Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why I Go To Writer's Conferences

I am in the Richmond Virginia airport waiting to board my plane home after attending the James River Writers' Conference.

I accepted this invitation over 6 months ago after an editor who I adore suggested I would be a good speaker for the conference. Even though we are both in New York, we hardly "hang out" together, and I knew this would be a good opportunity to really enjoy each others' company.

I also have three clients in Virginia who I haven't seen much of lately. I asked them to come to the conference, and two of them did. One attended the conference and found that she was inspired by it, possibly enough to go back to school for an MFA. We also cooked up two new book ideas while she was there.

The other client joined me on a panel about the author/agent relationship, which was a real interesting topic. There was another agent there whom I had never met, Olivia Blumer, who said that she believes you have to meet your agent at least once for the author/agent relationship to really gel, if you plan on having a long-term relationship (which is how I work), so it was really great to hear that from another agent. I have traveled halfway around the country to meet some of authors, and I know that some of them have done the same (I try to get invited to a writer's conference within 500 miles of clients - and once, when my 47 year-old cousin was dying of Pancreatic cancer, I was invited to a writer's conference in Oklahoma so I could see him before he passed away). But you don't need to meet your agent until your book has been sold.

A lot of writers attend writers' conferences expecting to get signed up by the agents attending, so when I tell them I already have 80 clients, that we get 30,000 requests for representation a year and that I take on, at most, 5 new clients a year, they get angry and want to know why I go to writers' conferences. But many of those 5 clients are writers I met years ago at other writers' conferences. You've got to be in to win it.

At this point in my career, I go to writers' conferences because it is my way of paying it forward.

When I was a baby agent, Dean Koontz took a lot of time with me and really gave me some incredible advice about the author/agent relationship. I knew I wasn't going to represent him, but I really appreciated his perspective and time. When I asked him why he was so generous, he said very few agents ever asked authors what they could do better and that it was all part of the karma wheel (not his words, but mine here).

I go to these conferences because I know so much. A lot of the agents who go are new and can't give perspective. I have years and years of stories to tell and I know just about everyone in the business. Ten minutes with an established agent should be a priceless commodity for any writer, but I am always amazed at how many writers tell me they met an agent 5 years ago and then never followed up their conversation.

And you never know who you will meet at a conference. Many of my really famous authors met me years ago at conferences where we were just co-attendees.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I am exhausted!

The workload since Labor Day has been monumental. I have read 4 300-page (some a little longer) manuscripts and at least 10 partials since the 4th, done 3 contracts, had too many meetings and managed to fit in five or six Yankee games at the ballpark (they clinched this evening!), as well as a concert or two (Rush and Gov't Mule).

I feel like I have made a thousand submissions, but it's more like 200.

Any the work keeps on piling up.

I had two old clients deliver new work out of the blue which I had to fold into the workload (and they are both terrific projects).

Every weekend has been jam-packed with family stuff, leaving me little extra time to catch up.

And tomorrow I leave for a writer's conference in Virginia, where I get to see three of my clients I haven't seen for at least 5 years.

But this is all good news too, because I am getting great response to the material I submitted and expect to have three offers on the table by next week, and another two or three by the following week.

And maybe then I can catch my breath?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

O.J., Oprah and Me

Is there anyone in America who didn't catch some (or all) of the Oprah interviews with the Goldmans and Denise Brown?

I think most people had made up their mind about this book before seeing the interviews and I don't think there's anything either party said that woud push anyone to change their mind.

I'm glad we live in a country where even a dispicable book can get published. I just think the history of this book is as unseemly as its content.

I wish the Goldmans had given us the choce between buying the book or just sending 17 cents for their legal fund.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Brag Alert

I rarely tell you about a sale, but this is one that I was intimately involved with from it's conception, so I am overjoyed with the good news.

I had co-edited an erotic anthology and one of the stories really stood out for me (I loved them all). When I met the author at a reading for the book, I asked her what happened to the main characters after the story. She said she hadn't thought about it and I told her there was a novel in the story.

A few months later she sent me the first three chapters of the novel featuring these characters, and I began sending it out, knowing it was a a bit wild for the mainstream women's fiction market, but loving it just the same.

One publisher told me "there was too much sex." It's erotica after all, although the sex could have been muted or cut back.

Then I got a call from the author telling me that Harlequin (Harlequin!!! the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of Women's fiction) had asked for more chapters. She sent in half the novel (this was a first novel, although the author has written hundreds of short stories). I emailed them to other houses who had the partial as well.

The Harlequin Spice line made a two book offer.

I was floored.

This was hardcore erotica about a 40 year-old duchess who runs off with the stable boy and there was a lot of sex between maidservants and eunuchs and all sorts of variations in between.

The other publishing houses all came in and said they loved the material, but weren't as daring as Harlequin.

I am soooo excited to see what becomes of this book.

It is a delicious erotic tale and Harlequin will get it into the hands of more women than I could have ever imagined.

I am thrilled for the author. I am thrilled for the state of erotic fiction in America (and Canada, I guess).

And I feel that a little piece of my reading taste made it into the zeitgeist.

Friday, September 7, 2007

This is My Busiest Week of the Year

Did you know that the week of Labor Day is the busiest one of the year for agents?

We edit and polish our proposals and novels all summer long to release them to the newly returned and rejuvenated editors now back from their summer vacations and working all-day long again on Fridays (it's an industry-wide practice to have half-days on Fridays from Memorial Day through Labor Day). The first weeks of September are when all the big fall books are sold.

I have four big books going out (three memoirs and one novel). I also had scheduled a lunch with a really senior editor at one of the major houses and "took" a surprise meeting with one of my clients and an editor to brainstorm ideas.

On top of this, I have given myself the assignment of writing an annual letter to the industry in which I give an overview of what's selling, as well as highlighting some of the projects I'm sending out, which I email to about 300 editors, with my up-dated client list attached.

Every day this week I've put in at least 10 hours of work.

I'm writing this at 10:30 p.m. while unwinding listening to the Yankee game.