I was expecting something more about publishing instead of tirades (and based upon the comment cards I glanced at – a moderator’s privilege! – so were the attendees).

The last session of the day was a tag-team of What an Agent Can and Can’t Do For Your Career with two agents from Curtis Brown, Ltd. It was interesting but didn’t really bring me any new information. And by this time I was getting hungry and looking forward to the banquet (which has always been loads of fun).

At the banquet, I sat at a table with DeAnna, Wendy, and Maleesha, and oh yeah, author Anne Crispin. I’m afraid that my peeps and I raised quite a ruckus and were having so much fun that we kind of scared everyone else at the table from conversing. I’m rather embarrassed to admit we didn’t even notice when Anne Crispin finally joined us. I could tell you about going into the basement to cut off hunks of Cool Whip or free range potato chips, but it just wouldn’t be nearly as funny to you as it was to us. Dinner was – what else? – chicken breast with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a reasonably good piece of steak. We all wanted chocolate cake for dessert but were forced…forced…to eat cheesecake instead. Our keynote speaker was author Jeffrey Deaver, who was quite brilliantly funny.

Post-dinner meant more time in the bar. Wendy, Maleesha, and I connected with authors Ellen and the kilt-wearing Marc and spend the next four hours holding court in the bar and making many ass jokes (again, you really had to be there). Probably it was my favorite part of the entire conference.

If you’ve read this far, I commend you. I won’t keep you any longer tonight. The next post will detail the last day of the conference.


  1. What could the mainstream publishing industry have against self-publishing? It’s hardly a threat.

    Or…is it?


    Sounds like a great conference, Ian, and I’m enjoying reading your account. Can’t wait for part three!

    (And to find out what happens tomorrow, MAY 1.)

  2. After you reach a certain level of proficiency and knowledge, the sessions aren’t as important as they are when you’re just starting out. At least I’ve found that to be true. Last year at the OWFI con I didn’t learn anything new from the sessions.

  3. Ian, it did turn into a diatribe and that wasn’t my actual intent. The complications were–the description of the workshop was misleading because it wasn’t supposed to be an “Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about publishing” but “You need to know about small press the bookseller’s angle” based on a series of posts on the PPW yahoogroup. The points included 1) unable to order from normal distribution sources 2) unreturnable stock means unrecoverable investment 3) low discount means low profit margins for bookseller 4) high prices for smaller books will discourage purchase. Most writers I’ve talked who have taken a small press/vanity press route did so, lacking realistic expectations and without considering these complications. At the very least, if you learn about these barriers to potential sales, you will be better informed. That was the real purpose of the workshop.

  4. your post was a fun read. Sounds like the seminars are perfunctory
    … and the extra curricular activities keep you sane.

  5. Hi Ian! Wow, I sure did miss alot at the conference. I can’t wait to hear the decision on Friday, and what you thought of Sunday’s workshops.



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