Pub Rants

Category: conferences

Post-Conference Onslaught

STATUS: I’m good actually. Tackled some things on my To Do list. Have two new submissions going out very soon. That’s always exciting.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONG COOL WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS by The Hollies

I’m off to another conference this weekend. I’m refraining from smacking myself in the head. Every year I promise myself that I will only commit to doing 3 (and if pushed) maybe 4 a year—if that.

This year I ended up with 6. How the heck did that happen? But when New Zealand Romance Writers came a-calling to invite me down under, I just couldn’t say no. Do you blame me?

So this weekend is another romance conference (but don’t worry, I’m also going to be attending the Surrey International in Vancouver and that encompasses everything—including literary and commercial mainstream—which I’m always looking for more of.)

Not to mention, I was just recently invited to the World Horror 2008 Convention. I had to ring them back up to make sure they had the right person. After all, I don’t really represent “horror” per se. They said that they did indeed mean to contact me and that I was one of their top choices. Tickle me pink. It’s not a done deal yet but it’s a possibility that’s out there.

But this weekend is a local conference (which means I’m usually game to go because I don’t have to travel). It’s the Romancing The Rockies conference, and my author Linnea Sinclair is one of the keynote speakers.

And yes, there is a point to this blog and I’m getting to it.

My agency always gets a large slew of submissions right after a conference because I got a chance to meet and chat with a bunch of wonderful folks and of course I’ll look at sample pages. That’s the point of the conference after all.

But here’s a secret. Most folks send in their sample pages within a day or two so we get buried quickly.

My suggestion? Wait about 7-10 days, then send. That way we’ve mastered the onslaught and might just have a little more time for a more leisurely read.

One of those agency insider helpful hints.

Been There Done That?

STATUS: Busy day continuing all my negotiations.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO IN LOVE by Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark

On Saturday morning (way too bright and early for my taste), I spoke on a women’s fiction panel at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

I decided to tackle the theme of overdone story ideas that we’ve been seeing lately. I promised to share it with the blog readers but I do have to add one caveat.

You have to know that there actually isn’t anything wrong with any of these story ideas. What I’m trying to point out by sharing this list is that if you highlight the story idea as being what’s original about your query, you’re probably going to get a pass because these themes are so common, they don’t come across as fresh.

So if you have tackled one of these story ideas for the basis of your novel, you have to not only focus on that idea but what else that makes the story original or a story that readers will want to read above all other novels with the same theme. Does that make sense?

For example, a couple of months ago I blogged that we had received numerous queries about a main protagonist winning the lottery. People read into that statement by thinking that our agency would never be interested in any story if the lottery theme were present. I just want to say that wouldn’t be true.

That theme IN AND OF ITSELF wasn’t enough to capture our interest because it had been done and done again. However, a lottery theme coupled with some other interesting and original element could potentially capture our attention.

There’s a big difference. So don’t assume, after I share this list, that we would never take on a story with one of these themes. We would. I’m just sharing that the theme alone won’t sell us on reading sample pages.

Overdone Themes In Women’s Fiction

1. 40-something woman discovers her husband is cheating with younger woman and decides to divorce and remake her life

2. Trying too much to be like THE JOY LUCK CLUB – 4 women, who are friends, and we “discover” how they are dealing with the various issues in their lives.

3. Breast cancer – a woman who finds out she has it

4. A heroine in her 40s or 50s who wants to remake herself and does so by moving, or starting a new career, or having plastic surgery, and the impact of that on family

5. A heroine who finds out she is adopted and goes on a hunt to find her birth parents

6. A heroine who wants some sort of change in life and goes about remodeling a house (sometimes with her husband and sometimes alone). Usually if this is done alone it’s because her husband has just passed away.

7. A heroine who is invited to her high school class reunion and the emotional upheaval that creates. Sometimes it revolves around an old boyfriend or crush, and sometimes it’s just the simple dealing-with-aging-and-time.

Pikes Peak Conference

STATUS: Gorgeous day in Denver. Spring!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WICHITA LINEMAN by Glen Campbell

I’m off to the Pikes Peak Conference in Colorado Springs in about 15 minutes. Sorry, no time to blog.

But I’ll be participating on a women’s fiction panel come Saturday so I’ll have tidbits to share on Monday.

Not to mention I’ll be hanging with a couple of editors: Anne Sowards (who is the editor for my fantasy MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND), Mary-Theresa Hussey (Harlequin), and Krista Marino (Delacorte Children’s). I’m sure there will be other editors there but I’m not thinking of them right now off the top of my head.

As for my comment yesterday about when to start negotiations, if you are faced with that, I would look to your agent for an answer more so than my blog.

It depends on a lot of factors but the main one is if you are soon to break-out as an author. If that’s the case, then waiting until numbers is usually the path to take.

The Glaze Effect

STATUS: First day back in the office is always a mess of paperwork that needs to be handled. And aren’t we supposed to be a paper-free office? Ah, the irony

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OUR LIPS ARE SEALED by The Fun Boy Three

As many of you know, I was at the New England Chapter of RWA writers’ conference this weekend. What a good time. I got to hang out with four of my clients (two of which I met for the very first time) and my good agent pal Deidre Knight (whose terrific third book in her series comes out tomorrow—PARALLEL SEDUCTION. I’ve got my copy. Can you say the same?)

Also managed to live through a whole morning of pitches! Actually, I’m kidding. One of the things I love about RWA is how well they educate and help new writers. Our queries from RWA members are always pretty top-notch.

But I did glean one insight I wouldn’t mind sharing with the general populace when it comes to pitching in person at a conference.

Some writers would like to have their written pitch in front of them because the whole concept (and the doing of) the pitch can be nerve-wracking—despite my best efforts to put the writers at ease.

So, here’s my tip. I’m fine with the written pitch if that’s what makes you comfortable. My only suggestion? Make it short and sweet. It shouldn’t be the whole query letter—just a short pitch paragraph that shouldn’t take you more than a minute (maybe 2) tops.

Why? Because of the Glaze Effect. Despite my best efforts, it can be hard to concentrate when someone is reading to me—especially after the tenth pitch of the morning. My eyes get that glazed expression. I’m sure I’m not the only agent to start daydreaming by accident during a pitch—and that’s not what you want.

So it’s okay to read. Just make your pitch paragraph a short and punchy one. I’ll still ask questions and get more details about the story; I promise.

Now for some fun shots.

Here I am with my authors. From left: Marianne Mancusi, Becky Motew, Me, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Jennifer O’Connell

At then at the Costume party! Jennifer is her character Lauren from DRESS REHEARSAL, then there is the lame me as a character from ENCHANTED, INC. who wore Shanna’s frog prince brooch and claimed that nobody could see my fairy wings, Hank in a Tiara, and Marianne as goth girl Rayne from her young adult novel STAKE THAT!

Conferences On My Mind

STATUS: I’m good but I can’t figure out why. I managed to just cross one thing of my list. It should have been a more productive day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT by Nirvana

I have conferences on the mind. I’m doing two in March out on the East Coast around a New York trip and then, of course, you have to prepare for RWA months in advance. Even though the conference isn’t until July, everything has to be done now for the registration/hotel and the workshops.

I’m so proud of myself though. I even updated my handouts and got those sent in. Mark that off my list.

But this put me in mind of my announcement yesterday that I signed a new client because I met her at a conference.

It’s the second client I’ve signed via that medium. And yes I realize that’s not an impressive sign-a-client-from-a-conference record but I do think that number will rise in the future.

I’m already impressed with the number of queries I receive where the writer mentions he/she met me a conference.

I also pay closer attention to those queries. Honest truth and even if the project isn’t a perfect fit for me, I’ll often give that writer a chance and ask for sample pages.

Call it a benefit of taking the time, effort, and spending the money to attend a conference. Not to mention, having the guts to come up and meet me… As long as I don’t have any horrible memory of that meeting (and trust me that has happened and I do take notes), then I’m usually game to be a little more flexible and open to seeing pages.

So if you have conferences on your mind and plan to attend one, take the time to go and meet the agents. If you can swing a social situation, all the better.

The client I signed yesterday came out with a group of authors and agents for an après conference aperitif (translation: a drink).

She was fun, normal, social, and didn’t push her work. She remembered me and I remembered her and boom, she is now a client.

Either way, you might learn more about the biz, about agents as people, and just how to be more comfortable in a publishing but social environment,

So go for it.