From Gong Show to Publication

Publish.Me With Dawn Frederick

A few years ago, I had the honor of attending the DFW Writers Conference and participating in their annual conference Gong Show. The rules were basic:

  • Submit an anonymous pitch or query letter for your book

  • A moderator reads it at the DFW Gong Show

  • The selected group of agents & editors will listen to the pitch as it’s read aloud to the audience

  • Agents and editors will strike the Gong when the pitch is no longer effective (in sharing the idea)

  • The moderator will stop reading once three Gongs happen

  • The panel discusses what was working and what was not working, so that this can be a learning experience for the writer and the other writers in attendance

This is a great practice, as most queries need to have a strong lead-in at minimum if one’s book is to be requested in the pitch/query process.

That particular year, only one person made it without any agent or editor hitting the Gong. He was given high fives by all his friends, the audience cheered him on for this rare success, and I was one of many agents who immediately requested to see this book.

Fast forward three years later, when I finally got to see this book. Please note that I checked in a few times, and even had the rare opportunity to run into this author two more times. He assured me that he wanted the book to be the best it could be, and that I’d see it eventually. Needless to say, I appreciated the updates and was even more excited to see the book when it reached my inbox.

So, I moved fast. I loved the idea at that conference. I knew the author had been fine-tuning the idea so that he didn’t waste my time, and that time paid off.

As in the best of circumstances, I loved this story; it was all I hoped it would be and more. My beta readers confirmed it just as quickly, which led to the “call,” in which he accepted my offer of representation. This was a process that took years to complete, between the writing of the book to the final draft. It was 100% worth every step of the way.

In Fall 2019, M.G. Velasco’s book, Cardslinger (Carolrhoda Books) gets to experience its book birthday. His patience, high level of professionalism, and one heck of a good story is a great example of how publishing any book will take time, and that a little heart and working with a strong network of authors will increase the odds of getting published.

M.G. could have shied away from that Gong Show, but he put his idea on the line, was able to gauge how people responded, and he ensured that the story continued to deliver on all cylinders. For anyone who is nervous about sharing their book idea, there is a writing community who will help you along the way. Keeping your feet firmly planted in supporting other authors always helps in reaching that future goal of publication.


Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner/literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. She brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table, bringing multiple years of experience as a bookseller in independent, chain, and specialty stores; sales, marketing, and book development experience; previously a literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. She has a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences. Dawn co-founded the MN Publishing Tweet Up, is the current President of the Twin Cities Advisory Council for MPR, a member of the BOD for Loft Literary, and a teaching artist at Loft Literary. You can find her on Twitter at @redsofaliterary.