Why Do Agents go to Writers’ Conferences Anyway???
So it’s Valentine’s Day, and whether or not you have someone to celebrate with, you can help me celebrate my one year anniversary with one of my clients, Kasie West (isn’t Kasie hot?? But check her out and then make sure you come back because I have a lot more to say).
I feel like I haven’t talked about Kasie very much on this blog (probably because I haven’t) or her book PIVOT POINT (which is coming out with Harper Teen in Winter 2013 (probably because I haven’t done that either)), but if you ever met me in real life, especially back around the time when I first read Kasie’s book, or when I was pitching/selling Kasie’s book, or when I reread Kasie’s book, or when I reread it for the gazillionth time just because I loved it so much, or even now, you would probably have heard me say a thing or two or two million about Kasie’s book.
Did I mention that I loooooove PIVOT POINT??? Um, because I do. And HA! I’ve even read the sequel (which is also awesome, but let’s not go there right now).
Anyway, Kasie came into my life at a time when I felt really busy. Not so busy that I had closed to queries, exactly, but I was reallllly feeling stretched to capacity. But man, I loved her query. And I loved those 5 pages. I went straight to a full, and I almost NEVER do that.
What’s my point? Basically, it’s just that PIVOT POINT is awesome and that Kasie West is someone you should be following if you aren’t already.
Wait, that’s actually not at all my point.
There will be tons more on PIVOT POINT in the days, weeks, and months to come. I heard that some people who met Kasie at a conference this past weekend got a special sneak preview of her gorgeous cover. Like, it is one shibumi cover. Seriously.
But that’s not the point of my post either.
My point is that in honor of Valentine’s Day, and our anniversary, Kasie decided to give me more work.
Oh, no wait, that wasn’t how she phrased it. I’m sure it had some wonderful praise in there (because she’s really good with the flattery), and then a bunch of questions for an interview on her blog that she’s sharing with a few other awesome ’13 debut writers.
So in a second, I’m going to send you a link over there, but first, I thought I’d give Kasie props for asking a question that I don’t think anyone has ever really asked me before. And since of course I wrote a PhD thesis-length answer on the topic, I thought it would be nice to post it here for all eternity, and then LINK (I’m still really excited about my linking skills–I’m not sure when that will wear off) to the rest of the interview on Kasie’s blog. I wasn’t planning such a long intro, but hey, that’s how I blogroll.
So, without further ado (unless I come up with some more do), here is Kasie’s question, and my unedited answer as provided to her before I had the awesome linking idea.
More do: So here’s where it would be so cool if I knew how to do different fonts or different colors on my blog, but alas, we’ve discussed this large knowledge gap of mine, so I will just have to make do. This is a lot of do, isn’t it?
KASIE: With the whole blogosphere as our playground these days, and knowing you are only a tweet (or twenty….thousand) away, are writers’ conferences worth it? Do you feel like you connect better with writers face to face? (holy crap, I think I changed the color–pink for Valentine’s Day!!! This is clearly Michelle talking even though it’s in Kasie’s designated pink)
MICHELLE: (I thought a whole long thing in red would be sort of annoying but I wanted to share the color fun. I’m Michelle by the way)
Look at you, Kasie, coming in with the hard hitting questions that few journalists dare to tackle…
So there once was a time, early on in my career, when I offered representation to an author and I didn’t really have any good references in that genre to provide. I actually don’t even remember who the client was anymore, but I do remember that she said oh that’s ok, I spoke to a friend of mine who met you at a conference and she said you were fabulous, and also that you were tiny (I included the tiny part so you would know I’m not making this up, even though the fabulous part totally sounds like something I would say about myself).
And there was another time, when an author was about to sign with me and I asked if he wanted references, and he said no, I read about you in the chat room from the XYZ conference which I had, indeed, just attended, and they all said great things.
Now in both cases (and these were both probably close to 6 years ago), I had been building my own relationship with these authors through email and phone calls and my own readings of their manuscripts, but still, there was outside confirmation that I wasn’t some total wackadoo in person.
And I used to feel that this was a huge benefit of going to writers’ conferences. That even if I didn’t meet someone there, that the writing community is small, and that by going, I’d be spreading goodwill and building my reputation as an agent. I feel, to a large extent, that Twitter and blogging, etc. do take care of that role, to the point where authors can learn a lot about an agent from their online presence (or lack thereof), and interact directly with them.
However, conferences have also been a great place for me to meet other agents and editors. Of course, since I’m in NYC and meet editors regularly, I can limit my travel for this, but still, I often meet new industry people at conferences.
So why still go to conferences then?
Well, I actually kind of like them. This is a job where we have to be ruthless. And we say no A LOT. But don’t forget, there are people saying no to us too (those pesky editors, grrr). And believe me, by the time I love something enough to take on a client, send a manuscript out, and an editor (or even more than one!) says no, I take that very personally.
This can be a difficult business and sometimes a depressing business. So for two days, I get to be more encouraging than I normally am, which is actually more my general nature. In those two days, I haven’t read your work in advance; I don’t know anything about you except what you tell me, and you know what? I can’t tell anything from that. Someone who has a poised, polished pitch might be a terrible writer, and someone who’s nervous as anything might be a genius on the page.
I see conferences as the time when I can encourage everyone to follow their dreams. Who am I to tell you that your 150K word manuscript is too long? I might mention it sounds a bit long, but I always say that yours could be the exception. And it could be. I’m not there to shoot down dreams.
What published author didn’t at some point feel that it was nothing but a dream? I don’t know which person in that room is going to be the one. Or the two. Or the ten.
So I enjoy connecting with writers on that level, hearing about their hopes and dreams and ideas, and I hope that I’m able to give them some advice and maybe make this process a little easier.
Tell me what you think about this in the comments (because I love comments), and then go check out the rest of my answers (I swear they are shorter) on Kasie’s group blog the Lucky 13’s! And comment there too, of course.