Pub Rants

Category: Conferences & Book Fairs

Because You’ve Asked For It….

STATUS: Another Gorgeous day! Repeat yesterday’s status.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LADY IN RED by Chris de Burgh

Or maybe you didn’t but are a glutton for punishment anyway. I’m doing my very popular Agent Reads The Slush Pile as an online Webinar coming up on May 2, 2012 6-8 pm MST.

If you can’t make it to Denver for the LitFest version of this webinar put on by Lighthouse Writers (where the price is not to be believed but the travel to get there might be rough!), here’s your chance to finally experience it for yourself.

Have you ever wondered how an agent reads the fiction submission slush pile? What an agent is thinking during the first opening pages? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? 
If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop without metamorphosing. 

Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read the first 2 pages of any submission, the “slush pile”, and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not read on for the sample pages in front of her.

 A couple of things before you click on that button:

1) This webinar is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal. Now trust me, I will be as helpful and honest as possible. This is not to ridicule writers.  But don’t kid yourself, it will be tough. If you are feeling fragile or that feedback might crush your writer dream, now is not the time for this workshop. If you are tough as nails, just about to submit, want an immediate honest response, then this might be worth doing.

2) It needs to be the actual, opening first 2 pages of your manuscript. If you have a prologue, skip it and grab page 1 and 2 from your chapter one.

3) We can’t promise to read every single entry but we are definitely going to try. If I only have a few left over, I’ll respond on the sample pages and we can send to those writers privately. Right now, I know we can get through them all.

4) You can “audit” the class. Sign up to be there and listen in but you don’t send on the 2 pages. This is for those who are curious about it but not ready to have sample pages read.

If you’ve ever wondered how an agent could make a decision so fast on whether to read on or not or to ask for pages, this webinar will definitely answer that question!

How Do You Know If An Agent Is A Good Agent?

STATUS: Today I crushed many a sensitive soul during my crafting your query pitch workshop. Just kidding. They all said it was great and learned a lot. I’ll take them at their word.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LET’S GET IT ON by Marvin Gaye

This evening, a writer sat down next to me and asked if I knew XYZ agent and what I thought of her. I actually didn’t recognize the agent’s name and so I couldn’t help her by sharing an opinion. Certainly I know a lot of agents in the biz but it’s simply not possible to know ALL the agents practicing out there–especially a lot of the newer agents who are just starting out.

She then wanted to know how she could tell whether an agent is a good agent.

This is definitely a question that has been tackled on Absolute Write and Backspace.org and any search could probably bring up hundreds of forum posts regarding it.

For me, it’s simple. What is an agent’s track record of sales? If solid, then it’s probably just going to be a matter of whether you also connect with the agent as a person. By the way, whether an agent with a good track record is a good fit for you as an author is actually a whole different question than whether an agent is a good agent. One agent might be fantastic for one kind of client and disaster for another client who has different needs.

If the agent is new, how new? Are they with an established agency or agent with a good history of sales so the newbie has a mentor for questions? If an agency is brand new, did the agent work for an established firm before going out solo (so even though the sales record might be small at the moment, it’s understood that the agent comes with a solid background in the field).

Trust your common sense and what your gut tells you. Make sure you’re not wearing blinders when it comes to your publishing dream. The idea that any agent is better than no agent is most often not true.

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!