Pub Rants

Genre Lunch!

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STATUS: Soon to be off to do the conference lunch and pitch appointments for this afternoon. Wish me luck! So far I haven’t even needed my Advil because all the conference attendees have been great and well prepared. I love the Surrey International Conference.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MONEY BURNS A HOLE IN MY POCKET by Dean Martin

Talk about a busy last two days! I’ve been getting back to my hotel room too late to blog, and I’m even breaking my weekend blogging embargo because I feel so guilty.

So I have about 20 minutes before the Surrey Genre lunch and I just have to laugh (I’ll share why in a moment).

First off I want to mention how much I enjoy this conference. It’s huge—something like 800 attendees this year. This means there are lots of writers, writing lots of genres, and the likelihood of hearing a good pitch is high.

After all, that’s the reason why I attend conferences. I’m totally looking to expand my list—especially in literary or commercial mainstream (and folks that doesn’t mean thrillers because that’s a genre onto itself and I don’t rep mysteries and thrillers). I also want more SF and Fantasy writers and hey, it doesn’t have to be female-reader oriented. I’m open to ANYTHING. And, since I’m having so much success with Ally Carter and Sarah Rees Brennan, bring on the young adult!

But here’s why I’m laughing about the genre lunch. They have me sitting at a table labeled Chick Lit.

You remember my rant about being considered just a Chick Lit agent? It always cracks me up because out of my 22 clients, only 4 (yep, you read that correctly) clients write in the world of Women’s fiction and only 2 of them might be aptly described as chick lit.

The four clients are:
Jennifer O’Connell (who in my mind doesn’t really write Chick lit but women’s fiction)
Ally Carter (and her adult novels such as Cheating At Solitaire leaned more toward romantic comedy then chick lit per se.)
Becky Motew (she’s so wonderfully quirky (and her heroines older) that she really is more women’s fiction than Chick Lit)
Shanna Swendson (whose Enchanted, Inc. series should probably be labeled fun contemporary urban fantasy than Chick Lit or Women’s fiction)

And yet, I’m sitting at the Chick Lit table and let me just highlight here that when I sit down to lunch, I’ll have to deliver the bad news. Chick Lit is, for all practically purposes, dead at the moment. As agents, we are really careful not to say that word when shopping current women’s fiction manuscripts. And a novel needs to have solid substance (such as LOVE WALKED IN), or it’s just not getting play.

Now I still love women’s fiction but here’s the other funny thing about this lunch, I haven’t taken on a new women’s fiction author lately (in fact it has probably been more than year—maybe close to two since I have).

But what the heck, that’s where I’ll be at the genre lunch and I’m sure we will all have a blast.

23 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I attended your workshop on e-queries and how to stay out of the slush pile. I wanted to say that I thought it was an excellent presentation. I would highly recommend this workshop to any unpublished writers.

    This was the first time I had met Kristin in person and she was articulate, intelligent and fun. It was extremely helpful during the presentation when she had the audience read queries and figure out why they didn’t work.

    This may seem like a strange reaction to staying out of the slush pile however more than anything else one thing became very clear to me. The most important thing in all of this: write a a good, solid book. I know this seems obvious but sometimes I think as unpublished writers we get so caught up in meeting agents or other published writers that we lose sight of the work that needs to be put into our own writing.

    I was also amazed to see how many writers could not coherently explain what their books were about. There is such a need for this type of presentation I hope Kristin offers it again soon.

    Thanks Kristin!

  2. Janet said:

    OK, I hear you. I’m working on my fantasy book, I really am…

    Hope you enjoyed your lunch anyway. Did you tell the writers to add extra substance?

  3. jjdebenedictis said:

    Kristin and four other agents did an “SiWC Idol” panel this afternoon, where they listened to the audience’s first pages being read aloud and then said where and why they would have stopped reading. It was awesome! (Also hair-raising and exhilarating. I was both disappointed and relieved they didn’t get to mine.)

    “SiWC Idol” was specific, informative, highly useful, and often hysterical (Cookies… Those incredible stacks of sandwiches… The frog-slaughter…)

    Thanks for doing it, Kristin! I’m sure that sort of session is as terrifying for the agents as it is for the writers, but I really appreciated it and learned a lot.

  4. Arianna said:

    Care to specify in a future blog post what doesn’t excite you in an SF story, Ms. Nelson? Just so those of us with SF manuscripts to submit don’t waste your time. Thanks.

  5. E.J. Lister said:

    Goodnight Ms. Nelson. I was sure you were Madame ‘X’ this afternoon…(wishful thinking perhaps). Oh well…I’m sure I’ll enjoy my lucheon with Cricket nevertheless…enjoy the last day of the conference…

    E.J. Lister

  6. Sariah S. Wilson said:

    I would think the reason they put you at the Chick Lit table is your reputation. I specifically remember Miss Snark saying that if one was to submit a chick lit story (even with the market being dead) that you were one of two agents who were the absolute best in handling those.

    I’d take it as a compliment. Even if the genre is dead. (And I will pray for a resurrection because I love that stuff.)

  7. Tammie said:

    I would love to hear more about the breakdown on women’s fiction.

    Is women’s fiction too large of an umbrella to describe your book?

    Seems we see a lot of agents saying they are looking for women’s fiction and yet it seems that in some way the books are broken down into urban fantasy, paranormal, mysteries and so on.

    With the closing of NEXT it makes one wonder if anyone is even interested in the over 35 stories? Or is it just a very very selective category? I adore Jane Porters Flirting with Forty.

    A future post on this if I didn’t ramble too much would be great!

  8. Jaden Nation said:

    At least they didn’t put you at the “Senior Citizen Romance Fiction” table. It goes to show that there still exists *some* sanity in the world. 😉

    – Jaden Nation

  9. glorious_to_be said:


    Glad to hear you had a good time on our side of the border! It was my first time at the Surrey Conference, too, and I had a wildly interesting time.

    I didn’t get to meet you personally or pitch anything to you (probably not a bad thing, as I tend to go non-verbal when I get nervous, no matter how well I prepare… As a public speaker, I’m a fantastic writer…), but I did get the chance to sit in on several of your workshops and panels — very nice to see the actual human being behind the blog! Thanks for your insights and candour.

  10. Christine said:

    I’m so glad you’re bridging into SF and Fantasy! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, always lamenting that I don’t write romance. But hey, in a few months when Little Fish is finished being tapped into shape, you’re getting a query!

  11. Ryan Field said:

    Don’t take the label too seriously right now; you’re very well respected, and gaining more repsect as time goes by.

  12. karen wester newton said:

    Kristin– good luck! I pitched to you at PPWC and you were really nice. I hope you get a break somewhere in the afternoon. After you said to send a partial, I relaxed enough to look around the room and feel sorry for the agents. All the writers looked either nervous enough to throw up or intense enough to turn into stalkers. I would have been in the first category, but neither one was my idea of a fun afternoon.

  13. Dave Wood said:

    Kristin, in contrast to a different conference that I attended last year, all the agents at SIWC seemed to be having a great time, and that made them very approachable. The ‘high concept’ idea you talked about for queries really helped me prepare my pitch. I might have panicked into mush-mumbling shyness without the great advice.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the conference as much as I did.

  14. Michelle said:

    Hi Kristin,

    I’m not sure if this is the best place to ask, but I was hoping you’d be able to answer a question for me. I’m working on my first YA fantasy, and am trying to decide whether to shape it into a single novel or let it spill over into a second or third book. There is certainly enough story to go around, but I wonder if the fantasy trilogy has become a cliche? I have nothing against trilogies, personally…in fact, I’m a big fan of multi-volume fantasies. I’m just curious about the reaction a literary agent might have upon receiving another proposal for a trilogy when there seem to be so very many out there.

    Thank you for your time.


  15. mnf said:

    Sorry to be replying so late, but at the moment, computer problems abound in my neck of the woods, specifically *in* my cozy abode.

    I’d like to chime in with arianna who asked specifically what you are looking for, Kristen, in terms of fantasy: urban only or epic, high, dark, etc.