I recently registered for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, a one day affair which takes place on August 15th in Westchester County, NY. And last Thursday, I attended a talk given by its founder, Jan Kardys, where she explained what it is that sets her conference apart from others. I was particularly interested in the possibility of having professional editors and agent do an assessment of my work, just to see if I’m on the right track. You can find out more below, and if you aren’t able to attend the conference, I think you’ll find Jan’s book really helpful, too.
GC: You’re a literary agent, which is a demanding job. When and why did you decide to found the Unicorn Writers’ Conference?
JK: Unicorn Writers’ Conference came to life in 2010 after attending many writers’ conferences as a guest speaker throughout the US. It occurred to me that since I had worked inside publishing for 35 years for 10 major NYC book publishers, I could get top editors, agents, and speakers to attend a conference if I put one together. I think writers need to understand the various departments within a traditional publishing company, the role of agents and editors, and how to improve their writing skills.
GC: What are the reasons to attend a conference like yours?
JK: What sets Unicorn Writers’ Conference above the competition is the large list of top literary agents, NYC book editors from major publishing houses. Unicorn’s manuscript review sessions are better than our competition – a deal with major agents for 40 pages and a 2 page book summary (all read in advance) for $55 and 30 minutes with an agent and/or editor. Writers have found their agents at Unicorn Writers’ Conference and we have book deals with two major NYC book publishers.
GC: How is it different from other writers’ conferences?
JK: We run five (5) different workshops for writers every hour. This is an opportunity to meet literary agents, pitch your book, network with other writers, meet printers, sponsors, and learn about the benefits of traditional publishing vs self-publishing. We also select our best-selling keynote speaker from a list of published authors who will motivate and inspire our attending writers. This year the keynote speaker is New York Times best-selling author, Stephanie Evanovich. We carefully cover craft, career, and connections for writers. Unicorn focuses on workshops that will educate writers – agent panels cover copy in marketing books, character, social media, plots, and book proposals. Unicorn selects agents and editors that cover many genres in order to reach more writers, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. We are proud that Writers’ Digest Magazine interviewed us in their magazine in 2012, and you know you are successful when many literary agents throughout the US and New York City ask to return each year.
GC: What are the main mistakes writers make when they’re trying to get published?
JK: The first mistake is submitting your manuscript without having it edited by a freelance editor before you send it off to literary agents, or publishers that will consider unsolicited manuscripts (without an agent). Too often writers are under the impression that a book editor will assist the writer in “rewriting, restructuring and revising the book.” This is not the process today. Agents and editors have higher expectations in today’s marketplace, and they demand manuscripts that are fully edited, in excellent editorial shape, ready for publication, and without any errors, etc. The second mistake is not researching your competition for your book before you write it. Third mistake is not setting up social media before you write your book. Start networking with writers now as it is a long process to build an audience and followers.
GC: Have you ever found someone you decided to represent at your conference?
JK: Yes, a former newspaper reporter who wrote a novel set in the 14th century. It is currently under submission. The author originally signed up with John Ware (who attended the conference for many years – a former Doubleday book editor, former agent at Curtis Brown, and agent at John Ware Agency). John died and this author connected with me via LinkedIn and I was blown away about her novel. I can’t wait to sell it!