by Lori Hetherington
According to literary agent Jeff Kleinman, writing a book is a bit like making a cake. “If you pull it out of the oven too soon, it may look good on the outside but when you cut into it you discover that it’s still gooey inside.” This was his way of underlining the importance of taking your time when writing your book or sending it to an agent or editor. This is only one example of the wise advice offered by the speakers at the recent Publishing Day organized by Florence Writers for the English language writing community, held at St. Mark’s Church in the historical center of Florence on April 14th. The annual event brings together international publishing experts and writers through roundtable discussions, one-on-one sessions, and workshops.
In the morning, four experts discussed three topics of interest for writers: How important is genre?; Submissions-how to make sense of it all; and I have an agent! Now what? In addition to Jeff Kleinman, a New York literary agent, the panelists included Beena Kamlani, a senior editor with Penguin Random House; Louise Lamont, a literary agent with LBA Books in London; and Irish author, Carlo Gébler.
One of the liveliest exchanges came when Carlo Gébler provocatively declared, “Genre is tyranny!” Beena Kamlani went on to explain that, “An editor will be drawn to you if your book has something distinctive about it.” All the experts agreed that an author has to get out of the way of her book: the attention needs to be on the book and the voice, not on the author and not on what other people think of it.
The afternoon program started off with the one-on-one sessions: ten minutes alone with each of the experts to get advice, suggestions, feedback, to brainstorm, or to pitch. The experts offered to read in advance a few pages of participants’ work so they could give the most targeted feedback possible. Many of the attendees were nervous for the one-on-ones but were ultimately very happy about the constructive comments they received. It was a unique opportunity for growth.
In addition, two workshops were conducted in the afternoon by Ricardo Fayet, co-founder of the Reedsy platform: a step-by-step guide to producing a professional book, and how to craft the ultimate book marketing plan for your next release. These workshops were particularly interesting for writers who are looking to self-publish, but were also useful for those who prefer the traditional route. A manuscript of optimal quality has greater probability of being accepted by an agent or editor and, more and more often, authors are expected to be an integral part of the marketing of their book after publication. Authors today cannot afford to approach their work in an unprofessional way.
To conclude the day’s events, an aperitivo was offered to all as a way to strengthen contacts and exchange opinions.
Florence Writers is a community of people writing in English. For further information: https://www.facebook.com/Florencewritersitaly/?fref=ts
Lori Hetherington is an Italian>English translator and co-organizer of the event. She lives and works in Florence.