Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Conference while in query limbo

Conference while in query limbo...
(Or how to make the best of purgatory)

Ah, spring. Full of flowers, baby animals, and a writer’s hopes and dreams…
In March, I registered early for a major writing conference. At the time, I was querying one manuscript with bright-eyed excitement and hoped to have another finished before the conference in August.

Now, it’s late July, and while I currently still have fulls out on my finished MS, I’ve stopped querying it, and my WIP is not quite ready for primetime yet.

How do I make the best of the pitch session I registered for while in this limbo?

The Long
Should I keep pushing the finished manuscript because it’s done, this is a pitch session, and more potential requests on a finished MS are always better?

The Short
Or, is there a point in the querying process of one MS where it makes sense to move forward and try to use the opportunity to get feedback for the new work in case the current one doesn’t work out? ( I know we shouldn’t pitch an unfinished MS.)

The Hedge
Should I do both with different agents?
As always, thanks for helping us minnows navigate the waters.

The best choice is to ask the agent which one they want to hear about.

If they say either one, consider how much time you have.
I know some conferences have three-five minute slots for pitches.
That's barely enough time to say hello, let along alone get any kind of substantive work done.

For those short sessions, talk about your new work.

If you have longer, more than five minutes, you might use this to get eyeballs on the first pages of your ms.  If you haven't had any bites, getting feedback might be very valuable. Bring actual printed out pages (double-spaced, single sided, TNR 12) with a paperclip not a staple.

Some agents may elect NOT to read; if that's the case, pitch the new ms.
If they do read, take notes on their comments.

Some big problems with pages can be the story starts too far along in the  pages, tepid language and homonyms. If these are bedeviling your ms, it's good to find out.

If those aren't the problem, well you know it's something else.

And don't kick yourself for not meeting your schedule. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline.

The other alternative is just to chat with the agent and not pitch at all. Explain you are in limbo, and ask what kinds of things they're particularly on the hunt for. Ask what books they've read and loved recently.


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"Creativity doesn't follow a timeline" is a magnificent piece of advice that I, for one, need to keep in mind.

If nothing else, Opie, have fun at the conference!

Kitty said...

Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline. Creativity doesn't follow a timeline....

Must stitch that on a pillow. Or something. Thank you :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Eeeek, the insanity of a pitch session. I would show up with paper-clipped pages and a bottle of Imodium. I would hope my shoes matched and my nails were clean. (What nails, they’d be chewed to nubs.) The only thing more stressful would be the results of an IRS audit.

Sit down, chat, and kiss ass. That’s what I would do if I signed up, which I would not do, so I’m feeling pretty relaxed.
Do what Janet says. (How’s that for a cop-out answer?)

Colin Smith said...

I tried to kick Creativity out of bed this morning. Nothing doing. Just rolled over and snored. Apparently there was quite the party and I wasn't invited. Creativity says she'll get back to me when she's good and ready. And maybe sober. :)

More great advice from Janet. I've not been to an in-person conference, so I've not yet experienced the joy of a pitch session. Making it fun, useful, and memorable (while remembering to wear trousers--gah! I've been reading too much Jeff Somers lately...) seems the ticket.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

An amen to that "creativity does not follow a timeline". No kidding. I am headed to a conference in a couple of weeks and was hoping to have my WIP with beta readers and pitch the new book. I don't think I will be done with revisions.

On Saturday, I meant to be working on revisions. Five minutes in, I hit a thread that I thought belonged in another book. Before I knew it, it was evening. I had spent the whole day working on another book. Same thing happened Sunday but to a lesser degree. Sunday had me battling with italics or not italics which you folks kindly helped me with,

I did better yesterday. However, I found a structural problem that requires a great deal more revision. I had hoped to be querying by end of September. Not sure I will make it. Probably won't.

Focus does not seem to walk hand in hand with creativity either. I love my WIP. It's quirky and fun and terrifying, but it's not quite baked yet. That is what the editor I hired told me. It definitely could be published but it needs work. Yes, it does. The kind that requires intense concentration and creativity to make the thing rise.

I suppose I will simply be honest with agents at my pitch session and do as the Queen suggests. Find out what they are looking for and work on my query plan. At least I can find out which agents might truly be a good fit for me, and which ones are not.

Ugh, why does this take so long? *Tears hair out. Rends garments*

AJ Blythe said...

Sage advice as always. Whatever you do, OP, don't cancel your pitch. You still have 3 to 5 minutes one-on-one with an agent so make the most of it. They are your captive audience for that time *cue evil chuckle*. Good luck (and make sure you relax and enjoy the meeting).

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I'm another fan of Janet's quote Creativity doesn't follow a timeline.

E.M.: writing the draft of a story is like knitting in the dark, isn't it? (It is for this not-yet-debut writer.) Then when a light shines on the finished sweater/jumper, we start finding all these dropped stitches/the structural issues in our WiP.

Mister Furkles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MA Hudson said...

I like the idea of getting some professional eyeballs on your query letters. Give them the old one and the new, even if you have to bash it out tonight. It's a great opportunity to get advice.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

This is why I've allowed fifty years for my Fifty Year Plan. Should be able to get most of the books i want to write done by then.

Megan V said...

"Creativity doesn't follow a timeline" is just what my heart needed to hear this morning and yet, even creativity must adhere to a deadline. Or mustn't it?

I just can't wrap my head around it I guess.

Anyways, wonderful advice as usual. Best of luck OP.

kathy joyce said...

Homonyms? I assume this means don't use the wrong one. Or, is there another rule I've missed (like not using prologues, "ly" words, italics...)

Sherry Howard said...

I had a great pitch session recently where I took, printed out, three books, either the short pitch or the full query. The agent speed read through all of them, briefly discussed each, and then asked for the full of one FIRST. Then we still had a lot of time to chat. It was a wonderful, stress-free visit, and I think having the printed information worked to my advantage with THAT agent. I suspect that could vary a lot from agent to agent.

Good luck, OP, and I think the best advice is to be prepared and then appreciative. I can't imagine how exhausting that day is for the agent!

Robert Ceres said...

The Pope banned limbo. Thank heavens. Limbo lasts forever. I'll take Purgatory any day. (As an aside, my parents live on Purgatory Road, so, for that reason plus a few suspended submissions, I am all familiar with Purgatory.)
If I were at any pitch session, in a conference, in this situation I would be tempted to:
1. do polite introductionsi,
2. ask permission to try out or get feedback on two log-lines for book one and two,
3. have the first few pages from both, just in case, and,
4. see how it goes!
If only I could afford a conference. Sigh.

Robert Ceres said...

And Sherry, wow, Wow, WOW! Good luck.

BJ Muntain said...

EM: You're the OP? You're going to have a great time at your conference!

Are you able to contact the agent at all before the conference? Are they on Twitter? You could ask ahead of time which they'd prefer, and then you could prepare your pages - and yourself - for that. Especially if the pitch session is only 3 to 5 minutes.

A move does tend to put many timelines out of whack.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

BJ I am not the OP. I am simply in the same boat as OP. More or less. I do wonder if OP is going to same conference? I am going to WDC in New York.

Janet Reid said...

A typo "once in a great while"???
I'm rolling on the floor here.
More like every single day.
I'm always glad to hear about them from eagle-eyed readers.

BJ Muntain said...

Okay, then. OP: read my above note to EM for my advice. You, too, will have a great time at your conference.

EM: Good luck! I wish I could afford a conference this year. And WDC seems to be a fun conference. Also: I love visiting NYC, and I try to use any visit as an excuse to go to a conference or something writing-related there. I hope next year will be better that way.

Kathy of the Best Last Name: Using the wrong homonym is one of Janet's pet peeves. :)

Craig F said...

I have never been to a writing conference. I still hold out hope to not get to one until I am invited. I have been to many other kinds of conferences and symposiums, et al.

From those I know one thing. Even though you are there with people of like mind, who are fun over drinks or dinner and will flatter the shit out of you, they are your competition. They want your piece of a limited resource.

I would not go into such a situation unless I had all of my ammunition in a magazine and ready to fire. If you are the fantasy type, a full quiver.

It is true that creativity doesn't follow a timeline, it also doesn't adhere to deadlines. You will have better reception from an agent if you can show that you have more than one book in you. Be prepared to discuss your WIP. One question that almost always comes up with an agent is "What else have you got".

kathy joyce said...

BJ, Eye don't no how too thank ewe four this information. Know homonyms four Janet. Czech!

John Davis Frain said...

I found that, like a lot of things in life, if you put yourself in the agent's shoes you'll find much less stress. Ultimately, they'd love nothing more than to hear a good story. Since you might be the one to bring it to them, they'll be pretty accommodating.

From what I've noticed, they still prefer you wear pants. But nothing is universal, right?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kathy Joyce

Julie said...

Janet: You. Crack. Me. Up.

Janet (also): Once upon a bedtime - er - con-time story, you gave me this ultra-wise advice (you being you): "It's your time," you said to me, "make the best of it."

Or something very similar.

At the time, I was asking about avoiding puking on the agents and whether it was okay to ask them questions.

Since then, I'm less afraid of them (I've heard you speak enough to know better), but I am still grateful for that (and other) advice. I use it at most cons.

OP, use your time to your advantage. It's your time; you've paid for it. And they are so unbelievably nice (present sharks excluded, wouldn't want to ruin any reputations) and helpful that it would be a shame to lose the OPportunity (see what I did there?).

Be well, all,
(Overusing parentheses today),

Julie said...

And BJ, I respectfully disagree. I have no idea what it means, but I adore Heidi's Knealeness. I'd love to be a duchess.

CynthiaMc said...

RWA was in my back yard one year. I had just won a romance writing contest (on a dare from my sister, who loves them). A friend of mine attended and I got to hang out after hours with her and meet everyone she knew. It was great.

My last conference was because my screenplay made the finals of a competition. That one was terrifying. I was between jobs and wanted to cancel. We really couldn't afford it. Hubby said no, we had saved up. I should go. The friends I made at that one are still friends to this day.

For those of you who don't have it in the budget to go to a conference (me either right now), watch for local events with guest speakers. Our library hosted a book festival a couple of weeks ago with several authors doing panels and book signings, all free. The keynote speaker was Jonathan Maberry, who I knew from Twitter but had no idea he was famous. I just went to support my Twitter friend. He gave a great talk. I bought one of his books, which he signed for me. He was very funny and kind and encouraging of my writing. He is now my favorite author. The book I bought is one of the best I've ever read. Kept me up several nights.

Watch for free events. Sometimes they're priceless.

BJ Muntain said...

Julie: What did I say? Your Grace, Duchess, if I said anything against you, I'm sorry. I can't find anywhere I might have said that...

Cynthia: Ah, free events are wonderful. I go to any that are around here. I even volunteer at the very few we have. But we're a small city, and not much like that happening around here. I attended a workshop at a conference in NYC where Mr. Maberry gave a talk on realistic hand-to-hand fighting. I love that sort of thing, and I learned a LOT.

Julie said...

OK, and at the risk of over-posting AND going OT (OO! Mistress of the acronym!)...

My daughter just figured out why I use Nemo...

She said, "Doesn't that make you Shark-bait (ooo-ha-ha!)?"

Why, yes, kid. Yes, it does. (g)


Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

CRAIG F. - Totally in agreement with a couple of your points. 1. Not having been to a writing conference; waiting to be invited. YES!

And, 2. - Showing the agent you have more than one book in you. YES!

CYNTHIA Mc - Fantastic that you won the romance writing contest and also were in the finals for a later competition, and especially, to have such a wonderful supportive hubby; lovely :)

Anonymous said...

I'll be at the WD conference too - seems like we should have some sort of Chum identifier. Do you think a bleeding neck wound would be too formal?