2.07.2006

Writing Conferences if you have an agent

Dear Ms. Snark,
(I've always found that Ms. is so much more sophisticated than Miss; when I think Miss, I think ballet slippers and chugging beer, not stilettos and sloshing pails of gin). (Miss Snark drinks gin in her tutu, not ballet slippers)

Anyway, here's my question. I'm going to a conference but I already have an agent (yay for me!). I have several projects in the works.

Do I still request editor appointments?
I definitely do not want to:
A. Step on toes
B. Make a fool of myself
C. Make my agent hate me because it looks like I don't trust her to do her job.
Thanks in advance,
Ask your agent.
I'd hate to say it won't matter if your agent is one to whom it will.

Why are you going to a writers conference if you have an agent? I may just be out to lunch on this, and I hope some of you can enlighten me, but I thought the point of a conference was to snag an agent or editor's attention?


I'm not much on clients approaching editors directly mostly cause they don't know how to do it. Most authors focus on how good their book is, when from an editorial standpoint that's a given. When I pitch something I talk about what this book can do for them: it will back list well; it will fit with a current title; it will get them some serious award consideration; it will appeal to a hot new market (think Latina fiction here). Yes of course it's good, is the unstated assumption, I wouldn't be talking to you about it if it wasn't.

30 comments:

Brady Westwater said...

I'd hate to say it won't matter if your agent is one to whom it will.


I hate to read that sentence three times to parse it. Is the 'is one to whom' part gramatically correct ot incorrect or am I just really tired tonight?

Anonymous said...

Of course you may be assuming that "Miss" is an honorific when in fact it could be the legacy of the little Snarklette's hippy trippy, flower power parents back in the days (better than calling her Moon Pixie, I guess)...

Last person I called "Miss" anything was my high school home economics teacher. Drove him nuts.

-ril

Kagura Shinra said...

I think Miss is so much more powerful. It reminds me of a madam (strong, independent, and she has her eye on the prize). Perhaps us Snarklings have just been tricked, and Miss Snark is really pimping us out for her own enjoyment. (No, I don't think "is one to whome" part makes sense.)

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark asks: why go to a writer's conference if not to meet an agent? I went to several, to hear and be workshopped by writers I revered. They taught me things about writing that would have taken me years to learn on my own, and now I have the voices of some amazing writers in my head--not to mention a mentor or two. (I also have an agent, whom I met elsewhere.) Some of the teaching I encountered at places like Sewanee and Bread Loaf was so inspiring that I ended up teaching too. Going to a $1,500 conference largely to meet an agent seems like a bit of a gamble.

Anonymous said...

Not wanting to seem like the geeky kid with glasses who sits at the front, always does his homework and constantly tries to suck up to teacher, but the aforementioned "is one to whom" sentence appeared to me to scan quite correctly, syntactically speaking. If anything, it's quite compact and elegant, in a P. G. Wodehouse sort of way...

-ril

Sonarbabe said...

Brady: It took me a couple reads to understand the comment, but then I'm REALLY tired too. I'm sure Miss Snark had it right, since when my English teacher taught grammar skills, I thought she was asking if I was eating my graham crackers still. *shrugs*

Cornelia Read said...

Writing conferences can be extremely important when one already has an agent. They allow one to meet fellow writers. Especially fellow writers who might be willing to blurb one. And stuff.

This can make potential editors rather happy. It can also help them become "kinetic" editors-- i.e. editors with whom one gains a contract.

Go for it.

Anonymous said...

Why go to a conference if one already has an agent?

I'm guessing because one has already paid the conference fees?

Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

Miss Snark, to put it bluntly, we attend the conferences (agent or no) b/c we're such information whores. I wax on about that writer's disorder a little more in my own blog at www.thatclique.com.

December Quinn said...

"Is one to whom" came out just fine for me, too.

And whether you prefer Ms. or Miss is irrelevent. It's incredibly rude to refuse to address someone in the way they prefer because you like the sound of something else better. Miss Snark is Miss Snark. She has said this many times. If your name is Bob, and I insist on calling you Ted because "Bob is too palindrome-y to me"...would you like that?

Goodness. I guess being awake all night with a toddler who refused to sleep does make one a bit cranky.

Bernita said...

December is correct. The idle comment on your preference is not only irrelevant,immaterial and prejudicial - it's crude and rude.
And Miss Snark's sentence employing the elliptic economy of " to whom it will(matter)" is also correct.
And neat.
So there.

Anonymous said...

I think finding an agent or editor at a conference is only a minor benefit of going. The main reason is to network with fellow authors, immerse oneself in a writerly atmosphere for a change, and, oh yeah, learn something from the sessions taught by leaders in the genre.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Brady:

My tentative translation is:

1. I hate to say it, but it won't matter if your agent objects.

2. I hate to say, it won't matter if your agent is one to whom it will be a concern. (ie: you're not a slave to your agent.)

Bill E. Goat: "If you can't figure it out, just eat it. It'll go away."

Beth said...

Anon # 2 said: Going to a $1,500 conference largely to meet an agent seems like a bit of a gamble.

$1500??? If you're paying $1500 for a writers conference, you're going to the wrong conference. :) Try the Surrey International Writers Conference (www.siwc.ca) in Surrey, BC -- one of the best writers conferences in North America. It regularly brings in terrific and well-known authors, agents, and editors to do workshops, and the agent/editor appointments are free (unlike Maui). Despite the number of attendees (nearly 1000) the atmosphere is informal and friendly, and encourages mingling between speakers and writers. And at around $400 Canadian (less in US dollars, and includes three days of workshops plus lunches and dinners), it's the bargain of the century.

Flem Snopes said...

When I pitch something I talk about what this book can do for them: it will back list well;

Does any type of fiction "back list well?" Or is the backlist limited to textbooks, cookbooks, etc?

Anonymous said...

Dear Pixie Princess,
Sorry, but I think the translation is more of the order that Miss Snark hesitates to say it doesn't matter, in case the questioner's agent is one for whom it would indeed matter ("it" being the inferred infidelity). That is, Miss Snark can speak for her own preferences, but not for those of the other agent...

It's a Wodehouse thing...
-ril

Anonymous said...

That $1500 writers conference is one of the most prestigious in the country, Breadloaf, I'm guessing, and you have to apply to be admitted. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about it. It's more of a literary focus.

Miss Snark, I'm surprised that you are that clueless about why people go to conferences if they have an agent.

Networking. That's the key thing. With editors, and booksellers! And other authors. Also, workshops. Just because you have an agent doesn't mean you know it all...there's still a wealth of information to be gained from classes taught by other writers and industry professionals.

Another reason, publishers often talk about what's new...and as connected as Miss Snark is...some of this info might possibly be new to you as well.

Kate Epstein said...

A reasonable response an agent might make is, cool, but when you speak with editors do not mention x, y, or z, and DO mention you have an agent. X, Y, or Z, would certainly be money or what rights you're offering but might also be something like when you'll deliver the ms. (if it's nonfiction, not completed).

spaulson said...

I think the translation is more of the order that Miss Snark hesitates to say it doesn't matter, in case the questioner's agent is one for whom it would indeed matter ("it" being the inferred infidelity). That is, Miss Snark can speak for her own preferences, but not for those of the other agent...

This is how I read that line too.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Networking With Other Writers
(finding somebody hot who "understands" you)

Improving Your Craft
(chugging beers at the bar)

Making Professional Contacts
(sucking up to pros & agents so you can call on them later when you're ready to trade up)

Yeah, I'm rather cynical on the whole "writers' conference" scene but primarily because I'm one of the last hold-outs on the theory that talent can't be taught.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Snark,
(I've always found that Ms. is so much more sophisticated than Miss....


And I've always found "George" to be so much more refined than "Stanley," so even though your name actually is Stanley, I'm going to call you George from now on. After all, what really matters here isn't what you prefer, it's all about ME.

I'm surprised Miss Snark didn't give you the Nitwit of the Day tag for that, so I would like to give you the first Snarkling-bestowed Halfwit Award for general boorishness.

You're welcome!

Trix said...

I agree with Beth: Surrey is the best conference I've ever attended (3 times now). My only goal the first time I attended was to meet with a friend's agent, but I came away with so much more. Writers need to get out and socialize with other writers, attend workshops, get writing/publishing information. Writers conferences are inspiring, energizing, fun, not to mention a great kick in the pants. I did sign with an associate of my friend's agent, but I'll keep going back to Surrey to see friends, attend workshops, and recharge my batteries.

Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

Maryan you said: I'm one of the last hold-outs on the theory that talent can't be taught.

Un-ah, I'm there with you on that.

But the writer's conferences I've been to and seek out don't ever promote that they're going to teach me to write.

As a rule I'd run as far away from any conference that does.

Conferences of SCBWI, ASJA and organizations like it are directed to people who are already writers, at all levels.

You go for the networking.

If that's chugging beers with the Sr. Editor at Peekaboo Publishing, at least it's one step closer to putting a face to a name. And hopefully a hangover isn't all you'll take away.

Anonymous said...

beth and trix, thank you for recommending surrey!
just to clarify...i paid roughly $1500 for bread loaf and sewanee; they lasted twelve astonishing days, with teachers like tony earley, barry hannah, padgett powell, alice mcdermott and others who shared everything they knew about writing. i paid somewhat less for the squaw valley writer's conference, which was a bit shorter. that too was extraordinary. all have competitive admission. all focus on getting top writers who are also top teachers. the editors and agents who show up there seem to me to be a strong but truly secondary benefit. i think squaw valley even tells you not to go if your goal is just to meet an agent, though my memory could be flawed. i went to get workshopped, and privately critiqued, and educated, and to breathe the air that other writers breathe. you can't compare conferences like this to maui, which bills itself as more about networking and which does not reject 2 or 3 out of every 5 applicants. i hate to see them mentioned in the same breath!
thanks again for raising surrey.

Debra Kemp said...

I agree with Maryan. Talent can't be taught. But the elements of writing can be taught.

Anonymous said...

Conferences are fun for all of the above mentioned reasons, and also...dadadadum...tax deductible. Mostly in nice locations, too which makes for a grand tax-deductible vacation!

Anonymous said...

Tax deductable once you're making income from your writing, that is. Until then, deducting conference fees is like wearing a big "Kick Me" sign down to your local IRS office.

Unless you're making money, writing is a "hobby." Don't yell at me about it--it's what the IRS says.

There was a time when the pinheads at Treasury even insisted that all deductible expenses could only be deducted against the income from particular projects--you couldn't simply deduct 'paper,' you had to say which book the paper was for, and if the expenses were in one year and the book came out in another you had to carry the expenses forward...Luckily this retarded practice has ceased.

But watch those conference expenses. Those--and course fees--are deductible when they improve your professional skills and standing in a field where you are already making taxable income. They are not deductible if you are learning a new profession. (Otherwise most college costs would be deductible. Thye aren't.)

Sux, huh?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

It's a Wodehouse thing...

Ah. P. G. Wodehouse, Crime Wave at Blandings Castle, kept me laughing in the bathtub one night until the water got cold. I warmed it up twice.

Anonymous said...

Anon-
See line 34 on the 1040.
Also Form 8863.
Tuition and fees. Huh.

Anonymous said...

ril and others are right: Miss Snark's grammar is impeccably, precisely correct, and its meaning clear. You guys need more sleep. And maybe a CMS or at least some lousy basic grammar textbook!

Also, about writers conferences. There are really 3 different types of writer-gatherings. There are conferences, which are relatively cheap, relatively short, and open to anyone who can pay. They have short multi-track programs.

Then there are workshops, like Sewanee, as someone mentioned earlier. This type of writers gathering is generally much more literary in focus (no genre) and you have to submit work in order to be considered for admission. These are usually at least 10 days or 2 weeks, during which time you belong to one of several pre-assigned and unchanging groups that meet approximately daily with an assigned author/instructor. Because of the structure and size of these workshops, it's usually much more intimate, for better and for worse.

(For example, those sultry Sewanee summer nights bring out the most mischievous gin-sodden best in writers, of course, so gossip can get rather thick, I've noticed.)

At these, you usually spend your afternoons workshopping your submissions with the author and the rest of your group. The rest of the time is spent shmoozing and drinking with faculty and other workshop enrollees, listening to craft lectures and readings by instructors and visiting authors, and sometimes maybe wrangling a private meeting with a top agent, many of who attend these workshops annually trolling for the best unheard-of writers. As the other person mentioned, Sewanee is fantastic and worth the $ if you are interested in literary work and can get in. Bennington is another great one of this type. At these, authors, editors, and students mingle at meals, at the local pubs, and other relaxed atmospheres where there is a much closer camaraderie than occurs at conference type #1.

Finally there are writers retreats, such as Yaddo, which are the hardest to get accepted to, but also a blissful experience. You have to be serious about your work as art to even apply and they are rather snobby in their acceptance practices. But they have few spaces and their reputation to uphold so I suppose this is understandable. You stay as long as you can afford, enjoy the presence of artists from many other disciplines who are staying there as well, and get the benefit of lectures by visiting authors/artists. You basically spend all day working alone on your fantastically beautiful literary novel that probably won't ever see bestsellerdom. But you don't care because you're just so happy to get away from your noisy family or your job or that naggy-ass soon-to-be-insignificant-other who doesn't really get who you are. With that kind of solitude, you may end up feeling that you are actually, finally getting on with your vocation, or something like that. Or going crazy.

Each of these three has great aspects. It just depends on your aims, your skill level, and, sometimes, what your focus is as a writer.