1.24.2006

Meeting Agents and/or Editors at Conferences

Dear Miss Snark:

What advice would you give to an unpublished novelist about to meet face-to-face with editors for brief interviews at a writers' conference?

Thanks in advance from a snarkling who adores you. (Miss Snark likes that adoration part!!)

(In the comment section, an astute reader points out that the questions asks about editors
and Miss Snark promptly substitutes the word 'agent'. Not for nuttin is Miss Snark self involved. In the answer below, just equate agents with editors. Except the part about tall buildings. Editors have to use elevator...not that there's anything wrong with that.)


When you have little confabs at conferences, try not to panic. Agents, despite all evidence to the contrary, are human beings. Yes, we can leap tall buildings with a single bound, but then, you can invent entire worlds and people them with strange and fantastical creatures. Which is harder? exactly.

Now, when you meet someone for the first time do you say "hello would you like to hear about my book"? noooo. You say "hello, how are you". Same is true here.

You'd be stunned how many people just launch into a pitch.

So, you say your howdies, then you say something like "what information is most helpful to hear about a book"? Then the agent says things like : what kind of book is it? how many words? who's the hero? what challenges does the hero face? Is it first person present tense? Are aliens planning to arrive? etc.

Here's the trick. Don't talk about your book. Answer the questions. Take a synopsis. Take a sample page. Be prepared for the agent to say "I'd like to read it, here's my card, send it to me"....ie don't faint, don't weep, and whatever you do, don't throw up (Miss Snark is 0-3 on those).

Then, after you answer the questions, if you have more time, ask the agent for his/her opinion: a book she loved; a book she loathed; what websites she reads that she thinks are good; any advice she'd like to see every person follow while querying her. We ALL love to give advice and have people ask our opinions.

And remember, this isn't an audience with Her Majesty the Queen of the Universe. It's talking to an agent who watches American Idol just like you do (ok, not Miss Snark, but yanno, generally).

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Um . . . but the question says "editors."

Eva said...

Thanks, Miss Snark! You've really helped me.

I think the advice applies to editors as well. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark - what do you think of this new CrapOMeter run by Elektra? Is it a good idea?

Elektra said...

I believe her comment was 'scared. Vey scared.'

Anonymous said...

Hey when did Killer Yapp get a blog?? And someone queries Killer Yapp hahhahaha

Anonymous said...

The crapometer is going again?

Anonymous said...

Elektra have you had many submissions?

Elektra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elektra said...

crapometer.blogspot.com
It is NOT run by Miss Snark--just a devotion of Snarklings.
Please, lest Miss Snark send KY after me and my pooch, do NOT send stuff to her!!!

Anonymous said...

Is a devotion of snarklings the collective noun?

Anonymous said...

Wow - this thread is anonymousville

jessicacrockett said...

Thanks Anon (well, the Anon who commented on Killer Yapp's blog). I just checked it out - and hope to see more doggy blogging, and of course, queries like this one.

NavelGazer said...
Dear Miss Yapp,

I write to ask whether you would be interested in reading my novel, a fast-paced, exotic-erotic style urban fantasy work of approximately 575,214 words. I am sure that you, as an associate of Miss Snark (who is unfortunately not taking queries at this time), will want to look over the attached 4000 word synopsis and ten randomized sample chapters. My friends absolutely adored the story, and I just know you will relate to the protagonist, an exotic-erotic Russian-blue cat, named after my own cat Twinkles (who also adored the story). You’d better move fast on this one. I have sent e-queries to every publisher and agent kind enough to have left their email address somewhere in public view. Please let me know when you want the remainder of the manuscript, and kindly forward a copy of your mailing address.

PS. I have attached synopses for my nine other manuscripts.

Eva said...

Hahaha!
This is so much fun.

doc-t said...

Jessica, can I get a copy of your manuscript? It sounds really neat?

Also, I hope you don't mind but I'm knew at this writing thing and I'd like to use your format for my query letters.

Julia said...

Agents, despite all evidence to the contrary, are human beings. Yes, we can leap tall buildings with a single bound, but then, you can invent entire worlds and people them with strange and fantastical creatures. Which is harder?

Yes, but agents have the power to make the writers dreams come true. Or so we writers believe.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, but agents have the power to make the writers dreams come true. Or so we writers believe."

Getting the agent is tough, but then your agent and your book have to net the deal.

Linda said...

Miss Snark,
If there is an email address for you, I've missed it. I hope it is okay for me to contact you in the comments section for this request.

I am in charge of agent/editor appointments for the OWFI Conference (owfi.org)in Oklahoma City. I wonder if I might use this post on our website and also in the conference newsletter. This is great advice for writers who are meeting with an agent or editor for the first time.

Miss Snark said...

Hi Linda, sure. It would be my great pleasure to be read by anyone who is OK!

And Miss Snark can be reached at
miss snark at earthlink dot net

no spaces,
all lower case

Anonymous said...

Young grasshopper, do what the celestial Miss Snark advised along with:

Perhaps rehearse a bit in front of a friend.

Be cheerful AND professional in attitude for the duration. Fake it 'til you make it!

Never apologize for your work. You should to be confident, not diffident. ("I'm sorry that it's just a [fill in the genre]" ain't gonna fly.)

And if all else fails, imagine everyone else naked.

Anonymous said...

In my previous professional incarnation I was an arts agent - yep - all the arts and more. It was my job to help artists of all kinds try and get their work produced, published, in short out there in front of an audience. A large part of my time as taken up with advising people on how to pitch their projects and get funding. I had everything cme my way over an 11 year career: dance projects; musicals with casts of 80; the next great novel; film scripts; year long performance art projects - Most initial unsolicited proposals were unbelievably, and excruciatingly, awful. For visual arts projects, for example, I would ask artists to send in just 6 transparencies - just 6 pix that they thought sold their work - and I would get showered with catalogues, cuttings, portfolios, head shots, all sorts of crap. Anyway, point is I wholeheartedly agree with Her Holy Modal Highness Miss Snark: when meeting up with (in this case an editor or agent) someone who can help get your work out there just say Hi, how are you?
I used to tell artists that if they ever found themselves in proximity to the then head honcho of the UK Arts Council in our neck of the woods DON'T go blathering on about how great your project is but DO try to kick off a conversation about: blues music; travel; ski-ing; photography or kids. These were the things that floated his boat, these were the things that were important to HIM. Why? Because, it's axiomatic:PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE; they don't give to ideas.
When you do get to pitch - I had artists practice this - hold it in mind that you're there to help them (they're not there to help you) and have in mind all the way through your pitch they are thinking What's in this proposal/project for ME? If you can't break the ice between you in the first 45 seconds of the start of your pitch you ain't never gonna do it. Having someone pitching at you who is only concerned with themselves and their project is like going on a date and spending all night listening to the other person. Give yourself one minute, yep, just one minute, to get your initial pitch across. If at the end of that first minute you can't detect any warmth then forget it. If you do feel some warmth towards you, and what you're saying,then initiate a dialogue. All a pitch is is an invitation to have your potetial project partner warm to you and, consequently, your project idea. Imagine sharing a lift with a commissioning editor whom you never met before. Tough. But, with practice, you can do it. All hail Miss Snark!

Eva said...

Thanks to the last two posters for the excellent advice. So I shouldn't bombard the editors with resume, short bio, short and long pitches on paper, synopses, partial or complete copies of manuscript? I'm so glad you told me this.

I'll just say, "Hi, how are you? What do you like in a book?" And then, in less than a minute, after I'm asked, I'll tell them about mine. (And I will rehearse this over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and

And then, IF THEY ASK, I'll provide them with anything written they want, of which I, being the good prepared person I am, will have ample copies in several portfolios, briefcase, backpack, purse, overnight bag...hahahaha.

Eva said...

One other question (for anyone willing to answer): I've been told ahead a few of the books these editors have edited. Do you think it would be helpful if I read at least one per editor so that I could "break ice" with something like, "I read so-and-so and thought such-and-such about it (hopefully somethin good)"? Or do you think this will come across as being heavy-handed or insincere or more ME than THEM?

Miss Snark said...

Miss Snark gazes at her Heapinig Pile O'Slush and gives thanks to the God of All Things there are no musicals with a cast of 80 amongst them.

Anonymous said...

For Eva:
Yes research, research, and then research some more. For example, I was once tasked with pitching A Very Important Artist of International Stature by way of getting him onboard with a collaboration with An Extremely Well Known Multi-Oscar Winning Film Director. By the time I got to meet the VIAoIS I knew that he had a lifelong fascination with Frankenstein and circuses; that he was a fan of Julian Barnes's novels; that he loved pasta; that he was a fan of French punk circus outfit Archaos and that he had met, and had got on very well with, David Bowie. We spent the entireity of our first meeting just shooting the breeze about the above topics. At the end of that meeting he simply asked me to mail the project details. The point was, as we both understood, was that if he he was going to commit himself to spending three to six months of his life working on a creative project with me, then he had to know that I was likeable, enthusuastic, knowledgeable and discreet enough to ride with his moods, overcome any obstacles and get the job done. The same went for me;if I hadn't liked the guy I would have passed the project onto someone else. Getting a book into print, fiction and non-fiction, is a collaborative effort. And, for me, before I join any team, I want to know who I'm going to be working with. So, I'd say, yes read the books the editors have worked on....but also find out about what the UK politician Dennis Healey described as their hinterland, i.e. everything they get off on other than editing books. It's the same with writers. JK Rowling must get sick now and then at always having to talk about Harry Potter but if you get to meet her and mention leukaemia, well....you'll see another side of her passionate personality.

For Miss Snark:
It's true but I lied - (sounds a bit Freyish dontcha think?)I forgot the 40 strong chorus line of dancing indigeneous people - so, in total, it was a cast of 120. It was a musical scored to celebrate the exploits of Capt James Cook RN.

Anonymous said...

For Eva:
Yes research, research, and then research some more. For example, I was once tasked with pitching A Very Important Artist of International Stature by way of getting him onboard with a collaboration with An Extremely Well Known Multi-Oscar Winning Film Director. By the time I got to meet the VIAoIS I knew that he had a lifelong fascination with Frankenstein and circuses; that he was a fan of Julian Barnes's novels; that he loved pasta; that he was a fan of French punk circus outfit Archaos and that he had met, and had got on very well with, David Bowie. We spent the entireity of our first meeting just shooting the breeze about the above topics. At the end of that meeting he simply asked me to mail the project details. The point was, as we both understood, was that if he he was going to commit himself to spending three to six months of his life working on a creative project with me, then he had to know that I was likeable, enthusuastic, knowledgeable and discreet enough to ride with his moods, overcome any obstacles and get the job done. The same went for me;if I hadn't liked the guy I would have passed the project onto someone else. Getting a book into print, fiction and non-fiction, is a collaborative effort. And, for me, before I join any team, I want to know who I'm going to be working with. So, I'd say, yes read the books the editors have worked on....but also find out about what the UK politician Dennis Healey described as their hinterland, i.e. everything they get off on other than editing books. It's the same with writers. JK Rowling must get sick now and then at always having to talk about Harry Potter but if you get to meet her and mention leukaemia, well....you'll see another side of her passionate personality.

For Miss Snark:
It's true but I lied - I forgot the 40 strong chorus line of dancing indigeneous people - so, in total, it was a cast of 120. It was a musical scored to celebrate the exploits of Capt James Cook RN.

Rhonda Stapleton said...

For Miss Snark:
It's true but I lied - I forgot the 40 strong chorus line of dancing indigeneous people - so, in total, it was a cast of 120. It was a musical scored to celebrate the exploits of Capt James Cook RN.


Oh, hell yeah...I'd so watch this...lol

Rhonda, who possibly has no taste

Stephen D. Rogers said...

If I may be so bold, I'll extend the advice to relating to other writers at the conference. Yes, it's great you wrote a book, but that's not why we're striking up a conversation over lunch.

Eva said...

This has been truly helpful. Thanks to all. I'll keep checking for more advice from others.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark doesn't watch AI?
Writing is solitary work, until you find an agent to work with, then it is a partnership, just like finding a good voice coach. They work with you through it all. I watched AI week after week last season watching dreams come to reality, or crushed. One woman walked out of the second round on AI saying that it was too painful to try only to have her hopes dashed repeatedly.

Many writers are that way as well. It only takes a few rejection letters and they are off on the bus to Never Published Land.

Sigh.. I have learned a lot about writing from AI :)

Miss Snark said...

Miss Snark does not watch AI. Miss Snark leaps tall buildings in a single bound, and eviscerates all who bite off too much at the buffet of book, but she only has 24 hours in a day, and dog knows, cutting back on her beauty sleep is NOT in the public interest.

imp (Iva-Marie Palmer) said...

Miss Snark,

Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou for running this blog. (And, yes, I do know how to punctuate but I don't know how to write a long line of thank you's so they sound like they do in my head.)

On the topic of conferences, are there any in particular you recommend? Or, signs that a conference might be a do worth doing or an expenditure that's just asking for a series of unfortunate events?

Also, what books have you liked lately? (And I'm not just asking this to kiss up; I really would like to know. But if kissing up is good, then at least know I've put on my creamiest lipstick.)

NavelGazer said...

Hey it ain't jessicacrockett's masterpiece, it's mine, baby!

Eva said...

Is anyone else attending the NYC Shop and Pitch Conference discussed earlier on this blog?