Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Night at the Question Emporium

I hope you don't mind that I'm sending you this email. [Would you] be willing to address something for all of the clueless writers in the world. *You know, when you aren't reading 416 contest submissions, representing your current clients, and saving the world of course.

Ok, so ... For a newbie like me, it's very discouraging to keep running into road blocks like "its best if you meet me at a conference." In my personal case, I can't afford most of the conferences, I missed the most recent one in SF, and the next one that is even somewhat close to me is sold out. So, I've had to chalk those particular agents up to 'never going query.'

Now, in a seemingly opposite point of view, I follow a lot of agents on Twitter, and a couple of them have been tweeting about all the authors that are randomly approaching agents at Bologna, as though it is a VERY negative thing. Having never been to a conference, I have no idea what it even looks like, so I could be way out of line in saying that isn't that conflicting information? "You must only meet me at a conference. However, don't you dare approach me." I'm confused. (Now, that's not to say I would condone interrupting an agent's night out for sushi, but randomly approaching an agent in the hallway OF the conference seems the only option.) Right?

Again, I've never been to any conferences, so maybe they have a specific 'meet and greet' type of thing that I'm unaware of. But seeing how agents are unhappy about this happening right now in Bologna, maybe many authors are confused like me. (Who knew!?) I thought, maybe, just maybe you'd drop some knowledge on us, and possibly save the sanity of a fellow agent in the process. :-)

There's a key piece of information you don't have yet: Bologna is NOT a writing conference. It's a trade show. So is BEA. So is ALA (American Library Association).

That means that agents are there to work their REAL jobs: selling.  They are not there to meet/help writers.

The same is true for some fan conventions like Bouchercon and Malice Domestic.

When an agent says they like to meet authors at conferences they mean writing conferences like:

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Grub Street's Muse in the Marketplace
PennWriters annual conference

Those are places that pay my expenses to attend (BEA, ALA, Bouchercon and Malice do not) and in return, I offer my time and knowledge to the attending authors.  I prefer you not pounce on me with your novel, but it's an ok place to say hello and expect as pleasant a response as I'm capable of (varies by hour of the day.)

Now back to saving the world.


William Plante said...

Not about writer's inconvenience. It's the agent's convenience. Challenge - proving you're not a robot.

Lauren B. said...

Thanks for the clarification. When those outside the publishing industry read these names in passing it's definitely not clear right off the bat what all these conferences are.

I am confused though by the questioner's premise that he or she can't query an agent unless he or she has met them in person at a conference. Or am I missing something?

Smooth Oper8r said...

The annual "Thrillerfest" in NYC is a good venue for potential authors to meet agents. One entire afternoon is given over to "agentfest," when all 63,823 attendees (ok, maybe the real number is closer to 400) rotate, "speed-dating" style, around the desks of the 30-or-so agents who are gracious enough to attend, all of whom are actually seeking fresh authors & projects. At each desk, attendees get 20 seconds to give the agent his/her pitch, then the agent gets to ask piercing follow-up questions ("are there any zombies in the plot-line?" "can you send your full by Friday?" "have you had a CAT scan recently?") Google "thrillerfest" and check it out.

Unknown said...

@Lauren, There are a lot of agents who at various times of the year or under varying circumstances do not accept unsolicited queries. Yet even those agents will accept queries from conference attendees where the agent has been on faculty.

So if an agent says that you can't query unless you meet them at a conference, that's probably what's going on; they're closed to unsolicited but will accept from conference attendees.

Editorial Anonymous said...

This conference is only Children's, and semi-secret... but since you mentioned SF

The Writer Librarian said...

Very useful...without this post I may have unknowingly bothered an agent at ALA without knowing their real purpose for being there. Definitely saved me some unnecessary embarrassment!

Jessa Russo said...

Thank you, Janet! (Is it weird that I am excited to have made it on the blog? LOL! It's like I'm famous now.) ;-)

To clarify for Lauren, Christopher was correct in his response. I found someone I really wanted to query, but the website said "Closed to Unsolicited Queries" ... thus, breaking my heart and crushing my dreams. I contacted the agent about and she said it would be best to meet her at a conference, but I *could* send her a query if I'd like. Well, I haven't yet. I feel like now I'm THAT person who wants to send an unsolicited query. You know what I mean?

Plus, until my crappy query gets posted on QS and completely brutalized and mangled, I don't feel confident to query someone who isn't even accepting queries right now. My query better be the next best thing since sliced bread to feel comfortable doing THAT.

Anyway, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my question, Janet. From the responses, I'm happy to know I've helped clear it up for at least one other person. YAY!

Kristin Laughtin said...

Check the query guidelines at the agent's website. Saying "it's best to meet me at a conference" may just mean the agent is likely to get a better feel for your book and want it than if you were just one of dozens of query letters. Unless the website says the agent is closed to queries, that doesn't mean you CAN'T send them a query instead. You'll just have to make sure it's a really stand-out one. Plenty of authors get agents this way, so it's not impossible.

(Unless, as several others have mentioned, the website says the agent is closed to queries at the moment.)

Judith Gonda said...

"I prefer you not pounce on me with your novel, but it's an ok place to say hello and expect as pleasant a response as I'm capable of (varies by hour of the day.)" LOL. Note: Always carry chum in pocket when trying to get chummy with a shark:)

Joelle said...

I just want to say that I've had two agents and multiple offers both times (love mine now...not ever changing if I can help it), but I have never been to a conference. I was pulled out of the query/slush by ALL of the agents who I've ever talked to.

Also, a tiny bit of unsolicited advice to the person who sent this in based on above comment. The sooner you lose the "agent of your dreams" mentality, the better off you'll be. Really. All you need is the RIGHT agent, and the right agent for you is accepting queries now or will be when you're ready. Good luck! You can do it.

jan said...

Excuse me for blowing your cover...but, underneath the snarky veneer, you have been welcoming and generous each time we've met at a conference. (Just to let people know...)

Janet Reid said...

Jan, that odd sound you hear is a shark swimming up behind you ready to chomp.