I came to Killer Nashville in 2014 expecting to learn what I was doing wrong.
I’d been sending out queries for a horror novel called In the Valley of the Sun, with no hits for months. Lost in a fog of impersonal rejection and desperate for answers, I brought my book and a sample query to the conference.
I’d never attended a writers’ conference before, but my wife and I had heard about Killer Nashville through a friend who’s been coming for years. It seemed like a good fit for a book about a cowboy serial killer whose would-be victim turns him into a vampire.
I came with the intention of meeting an agent recommended to me by a conference organizer who had liked my manuscript, which I’d submitted for the Claymore, but that agent, in a surprise turn of events, had to cancel her attendance at the last minute.
So, instead, I met with Elizabeth Copps from the Maria Carvainis Agency, who was gracious enough to work me into her schedule. I think I led with a question about what the heck I was doing wrong in my query letter, seeing how the rejections kept coming. I’d become convinced that the letter itself was the culprit, that I wasn’t selling the book correctly. Elizabeth smiled, amused, and said: “That’s funny. Because I wrote here: ‘Perfectly formatted query letter.’”
At which point, I thought: Okay. Over the next twenty minutes, you should talk very little and listen very carefully.
In a nutshell, I heard this: my work was the kind of writing Elizabeth liked. It wasn’t ready for acceptance, and I wasn’t quite ready for representation, but she did request a full manuscript, and six months later, after taking her excellent advice and revising the book to her liking, she took me on as a client.
That sounds too simple to be true, and it’s definitely an oversimplification of how much hard work and dedication went into getting that manuscript into shape, but sometimes years of pain and hope and effort comes down to twenty minutes in the right conference room with the right person.
And that’s key, friends: it’s all about finding the right fit.
Almost a year to the day after I officially signed with Elizabeth and Maria Carvainis, in April 2016, In the Valley of the Sun found a home with Skyhorse Publishing. It’s out in hardback in the summer of 2017. There’s a lot of great people who’ve helped make that happen, and the folks at Killer Nashville are among them.
Many, many thanks.