Pub Rants

Category: conferences

How An Agent Earns Money From A Conference

STATUS: October is a big royalty month for us so a lot of statements and a lot of money coming in.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I CONFESS by The English Beat

So my blog entry on Tuesday totally got me thinking. Agents can make money from conferences and here’s a terrific example.

I have a debut middle grade novel coming out this week (October 6) and this novel totally made me money from a conference.


I actually met Janice Hardy at the Surrey International Writers Conference two years ago. She had scheduled a pitch appointment with me. She sat down for a 10 minute session and pitched me the project.

I was immediately intrigued and asked for sample pages. I emailed my associate Sara Megibow and told her to be on the lookout for it. The sample pages came in. I read and liked them so asked for the full.

Then I signed her. We did a revision (because the ending needed work). When ready, we went out on submission to editors.

I accepted a six-figure pre-empt for the Healing Wars trilogy.

I’d say that’s making money! It’s a project I may not have landed if I hadn’t attended the conference so technically, this is money I made from a conference. Grin. Just not in the way that writers mistakenly assume.

I actually can’t remember if Surrey charges an extra fee for the pitch appointments or whether that’s part of the general conference price. Either way, agents don’t receive that money; the conference does.

Happy Release Week for THE SHIFTER Janice!

How Agents Make Money—Hint: It’s Not By Attending Conferences

STATUS: And no one ever talks about the late nights we agent keeps.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CORNFLAKE GIRL by Tori Amos

I have to say I was highly amused to read a hypothesis from a writer that agents make their money from attending conferences.

If that were true, it would certainly be a poor way to make a living.

For the record, the good majority of conferences pay for travel, hotel lodging, and food. Occasionally, a conference will pay a small honorarium. I’ve personally seen remuneration of $150.00 to $250.00. Let’s say an agent attends 8 conferences at that level. That would be a whopping $2000.00. To put that into perspective, that would just about cover my business class internet for the year and maybe one-quarter of my yearly phone bill. As the honorarium stands now, it might cover our yearly office coffee budget for Starbucks and Common Grounds. Big grin here.

Now I have heard rumors of conferences paying anywhere from $500 to $1000 as an honorarium but I’ve never had the good fortune to participate in any of those conferences (although can someone tell me where I could sign up?).

No, agents don’t attend conferences to earn money. We attend conferences in the hopes of meeting an author and finding a project that will, in turn, earn us money.

It’s actually pretty simple. Agents make money by taking a percentage of what authors earn when an agent sells a project on that author’s behalf.

And there are a variety of revenue streams:
1. The initial sell to the US publisher
2. UK sale
3. Foreign translation sales to foreign publishers
4. Audio
5. Film
6. Other subsidiary rights such as first serial, book club, etc.

And trust me, I’m in my seventh year of agenting and this is certainly not the path to get rich quick. However, it’s a more than comfortable living—for which I feel extraordinarily blessed.

The Risk of Pitching A Memoir

STATUS: I always enjoy doing my local conferences so it’s no surprise that this afternoon that I find myself at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. Two conferences back to back, glutton for punishment I guess. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T SPEAK by No Doubt

Last conference blog entry, I promise (at least for a little while anyway). This really occurred to me when I was out in Hawaii and I think it really needs to be said.

When you are pitching a memoir, don’t take it personally if an agent declines to look at pages.

I know. Impossible. After all, most people who write memoirs probably didn’t have a happy time of it and thus why they want to write it to begin with.

As an agent, when it’s clear that the memoir is something that might simply be too painful for me to read, I’m between a rock and hard place. Do I ask for the pages even if I know I’m not going to be able to handle reading them? Or do I decline?

One time I did decline and I felt awful because it was clear the writer was on the verge of tears. Even though I explained why I was passing on looking at pages (nicely but honestly), I knew that the writer felt like it was a personal rejection of the validity of the story and what the writer had experienced.


So, what do I do for the future? Ask for pages knowing it’s not right for me or do I request them—knowing in my heart of hearts that we are going to pass?

I have no answer and I’m sure I’ll handle it case by case (or pitch by pitch as the case may be).

Glazed Like Doughnuts

STATUS: Back in Denver after a red-eye flight. A little bleary.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’LL THINK OF ME by Keith Urban

Last year it felt like I had done about 8 conferences too many. Big Grin here. So this year I was very careful on how many I actually committed to so truth be told, it’s been a while since I’ve had to do pitch sessions. I certainly got back into the swing of things this weekend with over 30 pitch sessions.

Because it’s so fresh in my mind, I have a couple of things I’d love to share with you readers—just in case you are doing a conference in the near future.

1. As hard as this will be to actually do, try not to be nervous. Agents are pros at helping writers through the pitch session. Even if you botch it to start, we’ll help save the session for you so do let us. In other words, don’t ramble on about your project. If you’ve missed, just stop, ‘fess up to it. Chances are we’ll be charmed and we’ll start asking questions to help you get it right.

2. This one is crucial. Limit your pitch to under 2 minutes and I recommend 1 minute if you can do it.


Because if you talk for the full 10 minutes, trust me, we’ll start glazing like doughnuts and our thoughts will start drifting. It really is hard to focus on someone talking straight for that amount of time without any interaction (and we really try not to glaze).

Luckily, this only happened once for me and when I realized I had lost my focus, I tried to get back into the session. I have no idea if the writer noticed or not. I hope not.

When the glaze is happening, I do look for an opening to see if I can interject and ask a question. Another good piece of advice? If the agent does that, don’t go back to your pitch! Let it ride and move forward from there.

Agents & Editors At Work—Really!

STATUS: Having a day of play on Oahu!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing, just the sound of the waves.

Try not to laugh too hard as we work hard at the Halekaluni’s House Without A Key beach bar.

From left: Me, Agent April Eberhardt, April’s husband, Putnam Publisher Neil Nyren, Agent Cathy Fowler.

Untitled In Paradise

STATUS: Aloha! Need I say more?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Kokomo by Beach Boys

Here is a shot of me working this morning before the conference officially begins!

It’s a tough life but somebody has to do it. I’ve got my feet up and my netbook (thank you Ally and Leslie!) ready to roll. As I’ve been working on this little netbook, I’ve had 3 different people stop and ask me about it.

I should get a kickback from Verizon or HP or something. Even though it’s a brand new toy, I’ve got my eye on that new Apple iBook as well if they ever release it this fall.

So what’s happening today at the conference? Opening ceremonies and then the agents and editors are free until the one-on-one consultations begin at 2 pm. I imagine a lot of attendees are nervously awaiting that.

Just remember, keep your pitch short—under 2 minutes—and allow time for the agent to ask questions. Don’t worry. We are pros at this and we’ll do our best to help you relax and make it a good experience (and to pull the necessary info out of you if you botch it!) Grin.

Still, you want to be able to talk about your novel easily so simply practice in the mirror a two sentence sum up of it so you are ready.

Have a great Labor Day weekend folks. I know I will.

Spread Out The Workshop Love!

STATUS: Another late blogging night. You know what that means, I had a crazy work day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by Rolling Stones

I’m actually of two minds about tonight’s rant. On one hand, I’m really not complaining because as a general rule, I love giving workshops at conferences. Back in the 90s, I taught college for several years. The classroom, in a lot of respects, feels like coming home to me.

And there’s no doubt that I’m passionate about my various topics in publishing.

But lately, I have to wonder at the scheduling of workshops at some of the conferences I’ve attended.

At RWA this past July in Washington, D.C, I had three presentations scheduled. First off, I was thrilled. All my workshops were accepted! Then I got the schedule. I literally was going to be doing these presentations back-to-back. Starting at 1 p.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. with only 2, 15-minute breaks between the three workshops.

Well, grin and bear it. I got what I asked for so suck it up. But gee, I can’t help but think that my presentations could have gone better (or perhaps I could have been more energetic) had they been scheduled on separate days.

Just a thought anyway.

And today I got the workshop schedule for another upcoming conference. You guessed it. This time I have three hours of presentations in 2 workshops and sure enough, they are back-to-back, all in one morning. At least this time I get more of a break in between them.

So it’s not really a big deal but how I long for a conference organizer to spread out the love. I can do it all in one morning, no doubt. But I’ll tell you all now, I’ll do it better if the workshops were spread out over 2 days at least. Grin.

Wrapping Up RWA

STATUS: Travel day as I head back to Denver from D.C.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BABYLON by David Gray

1. All the romance editors I talked to mentioned that they were still buying projects (and I spoke to several from each house). So nice to hear when other fiction sales have slowed down as of late.

2. Many editors expressed interest in seeing something fun and meaty in contemporary romance. It’s been a little while since contemporary was actively sought from authors beyond the established lions in the industry such as Rachel Gibson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

3. We all have our fingers crossed that historical romance will trend up again.

4. Paranormal is still selling well. (Here’s an interesting tidbit though. What’s hot in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily match what’s hot abroad. For example, Sherrilyn Kenyon couldn’t be hotter here in the US but not as hot in Germany. An Australian bookseller weighed in and said the Aussies like her bunches Down Under as well.) I find that fascinating.

5. On Saturday night, a non-dark romance without a vampire or werewolf in sight, Seducing Mr. Darcy, won the RITA on for best Paranormal. Does that mean anything? Heck if I know but I thought that was rather cool. Also, a Young Adult title nabbed Best First Book (the fun title Oh. My. Gods.) YA is taking over the world!

6. Three editors asked me what I thought would be hot next. Uh…if I knew that, I’d buy a lotto ticket too!

7. And last but not least, I did survive teaching three one-hour workshops back-to-back-to-back. But I didn’t have much voice or energy by the end of it. I dragged a fellow agent off to the Bantam party only to discover that it had ended 20 minutes prior to our arrival.

Oops. But that gave us ample opportunity to visit the White House where we were promptly not invited in for tea.

Me and the wonderful Sally Harding of The Cooke Agency:

If You Think You Are Going To Meet Up With An Agent At A Conference

STATUS: Safely arrived in D.C. for the annual RWA conference. I started with a bang with a breakfast meeting at 9 a.m. Off and running.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY by Fergie

Because I was going to RWA, last week several previously published romance authors looking to get an agent on board for their career got in contact with me. They were hoping to meet me in person at the National conference.

Great idea! There’s only one problem. The timing. My schedule has already been booked up for over 4 weeks. I haven’t got an open slot to meet with a potentially new client—even if I’d like to!

Let’s say you’d really like to do this in the future. Here’s my suggestion for those of you who are previously published.

Start this process about 6 to 8 weeks before the conference. That’s when you want to get in touch. Offer to send samples of your work because any agent who might be contemplating a physical meet up will want to read your work first. We may or may not be a good fit for each other. (Also, I read widely so there is a chance that I might have read your work on my own but it’s probably more likely that I haven’t.) Seeing material is usually the best first step.

Once material is reviewed and I like what I see, then I’ll still have plenty of time to fit you into my schedule before the conference actually happens. This way we can then find out if we are a good match for each other both personally and professionally.

Big smile here.

The Number One Thing

STATUS: BEA tomorrow. It’s going to be a long one and I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog so have a good weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S DANCE by David Bowie

As y’all know, today I was at the Backspace conference. Jeff Kleinman, Scott Hoffman, and I did a workshop called 2 minutes, 2 pages in the afternoon. The purpose is to pretend we are sitting at home with our feet up reading the slush pile. As the author reads the work, we say “stop” if we wouldn’t have read on and then try to explain why.

It’s a tough workshop. We try and be honest but constructive but as a writer, you can’t be faint of heart in participating.

After the 3 hour session, I can say without a doubt that this was the biggest issue we found in the pages that were read. The openings lacked a sense of urgency that would have propelled the story forward or would have engaged the reader immediately in the story or the characters presented.

In other words, most opening scenes had nothing at stake.

Now don’t mistake me and assume that you have to have an action-packed scene or bombs going off or some hideous moment occurring. Having something at stake can be a small thing, such as a missing photo, but it’s not small for the character in the story. For example, you could have a woman searching for a missing photograph and perhaps this photo is the one surviving shot she has of her father and so there is real panic that it could be missing—maybe even forever. That she can’t find it, that she can’t remember when last she saw it, that maybe there is something coupled with it that makes this missing photo even that much more crucial to have at this moment in time. There is something at stake for the character

See the distinction?

A lot of the opening pages we saw were really back story disguised as an opening chapter—which makes Carolyn Jewel’s guest blog earlier this week that much more pertinent.