Pub Rants

Category: Conferences & Book Fairs

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.

Live From Seattle!

STATUS: A beautiful sunny day here in Seattle. I feel very lucky because what a lovely city.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? A crackling fire at the Doubletree is all the music I have at the moment

As I mentioned yesterday, I flew to Seattle for the Philip K. Dick Awards on behalf of my author Sara Creasy who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and couldn’t make the trip.

The awards are part of Norwescon and opening ceremonies began last night. If you are here at the convention, by all means, come an introduce yourself. I’d love to say hello.

But I’m posting this entry today to let you all know that Norwescon is live podcasting the awards ceremony.

If you want to tune in here is the url. Fingers crossed that Sara wins and you’ll see yours truly on the stage accepting the award on her behalf!

Live video by Ustream

What Not To Bring To A Pitch Session?

Status: Have glass in wine in hand, am good.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONELY NO MORE by Rob Thomas (acoustic version)


This might qualify as my oddest blog entry yet but I had something happen on Saturday that I’ve never run into before.


A writer sat down for her pitch session and not a minute later, I started sneezing.


From what I can gather, I must have been having a reaction to her perfume (which by the way was not overly strong or anything).


But during the whole session, my eyes started watering and I got the sniffles. Luckily I had a break right after and was able to pop outside to clear my head. When I returned, I was just fine for the rest of the afternoon.


So this probably wasn’t something you had thought of but you might want to forgo the perfume or strong fragrance on the day of your pitch!

Culprit: Writing Mechanics

STATUS: Was out of the office last week. Although I worked, it’s not quite the same as getting stuff done while there.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas & The Papas

This past weekend I attended the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in St. Louis and did my infamous “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the workshop where I pretend that I’m sitting in my office reading the opening two pages of a submission. In reality, this would all be done electronically and there would be no volunteer reading the entry aloud but you get the picture. In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, I’ll say “stop” if I wouldn’t have continued reading and state why. If I would have read on, we’ll hear the first 2 pages in its entirety.

I personally think this is probably the toughest workshop a writer can participate in but it’s always wildly popular. I do my best to be encouraging but brutally honest—a tough balancing act.

As I’ve given this workshop before, I can tell you several things about it:

1. I always begin with a dire warning and remind writers that they might not be ready for this. I’ve yet to have a participant withdraw an entry (and that always surprises me).
2. 99.9% of what I’ll see in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read.
3. For this workshop, only one entry made it past page 1. The majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.

Like I said, brutal.

One participant asked a great question. He asked whether all agents would agree with my assessment on when to stop or would those opinions differ given the agent.

I replied that yes, of course opinions would differ but in the case of Saturday’s seminar, I don’t think they would have. Why? The biggest culprit that made me stop reading was a lack of mastery of writing as a craft. The entries had classic beginning writer mistakes we agents often see. And this isn’t to say that the writers in this workshop couldn’t master writing as a craft—just that they hadn’t mastered it yet. I’m confident everyone in my workshop will grow and mature as a writer as they learn.

A list of the culprits? Here they are.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

The great news is all of the above are mechanics that a beginning writer can learn.

But you have to be fearless. And the only way you’ll learn it is through a strong critique that points out the issue.

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

STATUS: Supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ll make it in but I think it will be a lonely day for Chutney and I.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN by Clash

Throughout any given year, I probably give at least 10 talks or workshops at writer’s conferences or other organizations. Plus, with my background in corporate training, I have to say that my public speaking skills are exceptional. And I certainly don’t feel any anxiety or nervous anticipation before any given talk.

That is, until this Saturday. I was tapped to do a talk for area 4th and 5th graders at the CCIRA Authors Festival. (Side note: CCIRA stands for Colorado Counsel International Reading Association.) That morning, I found myself kind of nervous. What an interesting new sensation. After all, with adults, you can fudge a talk; with kids, no way. If you’re boring, they’ll let you know. I also had never given a talk to people this young.

Much to my relief, the talk went great (phew!). Here’s a pic of the 90+ elementary schoolers in attendance (with a sprinkling of adults).

I actually confided that I was nervous and told them I was counting on their questions to carry me through so please don’t let me down. And I have to say, I was blown away by them. They asked the best questions I think I’ve ever received at a talk.

Here’s a sampling of what was asked:
1) What happens if you can’t sell a book to a publisher?
2) How do you know if a writer’s idea is a good one?
3) If Hollywood has bought the film rights, does the author get a share in the profit?
4) Can you publish your book yourself or do you have to have a publisher?
5) How do you decide if the cover art is good?
6) Do publishers show animation for cover concepts?
7) What happens if more than one publisher wants the book?

There were more but this is what I can remember. I’d do a talk for that age group again in a heartbeat.

One Picture Really Can Say It All

STATUS: Today is MLK holiday! I’m only in for the morning and then heading out to do a nice hike as the weather is good here.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VALENTINE by Kina Grannis

Hey readers. Sorry about the blog silence starting on Wednesday. I had to go out of town unexpectedly for a funeral and there really was not time to write. I actually didn’t even open my computer except on the plane ride to and from.

On a MUCH lighter note. Jamie Ford attended the Pulpwood Book Queens 11th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza!

I pretty much think this picture says it all!

Jamie (on right) with Sam Barry of Rock Bottom Remainders

Need more great shots? Click here.

And if that costume wasn’t enough, we just found out on Friday that Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet made the USA Today’s Best-selling Books: The top 100 for 2010 list.

Hotel came in at #84. Huge Congrats Jamie!

For that, I’d put on an Alice and Wonderland costume….

Every Topic Under The Sun

Status: New Macbook at home is messing with the font size on blogger. I’ll keep fiddling.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SECRETS by One Republic

I’ve been blogging for four years going on five. Some days, it just feels like I’ve covered every topic there is to talk about in Publishing. Most questions we receive have already been answered once on the blog and can be found in the archives.

Seriously, some days when I’m walking Chutney to work, I’ve gotta dig deep for a blog topic. *grin* But in all my years of agenting, NLA has never given a first pages workshop. Now I’ve done an occasional one at a conference but never through the blog or the agency directly.

Which is why Sara decided to take it on! Remember when I decided to do a Writers Digest Webinar a couple of months ago? We got great feedback and participants said it was valuable.

So given the positive response, Sara decided to give a webinar she has long wanted to entitled START YOUR STORY RIGHT. And the bonus? After the webinar, you get to submit the first 3 pages of your manuscript for a critique to see if your opening pages make the cut.

When we did the query Webinar, we had over 200 participants and we read every query submitted for critique. That took hours.

I think she might be crazy but hey, if you’ve ever wanted feedback on your opening, here’s your chance!

Click here to register for Sara’s Webinar.

2010 Comic Con Pics–Take 2

And It’s not Comic Con without great costumes and terrific booth displays. Here are a couple more shots to give you a sense of the convention as a whole.

Some examples of the Booth displays!

Steampunk hat shop.

DC Comics booth

Lord of the Rings dolls. Couldn’t resist taking this shot. Wow. As you can imagine, the dolls were not inexpensive.

2010 Comic Con Pics

STATUS: 589 emails in the inbox. Yep, that sums up my day. Thank goodness it’s a holiday in New York.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GET TOGETHER by YoungBloods

As promised, pictures from comic con. Friday wasn’t even the “busy” day and it was packed.


Marianne Mancusi at entrance of the convention


Mari holds her Night School poster in the Penguin Booth. Four and half years after initial publication of the first book–Boys That Bite–the series is taking off. Last year, Penguin rebranded the covers and rereleased the first three books and then published book 4 in the series. Night School is book 5 in the series. It will release in January 2011.

Got to have the gratuitous agent/author shot in booth!

Orbit Publicist Jack Womack holding up SOULLESS paraphernalia at Orbit booth.

Nice shot of me with SOULLESS poster in background.

Close-up on the Poster.