Pub Rants

Category: conferences

Straight From A Reviewer’s Mouth

STATUS: Back to back conferences are a bit tough. On Sunday I flew back from San Francisco and RWA. Today, Worldcon began right here in Denver. On one hand, I didn’t have to travel to attend. On the other, I might be a little conferenced out but away we go.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’LL NEVER FIND ANOTHER LOVE LIKE MINE by Lou Rawls

As I mentioned above, Denvention 3 began this morning and I kicked it off with one of the opening sessions on how to create that perfect pitch paragraph in a query letter.

No, I’m not going to beat that almost dead horse again. All you blog readers are pretty much experts by this point.

But one of the session attendees was Jacqueline Lichtenberg, a writer and a reviewer. She added a comment to the panel mix that I thought was well worth repeating. She said that for her job as a reviewer, the back cover copy of any given published novel becomes absolutely essential in terms of deciding which books to actually review. Publishers send her so much that she has stacks and stacks of books just waiting for her attention.

A quick skim of the back cover copy makes her decision on which book to read and review. Go figure. The same technique applies when agents read query letters. If you make your pitch paragraph read like back cover copy, you’ll get attention. But that isn’t the tip I want to share.

From her position as reviewer, Jacqueline recommended that aspiring writers not wait to write their pitch paragraphs or what they would consider their own back cover copy for their novels. She suggested doing that even before the novel is complete. Even, dare I say it, before the novel gets written!

If you can write good back cover copy for the novel you have in mind, your writing will be forced to live up to the copy you’ve created.

I think this is a great idea—especially for writers who are kicking around several ideas and are contemplating which idea to pursue in terms of writing a novel.

Write the back cover copy (in the way it would look if the novel were actually be published) and that alone will force you to focus on that essential plot catalyst that will drive your story forward and force you to focus the novel.

Not a bad day’s work….

RWA Panel Extra (Bonus Material Blog Entry)

STATUS: Just doing all my post-RWA follow up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TEQUILA by The Champs

On Saturday I moderated a panel called TAKE FIVE! Agents Reveal Their Top 5 Pearls of Wisdom for Career Success. Unfortunately, one of the panel members, Deidre Knight, got sick and couldn’t attend. She did, however, email me her top 5 pearls of wisdom and I get to share them with you as an added post-RWA bonus. I think they are definitely worth sharing (although these are just the framework and Deidre would have gone into more detail during the actual panel).

5 Ways That Another Author’s Career Can Sideline Yours–and we don’t mean because they’re more successful!

Here’s the big secret: the power for those authors to harm your career is all inside of YOU!

1) Don’t compare yourself to other authors. Every career, no matter if same agent, same editor, or same house, is unique. Comparison derails you with jealousy and can be toxic in a variety of ways

2) Looking at your friends careers and growing impatient. This is a long haul business and we have seen new authors who rush too hard to get projects out that should have been edited more. Don’t kneecap yourself by worrying about your friend’s recent deal.

3) Don’t decide your career is like anyone else’s. Your career is unique to you. A doctor can’t treat you based on a friend’s illness. Dig in, focus on what you need to do and forget everyone else. Write the books.

4) Soliciting advice from a committee of friends. If an Agent brings you an offer–make your decision with your agent. Don’t poll your pals about the contract, your cover, you name it. Don’t feel every facet of your career is for public consumption.

5) Be careful with your online presence. Don’t join in blog dramas or controversies. If authors are in feud, float above. Be careful how you choose industry friends and use your instincts about who might be toxic and who is not.

And for those of you who weren’t there, agent Lucienne Diver was also on the panel and she posted her topic’s Top 5 on her blog. Here’s the link.

If you were there and planned to share some of that panel info on your own blogs, don’t hesitate to put your link in the pubrants comment section. Some good stuff there so share away.

Story Behind The Sale (A Blog Extra)

STATUS: Back in the office after a wonderful RWA. A little sad though. Six terrific Rita nominations and one Golden Heart but alas, no wins on RITA night. Dems the Berries.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GOT ME UNDER PRESSURE by ZZ Top

My author Ally Carter was out in San Fran for RWA (just for fun) and to do an event at Kepler’s Bookstore. While she was there, she told the real story behind how she ended up writing I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU.

If you’ve ever been curious, here it is–straight from the author herself. Tomorrow I should have a post-RWA bonus entry for you.

Report From The Floor (RWA 2008)

STATUS: I’m finally back in my room before midnight and have the energy to blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Best Quote of the Conference So far
“In paranormal and you’re not an already established published author, if it’s the same story about a hunky magical hero with the same beautiful mortal woman saving the world, it doesn’t matter if the world is defined by Shiva, vampires, Quetzalcoatl, or Merlin; that alone is not making the genre fresh.”
–Abby Zidle, S&S Pocket

Best RWA Random Moment

Marie Bostwick, Me, Brenda Novak are all wearing the same bracelet.

Best San Francisco Random Moment
While standing on the corner of Union Square in downtown while checking email messages on my iPhone, I looked up and around to figure out which way I needed to walk to find my street when a gentleman standing nearby caught my eye and said: “just in case you might have been wondering, you still have got it going on.”

Not quite sure how to reply (and I actually hadn’t been wondering), I went with the simple, “thank you.”

Can’t say that’s ever happened to me in Denver. Made me chuckle all the way to my lunch meeting.

Hottest RWA Moment
Ally Carter and I convince thriller writer Barry Eisler to proudly wear “I am a Gallagher Girl” pin.

Proudest RWA Moment so far: NLA’s Rita Nominees

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Kelly Parra

Linnea Sinclair

Simone Elkeles

All In A Day’s Work

STATUS: In San Fran for Romance Writers of America national conference. Even more alarming to me is that Worldcon will literally follow right on its heels. I’ve got a crazy two weeks ahead of me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by Lou Reed

After I got here, I realized the one thing I forgot to pack. A jacket. Dang it’s chilly here in San Fran. With several weeks of 95+ degree weather in Denver, I just plum forgot.

So what has happened to me today?

1. While boarding my plane, I ran into a children’s book publicist I knew and we spent the flight chatting about the biz (well, amongst other things).

2. Had a lovely afternoon tea with said publicist.

3. Checked into my hotel room (which took blessedly only about 5 minutes or so). I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before at RWA. Lines are usually long.

4. Wrestled with the hotel internet connection. I’m happy to announce that I was victorious.

5. My dinner plans were derailed but happily an agent friend took pity on me and invited to me to her agency dinner instead.

6. Had a blast talking with her clients—one of which mentioned that she didn’t know that agents could be friends with each other (and she didn’t ask in a bad way—she was just surprised). Yes, agents are often friends with each other and we celebrate each other’s success.

7. Authors are so loquacious when wine is involved. I heard some great stories this evening (but client confidential—even if they weren’t my authors!).

8. Some writers are coming from as far away as England and New Zealand for this conference (waves to all the Kiwis I hung out with last August—be sure to say hello).

9. Checked email. Frightful amount I might add. Still lots of it is last minute planning that needs to be accomplished for the week to kick off right.

Tomorrow morning I’m having coffee with an editor from MacAdam/Cage (and no, they don’t do romance at all but they are based here in San Fran and I love to connect when possible).

I’ve got lunch with an editor. Afternoon tea with a client. Literacy Signing and then the evening parties begin.

This year’s RWA is especially exciting as the agency has 6 RITA nominations for 4 authors:
Linnea Sinclair
Hank Ryan
Kelly Parra
Simone Elkeles

And to top off the excitement, I also have a new client who is a Golden Heart nominee:
Courtney Milan

Boy am I going to be on pins and needles come Saturday evening when the Awards ceremony takes place.

Book Expo

STATUS: Getting to this blog entry late tonight. It’s Friday night and Kristin is not out and about on the town. I’m actually working… I want to finish things up before I leave for LA on Tuesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

BEA. BEA. You keep hearing the acronym but what is BEA? It stands for Book Expo America. It happens every spring and it’s basically the publishing industry’s way of launching the fall list with a big bang.

The fair itself is really geared more towards booksellers and librarians who come out in droves to get free ARCs [advanced reading copies] of all the big books for the fall. Each publisher hosts a “booth,” which can be half the length of the convention floor so some booths are big. In their booths, they spotlight authors, titles, have posters up and free ARCs. Lots of attendees come with suitcases so as to ship books back.

By the way, a couple of years ago they banned anything on wheels from the convention floor. However, you can have a “storage” space on the lower floor to store your books and UPS has ground shipping there and available for easy delivery.

Big authors host talks, breakfasts, big signings, etc. There are industry panels for education on publishing-related topics. I’m looking forward to hearing Jeff Bezos talk on Friday afternoon. (For those of you who don’t know, he is the current CEO of

So what is there for an agent to do? Lots actually. Last year I had 5 authors spotlighted at BEA so I made sure everything went smoothly for them. This year I don’t have any (talk about feast or famine…) so my time will be spent attending some panels, checking in with a few editors who will be at the booths, and my main focus is on Hollywood co-agents who handle book-to-film type deals on the behalf of literary agents.

I’m touching base with the folks I already work with (on a variety of projects) and then I’m meeting some new co-agents for the first time whom I might enjoy working with on future projects. BEA is all about the networking.

There is also the Rights Center. Literary Agents will often take a table in the rights center in order to hold meetings with editors there as well as with reps from foreign publishers for foreign rights etc. Last year I met with a lot of Audio publishers just to get to know those editors a bit better.

So that’s where I’m headed on Tuesday and I look forward to reporting from the floor. If I remember (knock on wood), I’ll take the camera (although I can use my trusty iPhone) and share pics etc. Expect blog entries to come late as my day is packed with meetings so there won’t be time to blog until the late evening.

Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend.

I’m out!

Workshop Epiphany

STATUS: I’m blogging before 7 pm! It’s a good day then. And great suggestion to make my own evals. I’m hoping I can squeeze that in before I leave on Thursday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHADOW OF THE DAY by Linkin Park

If you are a long time blog reader, y’all know what my workshop epiphany was because I blogged about it for weeks on end (or that’s how it felt like). Probably felt that way to you readers as well! Scroll down the right hand column of my blog until you see Agent Kristin’s blog pitch workshop links. That’s it.

Here’s what happened. I had just given the workshop at RWA (I think it was there) when I realized that I kept repeating to writers that they should make their pitch paragraphs read like the back cover copy of book you’d see in the bookstore or library.

And that got me thinking about how I write my pitches to editors. That got me to my realization that I almost ALWAYS use the catalyst that starts the story, which can be found within the first 30 pages of the novel.

I started analyzing various back cover copies of already published books in a variety of genres and yep, that proved to be true for the cover copy that publishing houses tend to use (with a few exceptions where details from later in the book were also added to the cover copy). The focus, however, was always on that main catalyst that starts the story forward.

By the way, the catalyst is always a plot element—not a character aspect—although back cover copy usually includes character elements as well.

So now I’m revamping my eQuery workshop PowerPoint slides to encompass this. I’ve also moved forward (in the presentation) the hands-on exercise on how to identify the plot catalyst from the opening 30 pages. Then how to craft the paragraph around that element with lots of good supporting details that will give the pitch the most bang for your buck.

Okay, is it geeky of me to be rather excited about trying out this new format for the workshop? Chicago Spring Fling participants, get ready because you are my next guinea pigs.

Perfecting A Workshop

STATUS: It’s another late one.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? AIN’T NO SUNSHINE by Bill Withers

I spent this evening working on my PowerPoint presentation for a workshop I’m giving this weekend. I’ve been doing this particular class for more than 2 years but about 4 months ago, I had a real epiphany on how to teach writers the art of perfecting that pitch paragraph in query letters.

I hadn’t had a chance to revamp the presentation until now. My only wish is that I had this realization sooner. This might sound odd but the best feedback I’ve ever received is when my husband sat in on one of my classes and really critiqued the heck out of it (and he’s not even remotely in the field of publishing so he had a fresh perspective). I made a ton of changes after his input.

Guess he’s not afraid to tell me where it missed. Big smile here.

I know that conferences often have participants fill out evaluation sheets at the end of each workshop but as a conference presenter, I’ve never once seen them. I think the evals are mainly used to see if the workshop was beneficial to the attendees and whether it’s worth having again at that conference.

But I wish that conference organizers would also distribute an eval that could be shared with the presenter. I’d love to know from those attending what worked, what missed, what was confusing, or even what really rocked and more time should be spent on XYZ. Then I would have a real shot at perfecting this workshop (and it might not have taken me 2 years to hit my realization…)

I’m a former corporate trainer so that’s part of why I’d probably like this. And I know from my corp. train days that I often received a lot of evals with comments such as “great workshop.” Although that made me feel great, it’s not that helpful in pinpointing weak spots in the presentation. Maybe list one thing you loved about the workshop (‘cause, hey, everyone likes to hear praise), one thing you didn’t, and then a specific suggestion on what would have made that better.

Can’t hurt and it can certainly help me to tweak for the next workshop I give.

Calling All Conference Organizers

STATUS: It’s suppose to snow later today so I’m working a bit from home, then walking Chutney early while on my way to the office.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY THERE DELILAH by Plain White T’s

Considering I just finished attending the Northern Colorado Writers Conference (and a big shout out to Kerrie who single-handedly pulled off a terrific, well-organized conference up there), I found Jessica’s comments on Conferences over there at Bookends to be pretty spot-on.

I strongly recommend any conference organizer to hop over there and take some notes.

But Kerrie of NCW and I got into another great conversation over the weekend when I was in Fort Collins and I’d love it if conference organizers can add this to their list as well.

When agents attend conferences and participate in pitch session, our basic hope is to potentially find a new client in the mix. It doesn’t happen too often but I have found two of my clients from conferences so I’m always optimistic. After all, what are pitch sessions for if not to hook up a writer with an agent?

Now for a pitch session to work, the writer needs to have a completed full manuscript. Why? Because if an agent likes the sound of the project, she’ll ask for sample pages (probably the first 30 or 50 pages). If the agent likes what she reads, she’ll want to request the full novel (and that can happen just a couple of weeks after sample pages are requested so a writer needs to be ready).

If there is no full manuscript, therein lies the problem.

As a writer, you always want to put your absolutely best writing foot forward—so you shouldn’t need to rush or send in a novel prematurely just because an agent requested it and the full wasn’t ready.

It’s a good way of getting a rather prompt rejection and then that avenue is closed (as you only get one shot at an agent) until you either do a significant revision and resubmit (but an agent is always going to be slightly hesitant about a resubmit—see my previous blog post on Love The Second Time Around) or you have a new novel to shop. Which can take a year or more to prepare.

But most new writers don’t realize this. They see “pitch session with Agent” and sign right up because who wouldn’t want to talk with an agent, right?

But ultimately, a writer can’t pitch a project that doesn’t exist or is unfinished because there is nothing for me to see at this point in time. Out of my 12 appointments at NCW, I only requested sample pages from 4 participants as all the others either had just started a project, were in the middle, or had only an idea for a novel.

I hate to say it but that made these pitch sessions a waste of my time because I ONLY want to talk to authors who have project ready to be read. Sorry if that sounds heartless but it is the truth. Writers with “ideas” for a great novel are a dime a dozen. It’s that one in a hundred writer who actually has the perseverance and stamina to sit down and write the entire thing (which is a huge achievement all in itself since the majority of aspiring writers never even make it that far).

Not to mention, how many great writers did I miss who did have a completed novel because my pitch slots were full? Ack.

So here’s what I’d like to add to Jessica’s list. I know it makes more work for the conference organizers but it would make a HUGE difference in the power of the pitch sessions.

Please don’t allow just anyone to sign up for a pitch with an agent. All interested writers should submit a mini application to pitch that includes the following:

1. Title of project
2. Genre
3. Word count
4. Is the manuscript complete? Yes or No.
5. previous publications if any
6. Why is this agent the right fit for your project?

If the writer checkmarked NO for number 4, then the pitch session is denied. If the manuscript is finished, then the conference organizer can check the project next to the agent’s bio (which should include a list of what they are currently looking for) and make sure it is a match. Then sign the writer up for the pitch.

Most conferences right now assume that writers will do their homework (because heck, that would only be to their advantage) and sign up with the appropriate agent.

I find that this is rarely true. In fact, I’ve even had authors pitch me projects my agency clearly doesn’t represent and when I ask why, they will often say that the other agent slots were full and they just wanted to practice the agent pitch.

Argh! I’m always polite but I don’t want to be somebody’s practice session! I only want to hear about projects that might get me a new client whose project I can sell!

Calling all conference organizers! I beseech you to take this extra step. All agents will thank you.

What’s In A Typo?

STATUS: I crossed the finish line on two contracts. Hooray. Only three more in process and a fourth one just beginning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SPINNING WHEEL by Blood, Sweat & Tears

Quite a lot actually—especially when you are at a writers’ conference! Huge smile here. I certainly got asked about the new HarperCollins imprint this weekend and so when I have time tomorrow to organize my thoughts, I’ll be happy to share them with you.

Meanwhile, this story was too good not to share. I spent the weekend with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest (he edits The Guide to Literary Agents) and Jessica Regel of Jean V. Naggar Agency (big shout out as they were both great company and Jessica is actively looking to build her list so if you write young adult, you might want to look her up).

Because Chuck is the editor for WD’s Literary Agents book, he’s got a lot of good inside info on how to land an agent—which he was happy to share with the writers at the conference by giving a workshop.

A workshop that had one little typo in the heading. He was scheduled to give a workshop entitled “How to Shag an Agent.”

Not quite the same thing as “How To Snag An Agent.”

To say the very least…