Tag Archives: agents

The Kind of Writers’ Conference I’ll Pay For!

What’s not to like about writers’ conferences? They offer terrific opportunities to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing from people who know what they’re talking about (as opposed to the neighbor who figures your book can’t be any good since Barnes and Noble didn’t display it on that table right inside the front door).

Of course, there’s the expense. A conference means registration, travel expenses, motels, and sometimes meals (and in my case, board for a rather large dog).

For some, the workshops and lectures and a chance to get autographs on mint copies of presenters’ books may justify those costs.

But if you’re interested in becoming traditionally published, it’s worth stretching your budget for a good conference. A well-chosen conference can give most of us developing writers what no cold query can:

  • A chance to sell ourselves and our work face-to-face, where we can slip a memorable impression into a busy agent’s or editor’s mind.
  • A block of time all our own, instead of the few seconds a hurried intern can spare for that laboriously written letter.
  • A hard-nosed reaction from a publishing professional unfettered by the need to make the writer feel good.

If, like me, those perks are the ones you want from a conference, here are the top five things I look for before I send in my registration form.

1) Location

I don’t want this to come first, but for many of us, it has to. The good news is, you probably don’t have to travel a thousand miles to find a good conference. In the past two years, I’ve attended two within a two-hour drive of my home. Search online, read writing blogs, and network with writers’ groups in your area to get on email lists. Conferences within your range and budget will turn up.

Of course, if you DO travel a thousand miles, make sure it’s someplace fun, since you can deduct the expenses from your taxes if you can show you’re really writing to sell.

2) Pitch sessions*

The right kind of conference for this stage in your writing must offer a chance to meet face-to-face with agents and editors. Most conferences charge a moderate fee for these sessions, but that ten minutes will garner a lot more attention to your work than the dozens of hours you spent honing a query letter that may never get read.

Many conferences offer “pitch practice,” usually also for a fee. Some will allow you to send in a written version of your pitch to be critiqued. Take advantage of these opportunities if possible. With luck, you’ll get voluminous and often painfully honest comments that will propel you into feverish revision the night or morning before your pitch. But that’s the point, isn’t it—to move you to a new level? You’ll get there faster with a push.

3) A chance to submit actual pages for critique

You really have one immediate goal as a writer seeking publication: to be read. Maybe once in a while your query letter elicits a request for pages, but the ultimate response, more often than not, will be “We’re not the right agency for this book.” No reasons. No chance to ask for reasons. (Okay, maybe it will be different for you.)

But at a good conference, you can submit part of your work and then meet with your critiquer to follow up on what worked and what didn’t. Good conferences will assign real agents and editors, empowered to ask for more, to this task.

Yes, you’ll pay extra. And no, your readers might not agree in their assessments, leaving you confused and frustrated, just like your critique group at home. But you’ll hear truths that no warm-hearted “supportive” writers’ group friend will ever tell you! Put on your thickest skin and sign up for as many of these critiques as you can.

4) A range of agents and editors

Conferences will publish the credentials of their faculties beforehand. Follow up on agents’ and editors’ web pages. Go to Amazon and read the first pages of books they have handled. Be sure that at least two or more of the people you can pitch or submit to like the kind of thing you write.

5) Opportunities to socialize with the conference faculty

Some of us are really good at button-holing people we hope to impress. I’m terrible at it. Still, I’d like the chance! A good conference will require its faculty to show up for receptions and banquets. Show up yourself, this time in your bravest skin. You may find that the agent who sorta-kinda-seemed-to-like your pages is also a fan of that obscure Korean horror director you adore. When you send your follow-up query letter, he’ll remember that long chat you shared over wine.

You can’t always tell ahead of time whether this criterion will be met. If it isn’t, make a note for the future, and by all means, include your disappointment on your evaluation form.

It Worked for Me!

I met the agents who sold my first books through the conference process, and since my return to writing after a hiatus, I’ve received far more requests for partials from conference pitches than from written queries. And I’m not even very good at the conference process! But conferences provide me with the best chance to see how people who actually make buying decisions react to what I’m doing.

So once you and your writers’ groups have tweaked your manuscript as much as humanly possible and once you think you’ve done what all those books you’ve read say you should, pick a good conference to see what you’ve achieved.

*A “pitch session” doesn’t call for a synopsis or an elevator pitch. It’s a five-to-ten minute talk (usually breathless on my part) whose sole purpose is to tell the agent or editor what your book is about. The conference will specify how long you have. Maybe you’ll have time to throw in the extras from your full query; maybe not. The hook is what counts. Before you plan yours, search online—advice and examples abound. And if pre-conference pitch critiques or on-site practice is offered, sign up.

What about your experience with conferences! Share!

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Filed under business of writing, Finding agents, looking for editors, novels, Publishing, Writers' conferences, Writers' groups, Writing

What To Do If an Agent or Editor Wants Your Stuff!

When lightning strikes an author!Here’s a comprehensive, helpful post from Publishing Crawl about that fateful moment when lightning strikes! You open your inbox to find a message from an agent or editor who wants your work. Lots of good advice here!

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Filed under Finding agents, looking for editors, novels, Publishing, Working with editors, Writing

Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

A must-read! Chris the Story Reading Ape posts guest interviews with agents that shed strong light on what an agent’s life is like and how authors can be better partners.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

by Sangeeta Mehta  on Jane Friedman Site:

Today’s guest post is a literary agent Q&A by Sangeeta Mehta, a former acquiring editor of children’s books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster, who runs her own editorial services company.


By definition, literary agents are writers’ representatives. They work for writers, negotiating offers from publishers until their client deems them acceptable. But in today’s complex agent-author relationship, many writers feel that they aren’t in the position to negotiate with their agent, partly because they don’t understand the publishing landscape as well as their agent does, but also because they are wary of coming across as difficult or demanding.

Although it’s becoming more common for writers to change agents several times during the course of their careers, most would prefer to stay with one agent. But are writers really in the position to speak up if they feel that an agent isn’t honoring their obligations…

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Important Advice on Agent Contracts from Victoria Strauss

Beware of literary agents who deal in "handshakes'Lucky enough to attract interest from an agent? Victoria Strauss, on her blog Writer Beware, keeps an eye on our business for us. Check out this short, important read on how NOT to set up your relationship with that friendly agent!

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Lies told by Small Presses

Some good warnings to take to heart!

I have a couple of things to add. Unless the market has changed drastically, having a good agent and getting an advance is unlikely to guarantee your book visibility or even entry into mainstream bookstores. I was paid $5000 by St. Martin’s in 1983; even though King of the Roses got superb reviews (check them out in the Amazon preview), the book never made it into any of the many stores, local or national, that existed at the time (before Amazon). I was told St. Martin’s would have had to commit to a massive advertising budget before any of the stores would find spine-out space for my book, let alone any kind of display or prominent position. (This despite the fact that my mother wrote many angry letters to bookstores demanding that they put my book on a stand in the doorway!) St. Martin’s did minimal advertising, but did make sure reviewers got copies and paid attention to them, which is a big deal, and something that will be hard for us to do for ourselves.

It’s my understanding (possibly erroneous?) that publishers’ budgets are even tighter today than they were in 1983. So true traditional publishing by one of the major houses doesn’t mean authors don’t still have work to do to get their books out there. But articles like this help us avoid pitfalls that will make our efforts go for naught!

Steven Capps

Like many of my posts, this stems from something I saw in an online writer’s group. Essentially, someone who has been traditionally published from a small press was putting down people who self-publish. Personally, I have my own problems with self-publishing that I discuss in my “Why I’ll Never Self-Publish” post, but that is besides the point. At this point, I’d like to formally begin my rant against small presses.

In my opinion, traditional publishing is best done through an agent and then with a professionally recognized publisher. Small presses, unless they are recongized by writing organizations like Codex or SFWA, often give little more than what someone can do through self-publishing but will suck away 40-60% of the author’s share of royalties and then use self-publishing tools (like Createspace) to produce the book. Small Presses get away with this by telling authors lies in order to get them to sign…

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Filed under business of writing, indie publishing, King of the Roses, Marketing books, Money!, Myths and Truths, novels, Publishing, publishing contracts, Scams, Self-publishing, small presses, V. S. Anderson, Writing

A Fun Post on Rejection (No Kidding)

rejection made funny!Here’s another good one from over at Writer Unboxed: Louie Cronin, Cronin the Barbarian of Car Talk fame, explains why she became an expert in rejecting submissions—and what her experience means for writers. If you are a Car Talk fan, you’ll get an extra kick out of this! Have  you ever thought of rejection this way?

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‘Dear Lucky Agent’ Contest

Do you write women’s fiction? Check out this contest!

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Source: ‘Dear Lucky Agent’ Contest

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