Monday, May 04, 2015

Interacting with agents in the wild

Last week was filled with revels surrounding the Edgar Awards,  then Malice Domestic. During much of this I was in the same place with authors, published and unpublished, agented, not-agented, ept and inept.  After a week of seeing some good interactions, and more than a few bad ones,  here are some tips on what to do to increase your chances that if you are looking for an agent, your interaction with one you meet in the wild will be a good one.

First, how to introduce yourself.

1. Tell me you read the blog.  It's better if this is actually true of course. As an opening, this is gold, because then I am thanking YOU, and can then ask where you're from and what you write.

If the agent doesn't write a blog, figure out something else, like "I saw your interview in Writers Digest, it was very helpful."

2.  Tell me that QueryShark helped you.  That's a sure-fire winner because then, I can ask you about your book.  This is so much more effective than you leading with "here, let me tell you about my book."

If you start by making it personal and important to ME, you've engaged my interest.  This is the first rule of selling, and if you want to talk to me about your book, you ARE SELLING.

Second, if you want to meet me, here's how to get on my radar at a conference:

3. Be nice to my clients. Often they introduce me to their friends at conferences. Any pal of a client is ok in my book.

4. Give good panel. I attend panels that my clients are on, and if you're fabulous I will buy your books and introduce myself.  How do you give good panel? You read the books of the other panelists, interact with the other panelists in a good way, and are charming. A light-hearted bio always helps.  A willingness to be funny about yourself too.  Not everyone is capable of giving great panel, but it's a great way to get my attention.

5. Win the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript grant. I pay serious attention to this contest.

Third, once the conversation gets started:

6.  Don't mention previous rejections. There's simply no way to reply to that, even if you say it without rancor, with something other than:
"Oh I was deranged, please send it again?"
"Oh did you find anyone who thought it was good?"
"Yea I remember that."

None of these lead to pleasant conversation. Pleasant conversation is your goal here!

Look for another gambit.  The very best one is asking about my clients:
 "How's that amazing Stephanie Jaye Evans?"
"I loved RUNNER!"
"Steve Ulfelder's books knock my sox off."

If you don't have those salvos available (and it's ok if you don't) ask what I'm reading. Ask if I'm having a good conference. Ask me if you can buy me a drink!

Since I too am in a social situation there with you, I am fully prepared to take your opening salvo and return it with gusto; Yes, I'd love a drink. Shall we find a waitress? What do you prefer?  or I'm exhausted I had to catch a 7am train! How did you get here? Where are you from?

See how that works? Now we're having conversation, and I don't want to eject you from my table because you started out with that stupid "hey you rejected me" thing.

Fourth, be attuned to setting

7. Don't interrupt a meeting. ASK if you're not sure. I was always glad to say "no, you're not interrupting" this weekend at Malice. I'm much more likely to be in a meeting if you see me talking to someone at BEA.  That said, two of my colleagues at Malice were there for LOTS of meetings, so don't ever assume. ASK.

8. Don't hover if I'm talking on my phone. 

9. Don't start a conversation on the way in to the Ladies. Start it when I'm washing my hands.

10. If I'm wandering around looking distracted and anxious, I'm probably trying to find the room I'm supposed to be in in five minutes. Asking if you can help me is a very nice thing to do.

When you look at that list, it's true, it's all about ME. Remember, this is a sales situation. You want my attention. I'm not sure yet if I want yours.

And if this feels one-sided, just remember, I'm in YOUR position at conferences when I'm introduced to or want to meet editors. These tips apply to that situation too.

Above all, remember agents are people. You're just not going to like some of us, and that's ok. I don't like some of us either.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

We are, after all, just people, trying to do a job, live a life and have a good time. If that means waiting for a howdy-do while washing hands, that's great. Just don't shake until you're dry.

AJ Blythe said...

Of course, all of the above is only possible if she's wearing her actual name tag. So the first item on the above list should be:
1. track down b-Nye for the only photo in existence of JR

Anonymous said...

Sounds great Janet! I'll wait in the nearest womens room until you walk in and wash your hands and if anyone questions it, I will refer them to this post... er... maybe that won't work...

Great tips! My personal advice in these situations is to avoid what I politely call word vomit. This would happen in my other profession often. Somehow people thought that the amount of words they spewed in self-praise masked as an answer to the question "what's up with you?" -- gave them some strange form of street cred. But here's how it actually sounded:

Me: Hey man, what's up?

Them: Oh, not much. Just got back from a few dates in Chicago, Indianapolis, and half the East Coast. We toured with Sick New Up-And-Comer Band and it was just CRAZY man... like seriously you missed out. We made 10 trillion dollars and sold about 50 trillion albums. We're basically famous now.

Me: That's cool.

Them: So what have you been up to?

Me: Compared to you? Nothing I guess.

It never failed. The people who talked most always had the least to talk about, always exaggerated and always were trying to win YOU over by word vomiting all over you. And let me tell you, anything vomited on you is not a good step to impressed-ville. It just proved they didn't get it yet.

I think the best thing to do is steer the conversation towards anything BUT work (because who wants to talk about work at home or at a bar with strangers?) and if asked, give the shortest possible answer to the question and ONLY answer the question.

Be a human, but just be respectful. People who say "What's up?" may not want to hear your life story. Agents who say "What do you write?" may not want to hear the entire synopsis of your first ten books.

That's my take anyways!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Excellent advice, and not just at book conferences. It's an important social skill too many people lack. Learning how to listen, to let the other guy have the interesting story or the last joke, is almost a gift you can give, and who doesn't like someone who gives them a gift? But its vital in selling. Selling is ALWAYS about the other guy, what you can do for him, how you can help. And if you don't think you're selling when you're in one of the situations described in the post, you're simply mistaken. In a sense, we're always selling. And listening may be our most important tool.

Julie said...


And AJ, I WILL be doing that, as I WILL be in NYC in Aug (which I know didn't slip certain Carcharodon's electromagnetic-sense....), and it would be absolutely completely and otherwise thoroughly ridiculous for me to have "Please, Please, Please'd" the purse-holder of This Institution (my house) until he said "fine, Fine, FINE! GO!" if I have no idea what Great White looks like until her session.

Of course, I *WILL* be the one front and center with pocket protector and Cross Pen who is there half an hour early. You know that. (Scratches head)... Actually, there will be lots of people doing that, won't there? Maybe I should be an hour early. What kind of coffee do you like? Donuts? Should I spike your coffee with Scotch? It's pretty early in the morning, but if you want, I'm happy to... (cough) <---- Vomment



It must be Monday. I love Mondays. Everyone goes away and I can write, free and unfettered. And puke up my dysfunctions onto the blog...

(Raising my Right Hand)

On My Honor, I Will Try:
1) Not To Attack You In The Bathroom With Anything More Than Wide Eyes And A Hoarse "I'm Gonna Need A Bigger Stall."

2) To Remember The Do's And Don'ts Of Short Pitch Video You Put On The Web (BTW, it's really (REALLY) worth watching if you haven't seen it)

3) Not To Faint At Your Station

4) If I Faint At Your Station, Not To Puke

5) To Obey All Standard Laws Of Courtesy (this is actually Number 1, but I was trying to be amusing)

6) To Remember That We Are Both Professionals (although We Are Not Good People)

7) To Be Friendly Without Being Overly Casual

8) Not To Be Creepy (I will therefore NOT bring up the fact that I know what cat food you buy and where you buy it) (I don't, actually - I don't have the faintest idea if you have a cat, I put this here as a sort of guide to people who are creepy, having met a few On Platform)

9) To Remember Why I Wrote My Book, Why I Am The ONLY Person Who Can Write My Book, And Why You Are The Best Person To Help Me Get It OUT There


10) To Resuscitate You In The Unlikely Event That You Do, In Fact, Require Emergency Assistance - OR - To Inform You Of Any Special Or Unique Qualifications I Might Have (in my case, an MD, which isn't much use in writing historical novels, but will be of great help when you are so stunned by my brilliance that you fall over in cardiac arrest).

And I'll also try to remember all of the above should I actually see you at the bar or in the elevator.

Lagocephalus lagocephalus lagocephalus

Colin Smith said...

Oh my! I have been wondering about the lovely and amazing Stephanie Jaye Evans, and I did enjoy RUNNER, and I'm currently reading PURGATORY CHASM!!! :D Does this mean Janet will maybe cross all social barriers and speak to a Carkoonian exile?

Favorite line from PURGATORY CHASM (so far): "Everybody under forty looks... unfinished." I know exactly what he means.

Seriously, though, this is very helpful to those of us woodland creatures who struggle with social interaction. I've heard it said many times that the best way to engage someone is to take an interest in them, so clearly that advice holds true here.

Though, to AJ's point, I think my first question to Ms. Shark will be, "Are you Janet Reid? I mean, really?" :)

Unknown said...

Social skills + sincere interest in others that isn't rabid or stalkery; always in good form.

Julie said...

Re: Malice Domestic: Oooo... Is it rolling? i.e., if I use ALL the time between now and 11/1 (the date on the website says 11/1), as I'm inclined to, to make it the best it could possibly be, is that to my advantage? Or is speed to my advantage?


Nema Toad

Lisa Bodenheim said...

MB Owen: Yes. Good form.

Now, if I ever make over my first hurdle, going to New York City (though I spent several hours in the airport...does that count?) then I can attempt this second hurdle. Though I could skip that first hurdle and just go to a writing conference elsewhere. Baby steps, y'know?

Aside to the Shark: in The Blog Glossary your quick typing fins came up with this new word as part of the Vomment definition--Origiannly

Panda in Chief said...

What DO you want to drink? Coming right up!

Jed Cullan said...

Pretty certain I'm going to get some funny looks, or arrested, if I hang around in the toilets waiting for you to wash your hands.

Think I'd stand a better chance, and be less conspicuous, hanging out at the urinals and waiting for Brooks to come in and pee.

Janet Reid said...

Lisa, thanks for the heads up. Spell czeching the glossary is hilarious. I missed that one in a SEA of yellow highligts (Carkoon, vomment, etc!)

S.D.King said...

If I drank, the plan would be: hang out at writers' conferences, wearing a prominent "Janet Reid" name tag.
Nobody knows what she looks like, and I could request fulls from everybody. Happy all around. (until Monday morning email at Fine Print.)

Anonymous said...

Ms. Reid doesn't rep my genre, but if I bumped into her one day, I'd definitely tell her QueryShark helped me, because it 100% did......

Susan Bonifant said...

When I was a wee conference attendee, I thought I would faint before I ever got in front of that agent.

I held it together though, sat down and she said, "I just want you to know, yours was the best synopsis I've read this weekend."

True or not, I was stupid-flattered and suddenly able to say all the things I'd practiced in the car.

I know this: she had a consult to get through and now she didn't have to have it with a petrified woodland creature. And, she was plain kind.

Agents, they're just like us.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Malice Domestic looks enticing to say the least. I see they give awards for different categories, even non-fiction. I'm glad you posted this because when you said you were there I was sure you'd jumped a train to go to a bar in Bethesda called Malice Domestic.

Great list of Dos and don'ts. I'll print these out and paste them to my forearm as a cheat sheet when I plan to a meet you at a conference.

This morning I reread all the comments from the WIR and some questions came to mind. I'll vomment them here and hope I'm not sent to Carkoon for highjacking.

All the comments about Fan Fic and copyright infringement spurred me to wonder how agents and publishers deal with it. What is done to protect the rights? A self-pubbed author should consider this before publishing. They stand alone. But the team who sells a book and represents an author and their own investments (the publishing house), what do they do? What about audiobooks put illegally on Youtube? What happens? Does the author-agent-publisher team hire lawyers and sue, actually receive money?

I searched your blog archives for 'copyright infringement' and found one entry from Jan 14, 2011.

Brenda Buchanan said...

It was terrific to see you at Malice, Janet and to meet the fabulous Stephanie Jaye Evans, too!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post and timely, given so many conferences are coming up. I'm glad you got to go to the Edgars and maliced the domestic.

Yes, when you first mentioned going an image of you threatening a poor maid wearing a black uniform complete with white apron and caplet popped into my head.

Remember the story about the rude woman at the panel complaining she didn't even know who Janet was and why was she even there? Yeah, that's not the way to impress any agent. I'm sure that story made the rounds of the conference quickly.

Remember the story about the guy interrupting Diana Gabaldon and me while we were talking? Yeah, I've watched people interrupt agents the same way. Trust me, the question about what they think about publishing can wait.

An invitation to submit to Jennifer Jackson started with a drink and some pleasant conversation in a bar, none of which had to do with my book to begin with. Most of it was about romances, which I don't write, but we were just enjoying a pleasant quiet time conversation.

If you're going to a conference, you should have studied who's going to be there like you're on a Mission Impossible. Then, even though you know who all the stars are, you should treat everyone like a star, right down to the waitress and maid. Maybe them most of all.

At Denver we bought gourmet cupcakes and at night we'd set them out on a table in the lobby and sit around just telling stories and laughing. It's amazing how many agents and authors wandered by and joined us. Laugh kills lonesome as they say.

On the flip side, for the sake of all that is holy don't be depressing. Criminy. Lisa, one of the Gnomies writing group, dragged two women over to me one night to visit. The whole group had been hunkered down in the bar earlier telling stories and drinking.

I'd had a few beers since I was in stupid story telling mode that night.

So Lisa brings over these two middle-aged ladies and says, "Julie, Ann has this fascinating story, but agents just keep rejecting her. What do you think is wrong?" (We'll call her Ann to protect the innocent and because I can't remember her name.)

So Ann starts telling her story. She'd been a devoted wife for years. Her husband got deathly ill, she nursed him through it. She stayed by his side through thick and thin, then he dumped her for a younger woman. Her friend chimes in and tells how devoted Ann was and agrees she was the perfect wife. They keep prattling on about how he done her wrong.

Then, out of the blue, almost as an afterthought she says, "So when they had the typhoon in Malaysia I went to help with relief work. I stayed and helped the women make stationery from elephant dung to make money for their families. Want to see some?"

Being philosophical, I said, "Because that story is boring. Millions of women get dumped by ungrateful husbands. Your story starts with the typhoon and you're burying it under all that depressing stuff."

I imagine this was exactly the way she'd been pitching the book and it was small wonder no one wanted it.

Even after we finished talking about the book, the conversation continued on about how he done her wrong. I excused myself, saying I had an appointment to get my wrists slashed.

At least pretend to be happy.

I know a woman who nursed her husband through cancer. Then when she got it, he dumped her. Since she was told she was dying, she decided she wanted to drive a race car as a bucket list thing. She miraculously survived and drives race cars professionally today.

Don't whine.

I'd also suggest not taking pictures of people without their permission. Some people are very private and don't want you taking their pictures. Be polite.

Anonymous said...

1) Great to be invited to sit at a table and be introduced to you at Malice by a friend,
2) Great to share time laughing about your train ride, blog, snarkiness, and brutal honesty, and
3) Great to talk seriously about your train ride, blog, snarkiness, brutal honesty, and beloved late dog.
Regret: We didn't meet again when you were washing your hands.
Promise: Make that trip to Birmingham and I will show you two sinks that you will never forget. Debra

Susan Bonifant said...

Yes, what Julie said. Don't be a downer.

If you have to be a downer, don't talk in a monotone.

If you have to be a downer and talk in a monotone, don't make missile-lock eye contact.

The don'ts really are pretty straightforward, I think. Don't suddenly go to a conference and become a person you yourself would find off-putting.

Julie said...

Vomment: P'raps some of you might mention how I have this awesome ability to turn everyday occurrences into life-threatening EVENTs?

Just wondering.

As an interesting, perhaps related, side question, WHY don't manufacturers put "How To Open" instructions on those bloody plastic packages?!?

You know what will happen at that conference? I won't be a downer - I'm not like that.

What I'll be is a natural disaster masquerading as someone with coffee and a small snack. And a laptop and a smile. :)

Watch out.

(If you and I do survive that - whoever you might be - I do have some good stories. I tell good stories. The question is whether I manage to WRITE them - and that is something COMPLETELY different.)

Babel Fish

Julie said...

The evidence of the crime is posted on my Pinterest. Stupid bloody packaging.

Julia Hoover
(Blood In The Water)

Anonymous said...

Well, I sounded rude in that post, but it was so frustrating to have a woman with a wonderful story. The real story really was quite fascinating, but she had it so deeply buried no one saw it.

Megan V said...

Thank you QOTKU :)

And I third what Julie Weathers say. Don't be depressing and watch it with those pictures. Please please be sensible about the pictures. You never know how photo-mongering may backfire.

Back in college I was friends with a girl people constantly mistook for someone else. We went out of town for a competition and one morning, as we rushed from our hotel, this slick selfie lady leaped in front of us with a "Hey! Aren't you___?!?!?!" and then flashed us (with a camera). So stunned were we that we skidded to a halt and crashed.

Into that morning's judges.

_After_ we drenched them in a wicked combination of hot chocolate and coffee.

Luckily, they were pretty understanding about it. But selfie lady was HORRIFIED. As it turned out, she was a coach for the other team.

Anonymous said...


My oldest son used to get mistaken for country singer Clay Walker frequently. We were all at a Golden Corral on night after a rodeo where Brandon had been riding and this little boy kept staring at him. Finally the boy got up and came over to the table and asked him for his autograph. Brandon thought he'd been at the rodeo, so he gave it to him.

The boy looked at it and said, "Who is this?"

"That's me."

"Oh." The boy crumpled it up and threw it away.

The mother came over and apologized for them staring at him all night, but they thought he was Clay Walker.

Brandon and I were in Nashville on a tour thing and people kept taking his picture. I thought, boy aren't they going to be surprised when they find out Clay wasn't even in town.

Of course, he did have a record producer take him to all the private CMA parties. She knew he wasn't Clay, but they struck up a conversation in a little bar and she liked him. Too bad he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.

Julie said...

@Megan - we should meet. If you're the type who douses people with edibles, you and I would probably get along, and perhaps might cancel each other out. On the other hand, we might end up having to alert NOAA (for Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Tidal Waves), the USGS (US Geological Survey - Earthquake Warning System), and NORAD (that one, y'all will have to look up for yourself, because I don't want the Men In Black coming into Milton Public Library and not-so-discreetly escorting me to Gitmo). And maybe the UN. Just in case.


Maybe we can just wave at each other across the room. But not with our coffee in our hands.

Janet, are you CPR trained?

And on another note, bit of a whine, I finally committed to Reacher - and the dang library's series starts at Tripwire, which means I have to requisition and wait. Or pay for it to get it today. And I'm in the exact same boat with the next Louise Penny. Grrr...


Unknown said...

You know why I don't comment often? I'm so easily distracted.

Looked up the Malice Domestic link. Looked up the books that won. Bought a few. Checked my bank account in case I shouldn't have bought any. Read the rules to enter the contest. I don't qualify. Wallowed in self-pity until the waffles popped, then was all happy again. Walked the dog.

That was two hours ago. I only now realized I, once again, forgot to comment. So, here it is.

Great post.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Pointers like this are really important, because situations like this are outside the realm of everyday activities. I guess because I met an astronaut when I was 6, I've had a lifetime of learning how to play it cool with people I thought were really important. Granted, I've never in-person met Bruce Springsteen or Leonardo DiCaprio, so I guess I don't know how I'll actually act until I'm in that situation. Bruce Springsteen likely wouldn't have any bearing on my hypothetical publishing career, no matter how much I love his Born to Run album. An agent would (whether our music tastes overlap or not).

Julie, it sounds like your son could get a gig being a body double for Clay Walker. I read an interesting the other day about how they used to do that for the Beatles, to try and take the heat off them.

(well actually the article was about how the Beatles didn't exist at all, but that was the detail I latched onto)

LynnRodz said...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I see Janet everyday. Her picture pops up when I bring up her blog. Granted it could be a photo of someone else, actually it does look a lot like someone else, but don't we all have a sosie? Brenda and Debra will have to give us the scoop!

Anyway, thanks for the tips on how to see NYC, I'll keep them in mind for my next trip. I celebrated New Year's Eve on Time Square a few years ago. It's a once in a lifetime experience and the reason for that is, no one would be crazy enough to do it twice. The streets are blocked from 2 p.m. and you stand shoulder to shoulder in the freezing cold for 10 hours to watch a ball drop. After 4 or 5 hours you begin to question your sanity. One look at my sister and I didn't have to, we're both crazy. (What can I say, it runs in the family.)

I love the quote from Purgatory Chasm, "Everybody under forty looks...unfinished." If that's the case, I am completely polished with a fine patina. That doesn't mean, however, I want to have my photo taken.

2Ns, I hope your dinner party went as well as mine. When your dinner guests are still there at 2 or 3 in the morning, you know it was a success.

Anonymous said...


Both oldest and youngest are not fond of notoriety. When they were filming Friday Night Lights movie they asked Will to be in the movie and he declined.

Oddly enough there was a man in Fredericksburg, TX who was a Hitler double. He said there were actually several. They did many of the public appearances since Hitler was afraid of assassination.

Julie said...

The only picture I ever see of Janet is grinning in a toothily fearsome way. A way that says "Eating Nemo."

Colin Smith said...

Amanda: I'm trying to get through as many books by Bouchercon attendees as possibly before October just in case I happen to stop staring and actually attempt to engage people in conversation. It's always nice to be able to say, "Oh, I thought SAFE FROM HARM was a great book" to Stephanie Jaye Evans, and that be a true statement because I've actually read it.

I've had PURGATORY CHASM on my shelf for a while, but then I saw Mr. Ulfelder is going to be at Bouchercon, so it jumped up the TBR very very quickly!

If I can say nothing else to anyone at Bouchercon, I want to be able to say with honesty and sincerity any or all of the following:

1) I read your book insert name of book
2) I read your blog
3) I loved your book insert name of book
4) I love your blog
5) Do you know where the bathrooms are?

Hopefully that will avoid the kind of conversation I would otherwise anticipate:

Colin nervously approaches a literary agent and stands within said agent's conversation radius, hoping her woodland creature radar picks up his presence and initiates conversation because his voice has stopped working.

Agent: Oh, hello [reads name tag] Colin. Wait, aren't you the Colin who comments on Janet Reid's blog?

Me: hjhfjhhjdhf [Nods]

Agent: I do enjoy your comments. And didn't you write that "Perfect Agent" poem on Jessica Faust's blog?

Me: fdgfsjhjdf [Nods]

Agent: I think Jessica's here--have you spoken to her? I'm sure she would like to meet you.

Me: dhfjskjdhfs [shakes head]

Agent: Well... umm... have a nice time!

Me: hfjshfksd [Nods]

Agent walks away. Colin stares and nods.

Thanks for the tips Janet. As you can see, they'll come in very useful. :)

Joyce Tremel said...

Janet, I was so happy to see you at Malice! I'm just sad I didn't get back to the bar that night to buy you a drink. Next time, I hope.

Oh, and be very envious everyone. I got a hug from Janet.

Julie said...

Joyce - I'll bring a burpee cloth. Just in case.

Colin - It took me 2 years to get up the guts to vomment here. I've been lurking on two other agents' blogs for about two months. There's no bloody way I'm going to be vommenting there until I get the lingo down, so I suppose... this is it, dude.

LynnRodz said...

Speaking about sosies, I was visiting San Francisco with (get this) ten other family members. Didn't I tell you we were crazy! We rented a bus to run around in. Anyway, we were having dinner at a restaurant one evening and people kept staring at our table. (No, we weren't being rowdy or anything, the matriarch of the family made sure of that.) It's because one of my nephews looks like Johnny Depp. (I think he looks more like Benjamin Bratt, but who am I to argue.) Girls kept passing by and finally, toward the end of dinner, one came over and asked if she could have a picture taken with him.

He told her he wasn't Johnny Depp, but it seemed the more he denied it, the more she was convinced he was with his entourage, plus grandma. He stood up, put his arm around her and had the photo taken. Afterwards, the floodgates opened. All these people kept coming over wanting a picture taken.

Life is not fair! Why can't I be a sosie and look like Selma Hayek or Penelope Cruz?

Joyce, green with envy!

Julie said...

@Lynn - what's a sosie?
The only thing close that I know is Keyser Soze, which brings to mind Kevin Spacey, which I don't think you meant.

But maybe you did.

The Usual Fish

Colin Smith said...

Julia: I have no problem with comments. It's writing, after all. Evidently I can vomment very prolifically (though not necessarily profoundly, nor poetically, but hopefully not profanely). It's actual face to face conversation that's not my forte. :)

S.P. Bowers said...

Looks wise I don't think I've been mistaken by anyone but there was another person with my same name at college and we were constantly getting phone calls for each other. I once went on a date with someone who thought he asked out the other one of us.

Unknown said...

Colin, I sure hope I can get to Boucheron. We can stand in the midst of the beautiful mayhem and mumble together. We can discuss "Safe From Harm" and "Purgatory Chasm" until my husband drags over all kinds of new people he met at the bar, and then there will be a sing-song. Frank always starts sing-songs.

Donnaeve said...

Well, it goes without saying, the list of do's and don't's is sublime.

These tips also remind me of your marketing advice, Ms. Janet. It's about interacting with people in this very REAL way, rather than harping on them about buying a book via repetitive tweets, etc. Make a connection. Make it real, i.e. genuine. And then, if asked? You get to tell. It's about not acting like we're on a one way street - in either case.

Anonymous said...

According to Merriam Webster, a SOSIE is "a person having an exact likeness with another : double". It seems to be originally a French term. Most of the sites Google brought up were either French or about Kevin Bacon's actress daughter, Sosie Bacon.

I'm beginning to wonder if I've been remiss in my politeness training. I'll often start up conversations in the line-up for the washroom. Is this impolite?

Re Brian's 'Agents who say "What do you write?" may not want to hear the entire synopsis of your first ten books.' - I probably go too far the other direction. Someone says, "What do you write?" I shrug. "Science fiction." "Oh." I say, "What do you write?" THEIR answer I can turn into a conversation. I think I'm better at getting other people to talk about themselves than I am in talking about myself. Not that you'd know it from my comments.

When I visit Janet's blog, her picture shows up in the browser tab. She had it on Twitter for awhile, too. It's a simplified version, of course, being drawn like a cartoon character rather than an actual photograph. But I've seen her in actual person, and you know what? That picture looks exactly like her. Look for the cat's-eye glasses. (Now envisioning a bunch of people running around a conference with Janet Reid name tags and fake (or real) cat's-eye glasses...)

The Sleepy One said...

I understand not mentioning rejections, but I'd like a clarification:

1. If an agent read a full from an author but rejected it (versus just rejecting a query), is it okay for a writer to mention it? I might be in this exact situation at a writing conference in June. (Note: I've never queried Janet, so she's not the agent in question.) I also don't want to create an awkward situation.

2. Would the advice change if the agent's rejection on a full also said she wanted you to query her with future projects?

On a side note, I'm happy I followed Janet's advice about how to interact with agents in the wild when I met her at Crimelandia, even though she hadn't posted it yet. :)

Colin Smith said...

The Sleepy One (or rather, The Sleepy One that posted the comment--I realize this title could apply to most in the Shark Tank): My guess would be not to mention it was rejected. I imagine most agents would remember mss they didn't reject. It's very hard to say "you rejected it" without sounding accusatory. The message I'm reading from Janet and the comments is: "Keep it positive and don't be a Debbie/Dennis Downer!" :)

Christina Seine said...

More awesome advice from the QOTKU! Thank you!

Too bad the Shark is too busy to have a side job as an author, because FWIW, I would pay a lot of money to read "TEOTWAWKI: FAQ (Or, When SHTF, don't be FUBAR in NYC)" by QOTKU. Just saying.

@John(Chumbucket): I think you nailed it. Excellent advice. Also, I imagine you to be exactly like the character Casey in "Chuck" and/or Jayne in "Firefly."

I am about the same age as Molly Ringwald, and lived in California when she was making movies like "16 Candles." I guess we looked quite a bit alike, and people mistook me for her sometimes (we had similar haircuts, but hers was red and mine was brown). Once I was standing in line at Disneyland at a cold drink stand, and the cashier was spectacularly slow. We were waiting, and waiting, and waiting ... and at one point I turned to glance at the person behind me in line. I thought, "Gee that girl looks familiar." Anyway, I kind of rolled my eyes and smiled, and so did she. So did the guy she was with, who also looked quite familiar. So I turned back around and tried to remember where I knew them from. No idea. I glanced back again (so subtle!) and finally realized I was standing in front of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall (her geeky pal in several movies). By now people were pointing and taking pictures. I must have smiled rather derpily, as they both had that look like "Yep, it's us. Please don't freak out." We chatted briefly, and when I finally got my cold drink and turned to leave, both of them smiled and said something like, "Bye! Have a good one!" They were great, not snobbish like a lot of the celebrities you see down there. But the word must have got around that they were there, because I had people point at me and take my picture for the rest of the day. I kept swearing I wasn’t her. Frankly, it was a little terrifying. It’s as close to celebrity status as I ever want to get.

Anonymous said...

The Sleepy One,

I wouldn't mention any rejections whether they are on query or full. I tend not to talk about rejections much in public because it's hard to do gracefully and frankly, do you want agents to know they are the 40th on the list on your list of top 35 agents?

There I was sitting on the top rail, drinking beer, and watching the roping one day when a nice looking cowboy ambled up. The Cowboy Ball was coming up and even though I didn't know him, I wouldn't be adverse to going with him and dance a little, maybe get to know him better.

"Hey, there."

"Hey, yourself. Enjoying the roping?"

"Yep, it's pretty good. Nice stock. You know the Cowboy Ball is coming up."

I smiled. "Yes, sir. I had heard that."

"I was going to go but I got all cleaned up, bought ten different girls flowers, took them each out to dinner, bought them drinks, and the whole nine yards. They said I was close, but not quite what they were looking for. It is the Cowboy Ball after all."

"That's a shame," I said, wondering what was wrong with Mr. Perfect and finished my beer.

"Then I just asked fourteen more girls point blank and they said no."

"That's terrible." I reached for another beer.

"So, you looked like you might not have a date. Want to go to the Ball with me?

I pulled out another beer out of the cooler, clambered back up to my rail, and wish I'd bought more beer. "You know, as attractive as that offer is, knowing how much in demand you are and all, I think I'll pass."

Sometime later another cowboy strolls by and stops to visit.

"Hey, cutie."

"Hey, cutie, yourself. How you doing?"

"I collect empty beer bottles. Do you know anyone who might be good at drinking beer and likes to dance?" *wink*

"I might. What did you have in mind?"

"Want to go to the Cowboy Ball with me?'

"Sure. I'll shine my boots."

"I'll bring the beer, what kind do you like?"

Anonymous said...

Although, I would think that, if the agent had requested future projects, The Sleepy One might be able to ask the agent why this project wasn't for her, but a future one might be. As in, what would the agent like to see or not see in a future project.

But following Janet's advice, it would probably be best to wait until you're in an actual conversation about it - either a scheduled pitch or meet session, or a conversation that has gone from pleasant to 'what do you write?' And when you do this, you could keep it positive by saying, "You said you'd like to be able to consider my future projects. I've got this coming along. It's different from the other in this way. While the other X, this one Y."

But again, ONLY if the agent brings up your writing. And probably best after the agent has had a couple drinks or so, and is contentedly mellow.

Anonymous said...

The Sleepy One,

2. Would the advice change if the agent's rejection on a full also said she wanted you to query her with future projects?

If you were invited to contact on future projects, I would certainly mention that. That means they saw merit in your work. You're pretty much going to have to mention why she invited you to contact her with future projects.

Are you approaching the agent with a new project or the same one?

I know you know, but I wouldn't mention any other rejections.

LynnRodz said...

Julia, someone who looks like another person, a double, but it doesn't have to be an identical twin or someone related. "They" say we all have a twin/sosie somewhere in the world. (Lord help mine!) It's a French word, but I thought it was common in English as well.

Karen McCoy said...

The Sleepy One: Great questions. And ditto Sir Colin. I'd be inclined to say I'd just queried the agent, and if they asked about specifics, say that while the full was rejected, that I'd plan to query with my next project (or something like that). But I will defer to the QOTKU for expertise.

My grandfather was a salesman who used to go around the country and give speeches on how to sell better (circa 1950-1960). He died when I was two months old, but I first heard one of his speeches on an LP when I was a kid. In ensuing years, the speech was transferred to cassette, then CD, and it now lives on my mp3 player. He said, "Women make good salespeople because they listen with their eyes." And while I'm sure men do this too, it's a good reminder to try to understand rather than impress.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I can't remember if the word "sosie" was ever used in the course of the novel, but Tana French's The Likeness rather hinges on the concept (and is my favorite book of hers to date though, admittedly, I've missed at least one at this point).

LynnRodz said...

Opps, I see bjmuntain was on her toes while I was away. Thanks bj.

Colin Smith said...

Julie/bj/Lynn/et al: You know, I think you could just say "I submitted my ms to you some months ago, and you invited me to query you with future projects." I would assume most agents are smart enough to read between the lines without you having to spell it out and run the risk of coming off bitter.

Julie said...

So, re that video, seriously. It's worth watching. And I found it right here on This Here Blog whilst lurking quietly In The Coral.

It's called (appropriately enough) "The Elevator Pitch), and was posted 6/1/11 for those of you not wanting to go to the link.

But for those of you who MIGHT want to go to the link to watch the Shark-endorsed-video on how to (and, more importantly, how NOT to) approach agents OUTSIDE the conference hall, here's the vid:

Anonymous said...


Well, I tried to remove stupid Julie story prior to your comment and I can't, sorry. I misunderstood what The Sleepy one was asking, which happens at times and which is why I posted the second post saying I think they will be just fine. If I ever come across as bitter, I ask forgiveness for that. Trust me, some remark on the internet is the very least of my concerns.

Regarding this fascination with tracking down Janet Reid photos, I may be completely out of line, but I'm going to go on a mini rant here.

I despise Google for these very reasons. Anyone can take a picture of anyone else and plaster it on the internet whereupon Google happily sniffs it out for you.

I hate having my picture taken. I realize if I'm ever published I'll have to get over this, but for now I can indulge my distaste. We, meaning my writer crowd, take lots of pictures at retreats and conferences, but we always ask, "Do you mind if I put this picture of you on my blog?"

However, agents and editors are under no mandate to have their pictures plastered everywhere. I'm sure if Janet wanted her picture up, she'd have it on her blog.

I'm probably way out of bounds, but it would irk me if people were busy looking for pictures of me.

Colin Smith said...

Julia's link linkified:

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Amanda, hilarious. So true. But I give myself a time limit or I'll never get any work done. I read the program, the list of books awarded, though I didn't buy any books. I also thought maybe I could write mysteries. D.C. is easier for me than NYC. Then I read the date. If it's in April every year I might be able to go. I'm sure it would be well worth attending even if it is not my genre.

Colin, maybe you can pretend you lost your voice and wear a laptop around your neck, type out your conversations.

Julie, great advice. I don't think you sounded bitter. I have zero tolerance for downers with maudlin missle eye.

(Maudlin is my new favorite word.)

Bitters are good in the right drink. Campari is the best. A Negroni is a bomb. Maybe I'll have one and pretend it's a sosie for cranberry juice.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Speaking of pictures.
A couple of years ago a head-shot accompanied my column (when I wrote for another paper. I was often approached in grocery stores and elsewhere. (Small town). Folks were nice, very polite but one latched on, telling me about what a great writer her son was and did I have advice. Could I help him. (Jeez, I can barely help myself). Anyway, I wanted to tell her that I'd advise he have his mother back off but I smiled, listened, wished her a nice day and told her I had to get back to work. Yes, I was at work at the time.

Now that my word count does not allow space for a pic, I do miss the nice folks, but the crazy ones, too scary.

In today's world I absolutely understand why some folks do not want pics out there. My original pic is on my other blog. Actually I look a little like Ms. Reid, without the dreads, twice her age and with smaller teeth. My scarf is not hiding my fin, I had a fin reduction in my thirties. You know how it is. When it's big you have back problems as you age.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie: No, you didn't sound bitter to me either. Just eminently practical. In my other job, I've had the opportunity to be with certain people who consistently monopolized conversation with nonstop talk. I learned to walk away from them even though it felt extremely rude. There was no other way to leave a conversation in which I no longer wanted to listen to and was not able to be a part of.

Dena Pawling said...

From my own personal experience, I've learned that the more I try to keep from having my picture taken, the more people try to take it. So I just smile and let them take it. Less stressful for me, and it's not worth big bucks when they actually DO take it. I do know other folks don't have that same attitude tho. I feel for folks hounded by paparazzi. Not fun.

Julie said...

The day will come when I shall not overwrite my files.

But it is not this day.

Aragorn Fish

Colin Smith said...

My wife had an interesting insight about the whole picture-taking thing a while ago. Neither she nor I are much into having our pictures taken. Then one day she was looking through old photos of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and it occurred to her how few pictures of us our grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have. And while we might think that a good thing, what if our grandparents and great-grandparents had felt the same way? The pictures are not so much for us, but they're a record for future generations.

Food for thought.

Of course, I respect people's wishes with regard to having their picture taken, and especially with regard to posting pictures on my blog or on Twitter. Even Facebook, though I very rarely post anything to FB these days, unless it's a comment on someone else's page.

Anonymous said...

I was going to do a long post over the necessity of candid photos to sell events rather than posed photos... but you can find that stuff online in just about any event marketer's guide.

Instead, I'll tell you something about pictures. They're not always the truth. Sometimes, the real truth comes in drawings or avatars or something the person really resonates with. In Janet's case, the picture that comes up for her blog is HER. Completely her. Poised, self-confident, cat's-eye glasses... I think she has a hat, too. It's her. The shark pictures? Also her. Because she's embraced them as her spirit self.

Me, I usually use a picture (I have several) of my late dog, Koko. We came in second in a dog-owner look-alike contest once, so I figure his picture can easily substitute for mine. You can see his photos on my website, my Twitter avatar... just about anywhere I have a presence. And his picture is a better picture of 'me' than an actual picture of me would be.

The best pictures or images are those that show us as we see ourselves. That says a whole lot more than some mousy selfie can.

(By the way, when I google my name, I get pictures of David Cassidy. I don't know why. He doesn't look at all like Koko.)

The Sleepy One said...

Thank you, everyone, for your feedback.

I should note that, in my case, I'd only mention the previous request/etc if it naturally fit into the conversation. I wouldn't walk up to an agent and say "Hi, I'm TSL. You requested a manuscript once..."

But if the agent, for example, asked about my work, I'd be tempted to mention the past interaction and spin it in a positive light while keeping this part of the conversation brief. I appreciate her taking the time to read my work and write a personalized, helpful rejection.

Also: my apologies if a similar response shows up. This is the second time I wrote a follow-up comment, but had trouble identifying photos of steak the first time around and I'm not sure if my comment uploaded.

Leone said...

I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with Janet at the hotel bar during Malice Domestic. And I uncovered the secret to interacting with her at conferences: Bring an awesome purse. And don't let her steal it.

Amy Schaefer said...

Criminey, people. Leave something for those of us ten time zones away! Jeez-o-pete.

Julie, I thought your comment (re: starting with the typhoon) sounded practical and not at all mean. But perhaps I'm just not very nice, either. Pull up a chair over here in Paradise!

Seriously, though. My daughters' school has been running a program this year to teach kids the non-academic skills they need to get through life. The five major points are Resilience, Persistence, Getting Along, Confidence and Organization. One of the common themes is developing optimistic thinking. I think that is crucial for all of us - understanding that bad things (sometimes really, really bad things) happen, but you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward. You can't focus on the negative forever; it will destroy you.

Now, quit bugging me. This is the one day a week I have all to myself, and I am turning of the internet and WRITING.

Julie said...

Amy - writing here from the bunker, where I'm not at all negative; I just realize that I lead a bizzarely (you know, no matter how I spell that, it looks wrong) exciting life, and I'm old enough to realize also by now that others may not enjoy "Death-By-Zucchini-Strangely-FootballPassed-By-Quarterback-Wannabe-That-Hits-Me-In-The-Eye-Making-Me-Electrocute-Myself-In-Exaggerated-Startle-Reaction-Driving-Me-Into-Exposed-Wiring."

Or something.


Lightning Fish

Julie said...

(Otherwise titled, My Gravestone Will Read As If Written By Loony Tunes).

Catherine Thackery said...

AJ and Colin: When I met Janet at a conference, she wasn’t wearing a nametag. I thought I’d be able to find Janet because she traveled with a pink octopus (see old posts). However, Janet didn’t bring the octopus to that conference. I did find her. Fortunately, it was a small conference. Hint: She does NOT have a New York accent. I didn’t interrupt a conversation or run up to her like a crazed Beatles fan. When I saw a pause in activity, I walked over to her table and said, “Excuse me. Are you Janet Reid?”

Read and research the attendees before you go. Everyone here is well aware of who Janet is. During the question and answer session after Janet’s presentation, a woman asked for her blog “address” and was insistent that Janet spell out the whole thing. I wanted to cheer when Janet told the woman to Google her name and assured her a search would produce the desired result. What a waste of a question.

Be polite. Be nice. Yes, these are the editors/agents you can’t wait to meet, but they are people too. If you’re really lucky, The Shark might invite you to have a drink with her.

Julie Weathers: I think I remember a story about you (at a conference years ago) sitting at the bar, sipping a beer and watching the fans attempt to inject themselves into a conversation with a group of agents or editors? I always enjoy your straight forward remarks on rude behavior.

Side note: Julie is a great example of how to maintain an online presence. When I originally saw her name about the internet, I thought she was a published author due to her huge online presence.

Colin Smith said...

Catherine: Thanks to an interview Janet did with the BBC World Service a number of years ago that was, until recently, still available online, I know Janet's accent is not NY. From the safety of my bunker on Carkoon, I like to suggest Janet writes like Rhea Perlman, but sounds like Meryl Streep. :)

b-Nye said...

First...that's nothing like how we met two distressed aggravated coffee less And #5 - Is that a thing. Awards for trying to write a publishable tome? Why don't I know this. ..the business of writing is HUGE.....sigh. Comma, ELLIPSES , sigh Period.

Megan V said...


Clearly, a meet is in order. That way we can relish the hilarity of the Doomsday Preppers as we carry our go-cups towards one another.

If your son looks like Clay Walker, I'm not surprised he was followed around in Nashville. That said, rodeo takes a special sort of patience and spunk as well as a heck of a lot of skill. I realize they might not want to be in the limelight-also an amazing and wonderful thing- but I imagine you must be very proud of your sons.

b-Nye said...

First...that's nothing like how we met two distressed aggravated coffee less And #5 - Is that a thing. Awards for trying to write a publishable tome? Why don't I know this. ..the business of writing is HUGE.....sigh. Comma, ELLIPSES , sigh Period.

Christina Seine said...

Sometimes, reading the comments on this blog are the best part of my day. =)

Belle said...

I love this post so much! I'd totes buy you a Starbucks and chat with you about bookish things both great and small! Here's hoping I'll get to bump into you at a conference some day! Then you'd get to see that I give GREAT panel! No ... seriously ... I do!

LynnRodz said...

Julie, I don't think many of us are fascinated with finding a photo of Janet. I think a lot of us here would like to meet the QOTKU at a conference some day and on the terms that she stated in her post. But to meet her, you have to have an idea what she looks like and Janet would be the first to say, you can't trust what the name tag says.So, unless you have an inkling, you don't want to spend a whole evening at a bar chatting with the Shark who ends up being Charlie the Tuna. (Which, by the way, did I mention, Janet, that's who you look like in that photo.)

As I stated above in one of my comments, I don't enjoy having my photo taken either. Anyway, unless Janet comes to Paris (she did mention something about that a while back) I won't be inviting her to sit at a bar or a café anytime soon. Dommage!

AJ Blythe said...

I've read and reread the conditions for the Malice Domestic grant and I can't find anywhere where it says US residents only. Maybe I can apply? Although the value of the grant is as much (or less!) as it would cost to fly return to the actual convention. But if agents such as QOTKU looks at this grant... A quadry. I'll email to find out if there are more conditions I'm not seeing. Unless someone here knows the answer?

AJ Blythe said...

Quandry, not quadry.

At least there's no autocorrect because the txt messages I send would make my old English teacher shudder.

Sam Hawke said...

On the topic of photos: I work in a kind of...let's just call it a reclusive corner of a much larger business, where the staff rarely have to interact with external parties and share a certain lack of concern for appearances. Every now and again we have to do corporate photos, which always causes some angst in my corner. We get emails with 'helpful tips' for photo day, such as telling the women to wear makeup and forbidding cardigans. Usually these photos are only used very rarely for promotional/client type things.

However. We got a new CEO, and he thought it would be great if your photo was EVERYWHERE. Call someone internally? Their giant face appears on your computer while you talk. Want to send an internal email? Why not include your photo as part of the email header?

On that last point, we got an email telling us how to change our settings to insert the photo into the header. "Totally voluntary, but this is how to do it. What a great idea, it'll be so lovely to see what people look like! Come on, give it a try!"

A few weeks later: "Not many people have done it yet - here are the instructions again! It's lots of fun! Voluntary, but come on, you should try!"

A few weeks after THAT: "Guys it's totally voluntary, but the CEO really likes the idea and wants you to do it."

And a few weeks again: "It's still voluntary, but we strongly encourage you to do this."

A week: "It's voluntary, but really think about this. The CEO has a personal interest in it and wants you to do it."

Another week: "It's voluntary guys, but just so you know, the CEO has asked for a list of the people who haven't done it."

The final week: "It's compulsory."

I held out until the very last... :)

LynnRodz said...

Sam, I feel for you. Lol.

DLM said...

I stopped dead at the bit about women having to wear makeup and the banning of cardis. That is wildly out of line. Like lawsuit-ready out of line.

Also: it's taken me until NOW to read YESTERDAY'S vomments (and I can't believe nobody added Brian's "word vomit" to the definition thereof, because - perfect!). I had to take another dang sick day to do it, y'all.

I love our community, but it's clearly beyond my wee and paltry little brain's power to keep UP! Shew.

Sam Hawke said...

DLM - yes, it was crazy. But to be fair, it was all phrased as 'suggestions' to help the photos go smoothly. No-one was forced to wear makeup, just 'encouraged' or 'asked'. In my neck of the woods (we are a stubborn little bunch) there were many, many refusals, but also some hilarious corporate photos which are unrecognisable as the woman concerned because she's wearing lipstick or eye makeup or something that looks completely alien.