Pub Rants

Category: Conferences & Book Fairs

What Kristin Requested From Pitch-A-Palooza

STATUS: Started out the week with 354 emails in the inbox after being out for RT. Only 203 to go. Progress!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TUFF ENUF by Fabulous Thunderbirds

Does it say anything about trends? Probably not but just in case you are curious, here are the types of projects I requested.

2 paranormal adult romances
1 contemporary adult romance
3 women’s fiction projects
1 SF romance (haven’t seen one of these in a while–kind of excited!)
1 SF (but not a romance)
2 contemporary YA
2 paranormal romance YA (I have to be honest, this genre is getting to be a tough sell to editors who have seen nothing but this for the last two years.)

And my sincere apologies to anyone that I had to turned down during the Palooza. When it’s a speed dating format like that, I do have to say no to projects that don’t grab me immediately to reduce the amount of material we receive and have to review. We requested 12 projects but I had over 25 pitches that day. That’s a lot in 90 minutes.

(Just a note, this post is from our archives. Some references and links may be from past years.)

STATUS: I feel like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions. I’m here at the RT Convention. On Tuesday, I offered rep to a potential new client. Wednesday I did an hour phone conference with a film producer for another client. Yesterday, I reviewed 5 different offers for a UK auction going down. Today let’s talk about romance. It’s almost time for Pitch-a-Palooza!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF IT’S LOVE by Train

But writers can’t help themselves. They still ask this question anyway.

At best, this question is unhelpful. If you start writing for the “next hot trend” by the time you finish your project, that particularly trend is on the way out.

Not to mention, if you ask me the question, “What are you looking for?” I can ramble on about something I’d love to see (such as a completely charming, witty, and fun historical romance a la Julia Quinn) but what I offered rep for just this week would never have landed on my “This is what I’m looking for” list.

I’m constantly taken by surprise by what I fall in love with.

After being here at RT, certainly I can tell you that editors are weary of paranormal romance. That everyone is talking about erotica because of 50 Shades (by the way, I don’t rep erotica so please don’t query me for that.)

That “hook-y” women’s fiction novels (i.e. hooks like a knitting club or cupcake club) are still on editors’ wish lists (which by the way, are topics that don’t ring my bell much).

I can tell you that a lot of the romance editors also rep YA and they might be moved to violence if just one more YA paranormal romance lands in their submission inbox.

I can tell you all these things and then I can also tell you that the minute the “right” project lands in that same inbox–even if it contains any of the above–but it blows them away, they’ll offer for it.

So I can’t tell you what I’m looking for as an agent. I can only say that I’m going to know it when I see it and this: I haven’t taken on a romance author in over the year. I’m opening my universe up to that possibility as I’d love to read an awesome romance right now.

I’ve been in my “dark” phase for the last 7 months by taking on dark and gritty SF.

Creative Commons Credit: Andy.Brandon50

Pub Rants University Begins!

STATUS: In glorious Italy. Such yummy food.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MARLENE ON THE WALL BY Suzanne Vega

If you are an NLA eNewsletter subscriber, you got the skinny early at the beginning of the month and first dibs on the workshop spots. Now I’m giving my blog readers a chance to register.

In 2012, I have six conferences lined up already. I can hardly believe it myself! And at these conferences, I’m schedule to give my forever popular query pitch workshop and the infamous Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop where I graciously rip to bits the opening pages of manuscripts. Writers just love this one, which convinces me that you folks are gluttons for punishment.

And I imagine that over the years, one or two of my blog readers have longed to attend one of these workshops but have never had the opportunity.

Well, if that person is you, then listen up. On March 29, 2012, I’m launching Pub Rants University and will be offering our first online video webinar called Goodbye Slush Pile! The Secret of How to Write The Perfect Query Letter Pitch Paragraph for Your Novel.

Try and say that three times fast…

This is a video webinar, not just audio, so you’ll get a chance to see my lovely mug for a whole 90 minutes. Not to mention, you’ll even be able to ask questions during the workshop. It’s like Fridays With Kristin for a whole 90 minutes. On second thought, I’m not sure I can put up with myself for that long…

But if you are interested, here’s what you’ll learn.

-How to structure your query letter
-How to identify your plot catalyst
-How to boil 300-plus pages of a novel into one pithy pitch paragraph
-The 4 main approaches to building your pitch paragraph around the plot catalyst
-Real examples of what works and why
-Real examples of what doesn’t work and why
-Submit of your first draft tag line

Click Here to find out more details and to register. As I don’t want the workshop to be too big and unwieldy, the number of attendees is limited so keep that in mind!

Verdict Out On Whether A Good Idea Or Not

STATUS: For the last three days running, I’ve made it a goal to power through all the emails while I was at Frankfurt. I started out with 170. Made good headway but now for three days running, I’ve started with 130 emails and I still have 130 emails. Can’t shake the feeling of running in place….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU by Herb Alpert

As I was walking the Frankfurt Fair floor, perusing the booths on display, I stumbled upon a booth for a company called Booktrack. In short, they do sound tracks for electronic books.

Not sure what I think about that, so I figured I’d give it a listen.

The sample work on the floor was the short work IN THE SOUTH by Salman Rushdie. I popped on the earphones and gave it a listen as I read. There was ambient noise and sounds that connected with the text on the page.

Kind of reminded me of Spa on XM radio.

Did I think it enhanced the reading experience? The jury is still out on that for me.

Frankfurt–Day After And Then Some

STATUS: Went to Frankfurt with a cold. Had the cold during all of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Brought the cold home with me. Truly, I like to hang on to things.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHE’S NO LADY by Lyle Lovett

I figured blog readers would get a kick out of this. Agents Agents! As far as the eye can see… Kind of like Water Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.


Jamie Ford, who was there at the Fair meeting with his many foreign publishers, said it looked like a sweat shop and wondered where the sewing machines were. Rather apt.

It’s definitely not romantic in any way shape or form. Agents sit down with scouts, territory co-agents, and editors to highlight frontlist titles as well as nice selling backlist titles that are available for translation sales. It’s not unusual for a rights person to have 12 to 18 appointments in a day, back-to-back, and in thirty minute intervals. Lunch is often optional.

And Frankfurt is not London, Paris, or Rome (not to offend any German blog readers!) but the downtown area is probably the least charming European city I’ve been to. I imagine outside of the city centre there are lots of nice spots but considering what was available within walking distance of the hotel, it was slim pickings.

To offset the rather bland Frankfurt, a day trip to Heidelberg was in order! From Left: Jamie Ford, Me, Luceinne Diver (also a client of mine) and Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.

Frankfurt Book Fair – Day 1

STATUS: All last week I was knocked out of commission by a nasty head cold. Winter hasn’t even begun. Like the overachiever I am, just getting it done early.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MR. JONES by Counting Crows

This week begins the madness that is the Frankfurt Book Fair and guess where yours truly happens to be.

For the last three years, I’ve made a point of attending each of the main book fairs: London, Bologna, and now Frankfurt. I have a foreign rights person so it’s not imperative that I go specifically so you might be wondering why I pursued this goal.

You can’t best support someone who is representing your authors until you’ve seen for yourself what the fairs are all about. It’s helps significantly to prepare the rights and press sheets so that foreign editors can best utilize them if applicable to their markets.

Also, if an editor has bought a lot of your clients, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting simply to connect on a personal level.

For this year’s fair, I have two authors with me: Gail Carriger and Jamie Ford. Both have sold tremendously abroad and have been bestsellers in several other countries besides the US.

So what does one do at Frankfurt? Lots and lots of meetings in the agents’ centre which is about the size of two football fields. And I’m not exaggerating here.

The Fair is so big, it can literally take 30 minutes to walk from an appointment at one hall to another.

To put this in perspective, it only takes me 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the Fair.

Tonight I attended two parties–one at the German publisher S. Fischer Verlag and the other held by Hachette at the Hessischer Hof.

The Hachette party was so packed, I literally walked in and had to stifle the urge to turn around and walk back out. Elbow to elbow. I thought the chances of my finding anyone for whom I might be looking would be slim but oddly enough, it worked.

The undefinable magic of Frankfurt.

An Observation On An Observation

STATUS: Another gorgeous day and guess what? A lovely walk home is Chutney’s favorite part of the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WAITING IN VAIN by Bob Marley

Here’s another culprit that can sink your opening pages or opening chapters.

I call it double trouble. It’s when a writer has a terrific scene, great dialogue, good character reveal, what have you… then the writer feels the need to analyze the scene over again from a main character’s inner thought monologue.

Ack! When I do charity 30-page critiques, I spend a lot of time deleting out this kind of repetition. By the way, established writers sometimes do this too and this is when you hope that the author has a great editor who will judiciously cut these moments.

Writers do it to make sure the reader fully understands or gets the joke.

Trust me, if you did your scene right, you won’t need this inner monologue contemplation.

While I was at the SCBWI conference over the weekend, it occurred to me that I should create a workshop on how to critique. The audience would be critique partners looking to develop their skills so as to help one another.

I think I would call it Critique Like An Agent.

An Observation On Character Development

STATUS: It’s such a gorgeous day in Denver. I’m ready to pop out early and take Chutney for a long walk.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WALK ON THE WILD SIDE Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians

This weekend I did my first SCBWI conference. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, it stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I just had a blast.

As I’ve done in the past, I did my 2-pages or First pages workshop where writers submit their opening pages, it gets read aloud, and I say yay or nay–would I have read on and why.

This time, I had something happen that has never happened before. My reader chose the first three at random and read them aloud. I would have read on for all three.

That’s rare. I’ve given this workshop a dozen or so times and I’ve usually found only one submission that I would have read further on. 99.9% of what we see isn’t quite ready for an agent to review. By the way, this is not to stay it will never be ready. Just that it wasn’t quite there in this incarnation.

Trust me, I don’t want to stomp on writers’ dreams!

For this workshop, I noticed a couple of beginning writer mistakes that I haven’t really talked about yet so I thought I would tackle some.

Beginning Writer Mistake: Opening scenes that make it clear that the writer has not thought through the character’s backstory and history before writing the scene.

What do I mean by this? I can tell from reading the scene that the writer is simply trying to create an exciting opening and if the writer had stopped to think about it, there is no way the characters would react as written if the characters had a clear history with either the other character in the scene or to the event.

For example, a Grandma loves to drive fast, in direct opposition to most people’s perception of how a grandmother would drive. So the writer wants to show this quirky trait and thus writes an opening scene from the grandchild’s perspective who is reacting wildly to the grandmother’s driving.

However, if the character is often driven by her grandmother, she’d be used to her Nana’s rather erratic speed demon driving habit. So given that history, she wouldn’t react dramatically to it; it would be normal.

Do you see what I mean? The writer should approach the scene with the above assumption. Now the writer can still have this opening erratic driving scene but the grandchild character’s reaction would be written differently with this history in mind.

And if it’s the first time the grandmother has ever driven that character, then that would need to be made clear and then the character could react dramatically. The scene would then work.

But I often see slush pile submissions where it’s clear to me that the writer hasn’t quite gotten knowledgeable about his or her characters before jumping in to writing scenes about them.

Just another writing tip to keep in mind!

In The Author’s Shoes

STATUS: Working all morning. Talking all afternoon.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CRAZY by Icehouse

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference kicks off today. I’ll be there all afternoon chatting about digital changes in publishing (starts at 2 p.m.). And I’ll probably need all afternoon given there is a lot to talk about.

Last night RMFW had their opening cocktail party and I was chatting with an author there. She mentioned that she had to switch agents recently and it was one of the more agonizing things that she has done in her career. Not having been on that side of the fence, I asked her what she thought was the most important factors to keep in mind when going through the process. I thought it would make a good blog topic!

Here’s her list:

1. Make sure the agent loves your work.

Kristin commentary: I agree–especially if you are looking for someone to rep your whole career. An agent should love your writing–not just one book.

Or, as we continued our chat, have an agent take you on simply because you already have a deal on the table. This author said that for the fellow authors she knew, if that was the reason the agent took the author on, the business partnership didn’t last.

2. Ask the agent what their career vision is for you.

K commentary: This would seem like a straightforward thing but different agents might have very different visions for you. For example, you might be a genre mystery writer and the agent sees you evolving more into literary mystery. Now if the author is aligned on that vision, great. But if the author is happy with straight mystery, this particular person might be a good agent but not right for you.

3. Meet the agent in person.

K commentary: During our chat, the author stressed how important this is. It does make sense because you get a general feel for an agent and his/her style when meeting in person more so then just a phone convo. It happens for me when I meet editors in person. Why not agents? But this author was really adamant on how helpful it was to her when making her decision.

So there you have it.

I mentioned to her that in the last year, I’ve taken to skyping with my clients and any new people I’m interested in representing.

I totally feel the difference. It’s like having a face-to-face meeting–even if the client is half way around the world.

Critique Workshopped The Voice Right Out Of There

STATUS: I’ve had many rounds of civilized tea this morning.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BEDS ARE BURNING by Midnight Oil

The worst thing you an do when traveling abroad is to succumb to the desire to go to sleep right away on arrival.

The trick to acclimating is to suck it up, stay awake, and try not to hit the pillow until about 7:30 or 8 pm. Then go to sleep and you are, more or less, on schedule for the rest of the trip.

Easier said than done really.

So I rang up Kelley Armstrong who had been on our same flight down. I figured she was valiantly doing the same thing and we could combine forces by going out to dinner.

Can’t say I was the liveliest conversationalist but I think she’ll forgive me. We talked about giving workshops. I’m doing the Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop tomorrow. As you blog readers know, I always start with a big disclaimer. That 99.9% of what I see during the workshop will not be ready for an agent to see.

Never stops folks though. I think deep down in writers’ hearts, they are hoping to be discovered.

Kelley mentioned the same happens to her when she gives writing workshops. She always begins with her disclaimer that she can’t get any of her writer students published. They are hopeful all the same.

She also mentioned that beginning writers will often suppress their natural voices as they become so focused on the mechanics of writing. In short, one’s voice can be critique workshopped out of them if the writer has a quirky style etc. Often times her job is to allow new writers permission to discover their voice again. (Now it’s not to say you ignore craft mechanics, any good writer is going to figure out how to manage both.)

But since I don’t ever teach writing per se, I thought that was pretty interesting and something new writers need to be aware of.