Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everything YOU Wanted to Know About CONFERENCES and the NY TRIP

Alrighty, so there were some fabulous questions asked of me from the last post. Not surprisingly, of course, most of you wanted to know about conferences!

Here are my answers:


Is it something you'll have to do regularly, or doesn't it make much of a difference whether you're an agent in San Diego or NYC? I've always been curious about the logistics of being an agent outside of New York.

It's something I plan to do once per year. This was my first official trip out, and thus (I'm hoping) the craziest logistically. But, to answer your other question, no, it doesn't make a big difference - as long as I'm still attending conferences where I meet MANY editors and emailing, twittering, and talking on the phone to editors to know their tastes. It's just so much fun to finally meet in person and get some face-time with someone you've been corresponding with for over a year! It is also nice to literally put yourself in front of these people and say, "Hey look, I DO EXIST!"

What did you learn in your meetings as far as MG goes? What are publishers looking for more of right now? What are they tired of seeing?

I think the biggest thing I took away from this trip was: SEND US MG!!!!!!!!!!! Almost ALL publishers are DYING for MG right now; there is a lot of room for almost any kind, due in part to the huge YA burst.


Why do agents go to conferences? What do they hope to get out of it? And do agents often get new clients out of them?

Well, for me, the biggest benefit is getting to interact with editors I only get to meet in person if I go to NY. But yes, we are absolutely also hoping to get clients out of these conferences - I have indeed signed a client from a conference (yes, I did say A client).

This is, sadly, rare; it's sort of a running theme for faculty to end up asking each other: "Soooo...have YOU ever signed someone from a conference?"

The answer is usually no. Why? Because a big majority of those that attend conferences are brand spankin new writers - which means they have a few betas and (possibly even) manuscripts to go before they really get everything down!

My advice, honestly, is: don't go just to get an agent. It doesn't matter if you meet me in person or not - your writing is what's going to sell you. SO, go instead to HONE YOUR CRAFT. These conferences are invaluable for learning the do's and don'ts, to gathering up the courage to start submitting, to re-igniting your momentum to keep going. You find partners in all your trials and tribulations, and are surrounded for hours and hours by people JUST LIKE YOU: WHO LOVE BOOKS AND WRITING. Who won't look at you slightly pitying and disgusted when you say: I'm writing a book.

Since you probably don't have time to write everything about the one in NJ, what were the high points for you? What were the high points for attending authors? Was there overlap between both sets of high points?

Biggest high point: seeing my clients, Jessica, Natalie and Charlotte. I also truly enjoyed meeting so many wonderful editors, and interacting with conference attendees...who just wanted to chat, not pitch me all the time! I love socializing and ESPECIALLY love sharing what I've learned along the way with others.

I have no idea what people get out of'd have to ask an attending writer! But, I imagine one of the same benefits I get - realizing these big, scary agents (editors) are just cool, approachable people, too. I'm the COOLEST, of course, but....

Any plans to attend the AZ one?

No. We have to be invited to these puppies. ;) You can see what I'm attending on my EVENTS tab.

Besides free books, what is the best sort of SWAG you like getting at conferences?

Bags - totes or otherwise. I SO do not need them, but I love them. Pens. Awesomely unique things that I won't just throw away - like a bottle opener shaped like an antique key with the title of your debut Steampunk *hinty hint*. BUTTONS - love fun ones that don't just have your title on them, but maybe a cute, spunky reminder that has to DO with your book or genre.

I have a post on SWAG, actually, you can read more on.

How often do agents go with clients, in person at least, to events like conferences? Or did the meet up just happen on the fly?

I'd say close to never. If I see a client at a conference it's because the clients live in the area I'm attending the conference at, or they decided to attend the conference too.

What do published authors do at these conferences? I understand why agents, editors, and hopeful authors go, but I don't think I've ever heard why established authors make the schlep.

Network. Exchange cards with other aspiring authors for blog/promo team-ups, blurbs, other marketing tips. Meet with editors and (possibly) publicists; it's ALWAYS good to have your name out there in the biz. Promote your book - these writers are eager to hear of your success stories, and a publisher author can often give a workshop or lecture about theirs or something helpful to aspiring authors (who are also POTENTIAL BUYERS). Word of mouth!

What is it like, from an agent's perspective, to hear a pitch from a very nervous aspiring author? What are you thinking as we chatter along? Do you see through our nervousness to the good idea?

Cute. And a little funny. As I've stated before, I literally look like I've just turned 12 and people are nervous to talk to ME. Very odd, but a little endearing.

If I can't see through the chatter, I ask questions to get an idea of what you're talking about - I almost always say yes to a pitch, because for me, it's the writing that decides, not how you talk about it. Which is why I also always say...don't use your appointment to pitch me - come with questions! Come prepared to chat and get to know me better. You can email me your perfect, non-chatty pitch later. ;)

Read more on my take on pitch sessions here, and then go write the perfect pitch!


  1. I like that you prefer to use pitch sessions to chat. It makes sense - writing and speaking are two totally separate skills; someone can be great at one and ghastly at the other.

    I'm going to have to see if I can lobby for an AZ puppy to invite you. I just discovered there is another one in late Oct. also.


  2. Love that you think pitch sessions should be a get to know you type of thing. I'm great with the informal random discussion but I'm pretty sure if I were going to pitch something so important in person...I would totally blow

  3. Well, it's good to hear that even if you aren't the best pitcher, you can still get an agent's attention. There's some comfort in that.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Natalie. So glad to hear that it's the perfect time be a MG writer. Hurry, October. :)

    Amy C.

  5. Thanks for all the info. Hope to attend a conference in the near future.

  6. LOL, you "look like you're 12"!

    Yep, I've heard finding an agent at a conference is rare, too. Just so happens that's how I found mine (woo! Kelly Sonnack of ABLA), but it's a good way to be disappointed if that's someone's focus as a writer. I had 7-8 years of conferences before that happened, myself. I went for the knowledge, to improve. Guess I finally must have. ;o)

  7. Thanks for the insider's peek!

  8. It's funny that you say that about your age. I remember for my first RWA chapter conference, we were warned beforehand, that "all editors are 12." Those were the exact words people kept telling us newbies over and over and over again. So we show up and my first session featured an editor from Bantam (I think?). I remember her name was Stephanie and she looked very, very young. The funny thing was, at the time I was only 26 or 27, so she probably wasn't all that much younger than me, but it struck me that new authors think these people -- these all powerful gods who control our writing careers -- are going to be larger than life. It's very similar to meeting a celebrity in person and feeling stunned that they aren't 70 feet tall. They're human beings, just like us. I think many aspiring authors think of agents and editors like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. (Minus the man behind the curtain!)

  9. Good and another post from you admin :)