Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Can we invite visiting agents to our SiC meeting?

I'm a member of a local Sisters in Crime chapter and our usual meeting date is on a Thursday night, which happens to coincide with the Thursday before the big regional conference in our area. All kinds of cool agents and editors who represent and publish mysteries are attending (alas, you are not!).

We would like to invite several of those agents and editors to come and speak to our group Thursday evening but wonder what we could possibly offer (besides transportation from the hotel to our meeting site) that would be attractive to a group of agents who are about to plunge into the hubbub of a three-day writing conference.

We could promise not to pitch them and just sit quietly and admire their expertise. But I assume they would rather be at the hotel bar, talking shop with each other. Or perhaps the conference organizers offer a special reception that night?

Well, if everyone in the chapter buys a copy of a client's book, I'm already there.
In other words, give me something of value, and I'm all yours.

The first thing you want to do is find out if any of the visiting agents are members of Sisters in Crime. It's a whole lot easier to persuade an agent who already understands the incredible value of a SiC membership (which is available for gents as well) to come hang out with y'all.

And I've actually done this...sort of.

Some years back, when I was canoodling with Penn Writers, the local SiC chapter met for dinner at the conference site; I joined them. We had a rousing good time, and some of the Sisters I met there became true friends (hello Joyce Tremel!)

But honestly there's not much in it for the agent particularly if they have to travel away from the conference site (after a day of travel TO the site!).

If you've got a super spectacular something (like the best bourbon bar in the world) that's an enticement.

But generally you're asking for a favor and you'll need to be clear about what exactly you're asking. Come have dinner and just hang out? Do a Q&A?

The other thing to remember is that even though I'm at a conference, I'm still working. Client needs don't drop off cause I'm hanging out with Sisters in Saskatoon (sadly.)

That last night before the conference may be a time I've set aside for last minute items that popped up while I was travelling. Or for reading stuff for the conference the next day. Or putting the last minute touches on a conference workshop.

Think about what you have to offer that's distinctive, and then invite.

Do NOT be hurt if the answer is no. Conferences are exhausting for us (ok, for you too!) and adding to the schedule may not be high on our list.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

I attended my first Pitchfest in April. The small, main gathering area was also where 9 attendees gathered in 9 chairs at their appointed time to get instructions before being herded through office doors to see their pre-appointed agent. Every 10 minutes a new group of attendees assembled to get their instructions! For 1-1/2 days!

I believe a new set of 9 agents were swapped in every...2 hours? Talk about high energy times! Between nervous and excited woodland creatures and agents bombarded with anxiety or calm. I don't know how agents did it. But they were good! Asking questions, if I got tongue-tied.

Good luck Opie. What an exciting time for you and your SiC!!

K White said...

Speaking as someone who has helped organize writers conferences, unless SiC ponied up some of the money it cost to fly in the agents and editors, helped pay for their hotel room, to feed them, to have someone escort them around, etc. then SiC or any other group has no right to entice the agents and editors away from the conference, even if it is before the conference officially starts. The conference organizers have a very tight schedule they need to adhere to, and a lot of money has been invested in meeting the needs of their attendees (such as the agents and editors being rested and ready to go the next day).

I would say this is only a good idea if you’ve spoken to the conference organizers beforehand and received their blessing.

Otherwise, a group, who isn’t paying any of the expenses, swooping in to snatch the agents and editors away is going to cause bad blood.

Julie Weathers said...

It doesn't hurt to ask. At a Denver conference, I was at several of us who hang together asked Rachelle Gardener if she'd like to come have dinner with us the night before the conference started. We didn't ask her to talk to us professionally, just come have dinner and relax. She was really delightful to visit with in person.

At another conference, we have a private party every year and invite agents and authors with no expectations. It's just a chance to decompress. We don't invite all agents and authors. It's more ones we think might be interested and not think us creepers. We have an ironclad rule. There's no pitching or talking business. It's just to have drinks and snacks and relax. Sometimes authors will read a short bit from a WIP. That being said, sometimes being writers we drift off into discussions of writing, but it's more out of interest.

A couple of years ago I holed up in a corner with one author and we talked everything under the sun from Sarmatian warriors and their campaigns against the Roman legions to military medicine, to Celtic burial mounds, to cavalry tactics, to writing battle scenes, to lady bronc riders, to Texas and bluebonnets.

Even if you don't have a chance to invite an agent or author to speak to a group, sometimes just offering to buy them dinner or a drink(s) with no strings attached is very welcome. Just keep in mind many are tired. They've been traveling. They probably have panels to prepare for. Try to offer something appealing to them and although a foot rub would most likely be very welcome, I don't recommend that. It's just creepy.

Julie Weathers said...

K White

You're right. I hadn't thought about that. In our cases, we just offer a dinner or the party. There are no expectations of anything from anyone and it's nothing that's advertised.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

K. White: This is what I love about this blog. Questions and thoughts an opie has not put to paper/digital screen get answered and smooths our way for better professionalism.

K White said...

People often complain about how expensive it is to attend a writers conference. Until you’ve been on the inside organizing one you don’t realize how expensive it is to host a writers conference.

The last one I worked on the rent for the conference center alone was over $20,000. That did not include the cost to feed the attendees, to fly in the agents and editors, to house them in a hotel, to pay the expenses of someone to escort them around, and the many other costs associated with a writers conference.

I’m sure some conferences make a profit but I know our conference barely broke even and we pinched pennies until they squealed.

Julie Weathers said...

K White

I'm friends with some of the Surrey organizers and I know how much work goes into it, and expense. It truly has to be a labor of love because it's exhausting.

One younger agent who shall remain nameless and is now out of the business raised a lot of Cain after she canceled her appearance at a conference three times in a row due to unforeseen circumstances. Usually, she didn't feel good. On the third cancelation, the organizers asked her to reimburse them for the plane tickets and she was hot.

I can kind of see their point. Not only did it put the conference short a presenter, but it gets expensive and one of the ladies at the conference said they never make any money.

BJ Muntain said...

Ooh! Are you coming to Saskatoon? That's only a 2 1/2 hour ride. I'm sure I can do it...

Morgan Hazelwood said...

Maybe your group could offer to come TO the hotel (or a restaurant within walking distance) for that week's meeting. Less travel could make the offer more enticing. (especially if you call ahead and have a reservation/private room)