2014: A Year in Queries

Hello, everyone!

It’s that special time of year again where I look back on my year in queries and share the terrifying results with you. Last year I had to give you my stats in two sections because of my mid-year hiatus in between agencies: here and here. 2014 was my first full year at Bradford Literary Agency (woo!), and here’s what it looked like from the query side of things.*

*As always, the following stats are from unsolicited queries only, meaning the ones that came through my regular query inbox (“the slush pile”). Any requests from conferences, contests, or referrals from people I know were not part of the tally.

January
Total: 323
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult urban fantasy; YA contemporary (2)

February
Total: 256
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult magical realism; YA contemporary

March
Total: 245
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult literary; Adult urban fantasy; YA contemporary

April
Total:263
Requests: 5
Genres Requested: Adult literary; YA contemporary (2); YA mystery; YA sci-fi

May
Total: 271
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult mystery; YA contemporary; YA thriller

June
Total: 263
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult magical realism; YA sci-fi (2)

July

Total: 284
Requests: 10
Genres Requested: Adult sci-fi (2); Adult mystery; Adult short story collection; YA contemporary; YA sci-fi (2); MG fantasy; YA urban fantasy; YA magical realism
August
Total: 241
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary (2); Adult sci-fi; YA urban fantasy
September
Total: 247
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Adult literary; (2); YA contemporary (2)
October
Total: 324
Requests: 7
Genres Requested: Adult  magical realism; Adult sci-fi; YA contemporary (2); YA urban fantasy; YA sci-fi (2)
November
Total: 283
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: MG fantasy; YA horror; YA contemporary
December
Total: 289
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult women’s fiction; MG fantasy; YA contemporary

Total Queries Received in 2014: 3,289

Total Manuscript Requests from Queries: 52

Request Rate from Queries: 1.6% (approx.)  


Most Requested Genres: YA contemporary, Adult literary, Sci-fi (both adult & YA)

Least Requested Genres (of those I rep): MG (but when requested, usually involved fantasy elements), YA mystery/thriller

Total Offers of Rep from Queries: Two


Total Offers of Rep Overall: Five
Total New Clients in 2014: Three
1) Anthony Jones, adult sci-fi/noir: R&R from 2013 query, received revision and offered rep in 2014
2) Marissa Marangoni, YA literary/contemporary, from 2014 query
3) Kelly Calabrese, YA thriller/horror, met at a 2014 conference
While these stats may seem daunting to new writers currently querying or thinking about querying agents, keep in mind the following things:
  • I receive a LOT of queries for genres I do not represent. If I had to guess, I’d say at least 40% of my slush pile consists of queries from people who don’t actually care what I represent, as long as I represent them. This is not a good way to go about finding an agent. You want an agent who is excited about your book, but who also has the right editorial eye for your genre and experience selling it.
  • More often than not, I ask for an R&R (revise & resubmit) when I’m interested in something. Good writing can’t exist without revision, yet revising is a separate skill not every writer can master. Since I’m an editorial agent, I need to know my future-clients can take notes, make them their own, and revise. There were about a dozen times this year when an author whose manuscript I requested received an offer of representation. In some cases, that manuscript just wasn’t for me. Other times, though, I saw the potential in the manuscript, but it needed too much work for me to make a counter-offer. In other circumstances, I’d ask for an R&R, but if they have an offer on the table already, then I have to pass. 
  • I read and respond to every query I receive, with the exception of the following:
    • Mass queries – queries addressed to more than 1 agent (it’s also very obvious when we’re all BCC’d)
    • Pre-queries – emails that ask whether they can query, which is a waste of time for everyone involved. The answer is always yes, just query. 
    • Queries sent as attachment. 
    • Queries addressed to someone else 
    • The Maybe-Query. (If you self-published the book you’re querying, make sure the agent knows you’re seeking representation and not just spamming them with a promotional email.)
The above-mentioned list are only fraction of the queries I receive, but they do contribute to just how many queries I end up with by the end of the year. The majority of writers who query me are informed and professional. I can’t request everything, even if they query is well-written, but I always appreciate the writers getting it right. I know a form rejection doesn’t convey that, and I wish I had time to personalize each response – or at least give a secret high-five to the writers whose queries were awesome, but just not my thing. So I’ll just say here, “thanks, writers!”
One of my 2015 goals is to double my client list (!). So I hope you’re all ready to send me more great queries – or send me those R&Rs I requested in 2014 – and help me reach that goal. 
See you in the new year, writers! 

The Cool Table

If you read this blog, then you probably also follow me on Twitter. I’m a huge fan of Twitter. I encourage every writer, editor, agent, and wannabe intern I meet to join and embrace it. It’s where the publishing community hangs out – our collective water cooler – so obviously if you want to be part of that world, that’s where you need to be. (Note: This is not the first time I’ve had thoughts about social media on this blog.)

As much as I advocate for Twitter, I’ve noticed a growing trend that goes against everything I love about social media for writers. New writers, particularly the ones who joined Twitter specifically to meet people and learn about the industry, are accidentally falling in with a bad crowd. This “bad crowd” often has good intentions, but they’re who I refer to as The Cool Kids.

Transition.

When I was in high school, my BFF-at-the-time and I used to call the popular kids “Air Quotes” because every time we’d mock their “cool” status, we’d put air quotes around the word “cool.”

The “Cool” Kids in the online book world are a little different, but can still be just as misguided and destructive. These Cool Kids, as stated above, usually mean well, but sometimes end up doing more harm than good to new writers who become convinced they need to be a Cool Kid too. (Ironically, the Cool Kid syndrome is most prevalent in YA writers, who often try to defy social hierarchies.)

Hint: You don’t need to know a secret handshake or be part of “in” crowd in order to succeed in publishing. Watch out for these “Cool” people who may lead you to believe otherwise:

Cool Kid: The Blogger
Why They’re Dangerous: No credentials are needed to start a blog.

Not all bloggers write reviews, and not all blogger-reviewers write smart reviews. The danger of The Blogger comes from those who simply call themselves bloggers without putting in the work or building an audience. Yet, to writers just starting out, it’s hard to tell the difference, and can get outdated or incorrect information. The Blogger ends up being in a position of power for writers who want to learn about the industry from people they assume are experts.

I have a blog (obviously), as do many agents and writers, but I do not consider myself a blogger. The type of blogger I’m talking about isn’t just someone who writes blog posts. I’m talking about the ones who spell their title with a capital B. The Blogger who holds pitch contests every two months just to get hits, and posts query advice despite not being agented or published. These are also the Bloggers who feel slighted when they get rejected from NetGalley.

At BEA a few years ago I was in line for the bathroom with a few of these Bloggers. They complained loudly about how they were rejected by the publisher for a coveted galley and couldn’t believe they had to wait in line with a bunch of commoners. One turned to me even though she didn’t know who I was or that I worked in publishing. “My blog has 500 followers. It’s not like I’m just some random person!” she told me. I shrugged and left to find a different bathroom.

Here’s the truth of modern society: Everyone is online. Being a blogger in the publishing/writing world may have been impressive 10 years ago, but today it’s practically expected. Being online doesn’t entitle anyone to anything anymore, and it doesn’t necessarily mean The Blogger has industry knowledge or connections.

What does entitle bloggers to things now? Having a good blog. Having a large, loyal, and consistent readership, and being well-known among the literary community. Publicists know that bloggers aren’t going to have the same reach as the New York Times, and they take that into account, but they still need to believe the blog is a respected voice in the industry.

Here are some non-agent/editor, capital-B Bloggers and blog-like sites I particularly enjoy:

Jane Friedman
The Rumpus
The Millions
Bookslut
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Stacked
Book Riot
YA Interrobang
YA Highway
The Daily Dahlia

Cool Kid: The Twitter Darling
Why They’re Dangerous: They’re your best friend… until they’re not.

Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by The Twitter Darling.

The Twitter Darling knows everything and everyone. They may not be bestselling authors, or even well-known outside of the Twitter and blogging community, but they have made themselves Very Important People To Know. The Twitter Darling tweets approximately 100 times a day and will RT and promote the shit out of you because that’s what supportive BFFs do.

Twitter Darlings keep up with industry news and trends. They are Bloggers-with-a-capital-B who never get rejected from NetGalley. They are close friends with a few industry folks and get invited to publishing parties. They have the power to invite you to sit at the “Cool” Table, and if you’re already cool, they will convince themselves it’s because of their influence and acceptance of you.

If you’re friends with the Twitter Darling, congratulations, but remember to stay true to yourself. Because the thing about Twitter Darlings? They have the power to kick you out of the “Cool” Table. Reasons might include: Not being agented, not having a book deal, not being published by what they consider the “right” house, not acknowledging the Twitter Darling’s greatness, and not wearing pink on Wednesdays.

They can be wonderful allies and friends, but they can also create unnecessary pressure to be just as “Cool” as they are.

An important thing to keep in mind about being “Cool” is that agents and editors Do. Not. Care. We want to work with good writers and people who act like professionals online and offline. If you’re “in with the in-crowd,” that’s fine too, and it may even be beneficial to your career. Just remember there is no standard of “Cool,” and you should never, ever let yourself feel “less than” for not measuring up to a false deal.

Cool Kid: The Fanboy/Fangirl
Why They’re Dangerous: Their contagious enthusiasm may end up being your downfall. 

The Fanboy/Fangirl is usually on the periphery of the book world – aspiring authors, recent grads working as booksellers or interns, bloggers, etc. We like them and support them. Until they cross boundaries.

A “fanbase” is not something I expected to have working in publishing, and it’s also something that makes me super uncomfortable. My authors are the one who deserve fans. My job title is “literary agent” the way others are “teacher” or “accountant.” Yet, an increasingly disturbing thing I’ve noticed is that some writers equate my job title with being a celebrity. This is not healthy or helpful.

I’m happy so many people seem to find my tweets and blog posts amusing, helpful, or interesting, but the Fanboy/Fangirl takes this appreciation to a whole other level. I’ve had “fans” come up to me at book events and conferences to say they love me. Not “I like your Twitter account” or “I really loved your client’s book,” but rather “OMG I love you!” Um.

Think, for a minute, how you would react if a stranger came up to you and declared their devotion. Police might get involved. Or at least a very cautious, slowly backing away. I’ve seen agent-friends ambushed in similar fashions.

I don’t respond to everyone who tweets at me. I do, however, recognize names and have developed friendly relationships with writers who have reached out to me online. Most times it’s because our personalities mesh or we have the same sense of humor, and that comes in handy if they also happen to write in a genre I represent. What never works, though, is pretending you already know me, being argumentative for the sake of attention, or responding to Every. Single. Tweet.

What’s dangerous is that otherwise sane writers have asked me if they should care more about “agent gossip” or be more familiar with editors online even if they’ve never spoken to them before. They somehow get convinced that the super enthusiastic Fanboy/Fangirl is the one doing it right simply because they’re doing it the loudest.

(An aspiring author and blogger who respects industry folk without Fangirling over them is Charlee Vale, who wrote this necessary post expanding on this concept.)

Cool Kid: The Debut Author 
Why They’re Dangerous: Their “inspiring” Twitter feed could make other writers have nervous breakdowns.

This is a tricky one because the real “danger” of The Debut Author lies in how you handle them. I love debut authors. I buy their books, support them, and have quite literally devoted my career to creating more of them. The Debut Author doesn’t always know the damage they do, and I’d wager that 99.9% of them don’t mean to cause any damage at all.

Twitter is a great community for writers as long as everything shared is taken with a grain of salt. Comparisons are inevitably made, and in the age of social media, broadcasting why your news is the best news can cause other writers to question their own accomplishments, or lack thereof. You should be 100% proud of your achievements, which is why I’m not telling The Debut Author to stop tweeting their Agent Success Stories, Deal Announcements, Film Options, or anything else positive and amazing.

What I am asking is for other writers to stop drawing comparisons. Celebrate your friends’ good news without secretly resenting them. Step away from social media and clear your head and remember that the only thing you need to focus on is what’s right for you and your career. Your agent loves you just as much as The Debut Author’s agent loves them. Your “dream editor” is out there too.

No one’s timeline is going to be the same, and success doesn’t come in one size. Your modest debut may not compare to The Debut Author’s 6-figure multi-book deal, but you have more than one book in you, and a writer’s “breakout” novel is rarely their debut. So, relax, be happy, and get offline if you need to.

(By the way, agent Carly Watters had an excellent post on this topic. Bookmark it for your own sanity!)

All of these Cool Kids have one thing in common, and that’s their ability to make writers feel less than what they are. Don’t let them convince you there’s one way to do things, and be aware that most of these Cool Kids aren’t intentionally causing harm. Embrace social media, but remember to be yourself, stay sane, and be open to new online friends who are supportive and understanding. If they start to make you feel like you should sit at a different table, then go sit somewhere else and leave them behind.

Writing for the 21st Century

I represent Adult fiction and YA & MG fiction, but I talk more about the latter. I know I do this, and it’s not because I don’t have a lot to say about Adult fiction. It’s that YA, and especially MG, are still new. They are still evolving. Adult genres get redefined every once in a while, and audiences grow, but mostly, adults are adults and their writers know who they’re writing for.

I talk more about YA because the category itself is known for jumping from trend to trend, being super enthusiastic and supportive, yet misunderstood (and often disrespected) by mainstream literary culture. Its target audience can relate, and they aren’t known for standing still either. Adults age at a much slower pace. The difference between a 32 year old and a 36 year old is barely a blip compared to that of a 13 year old and a 17 year old. Sometimes writers laugh when I say things like, “this character should be 16 instead of 15,” as if one year could possibly make that much of a difference. But when you’re a teenager, it can and it often does.

With adults, whether they’re 52 or 27, they have at least one thing in common: they can look back on their adolescence. Teens can’t. They only know the here-and-now. This is one of the main reasons I love YA and want to bring more of it into the world. Teens are full of possibilities. They have more ahead of them than behind them, and their stories often reflect that.

A less idealistic reason I love teens, though, is their ability to see through adults’ bullshit. They know when they’re being pandered to. They know when you clearly don’t understand them. They know when you don’t care about their lives – meaning, their actual lives and not the silly melodramatic ones adults think they have. Teens are tricky and they are wonderful. If you’re choosing to write for them – and not just about them – then you should know why you’re doing so.

When I read submissions, I see writers succeeding in storytelling and realistic characters and good ideas… what I see failing in MG & YA lately is setting. It’s not hard to see why. Setting is generally only considered when physical place has a major focus. What I see writers ignoring more and more is that setting also refers to time. Contemporary/realistic fiction is becoming very blurry, time-wise, and doesn’t feel as authentic. We’ve gotten so used to each decade being “similar enough” in the late 20th century that it seems we’ve failed to notice it’s over.

Recently I tweeted a reminder to MG and YA writers that made many writers feel “old.”

@sarahlapolla · Aug 26: MG/YA writers: If your pub date is 2015 or 2016, no one in your target audience was born in the ’90s. Use this info while you write. [1/2]

@sarahlapolla · Aug 26: Think of the world they were born into, how they are growing up, & keep in mind what concepts/politics would be irrelevant to them. [2/2]

My point is that the 21st century is a teenager now. What’s more, it has a shorter attention span than its predecessors. It’s not going to slow down and wait for writers to catch up.

So, who are the teens living in this century? Why is our late 20th century mindset no longer cutting it?

Today’s teens are not 20th century teens in a way that goes deeper than simply pop culture and fashion. Plot and character should be the first things you have in mind when you sit down to write, but once you know what those are, go back to that question of why.

Why did you choose to write for teens? Why will today’s teens care about this story? Even if you write historical fiction, there should be a reason you think modern teens will connect with the time and story you’ve chosen. Otherwise, why make it MG or YA? The reason you chose to write for this audience should be based on more than YA being popular in publishing right now. Think of who your audience is and what they care about. More importantly, remember what they don’t care about.

There’s a huge difference in cultural and political attitudes from the 19th century to the 20th. Think, for example, how folks growing up in 1890 differ from the folks who came of age during the Roaring ’20s. They’re only one generation apart, and yet seem like a completely different world if you look at the history books. This is where we are now. The new century has taken shape and 20th century attitudes are becoming less and less relevant. For an American audience, a big part of that shift is because of the very tangible life-changing event that kicked off the new century, 9/11.

Want to go back and watch 9/11’s influence on pop culture? Aside from the many “post-9/11 novels” that came out around 2005-2008, and our desire to bring back superhero movies in a big way, take these examples of my two favorite shows:

– The West Wing was largely about the staffers of a liberal president who never went to war, and who’s biggest problem was that he didn’t disclose an illness before the election. After 9/11? Bartlett becomes increasingly more willing to take strikes on foreign land, the show itself becomes darker and more high stakes, and suddenly “the day in the life of a White House staffer” wasn’t a strong enough premise to compete against the real world drama of the early ’00s.

– Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is full of ’90s optimism, fashion, and attitude; it was often campy along with clever, and full of righteous heroes who believed the world was worth saving – a lot. By Season 6 (after 9/11 happened in real life), Buffy no longer knows who she is or what world she’s even trying to save anymore. The whole season is about feeling lost and hopeless. By the end of Season 7 (when we 1st invaded Iraq in real life), the Scooby Gang goes to war, refers to it as such, and is aware there will be casualties.

What those TV shows became are how shows now begin – dark, gritty, in need of an anti-hero because all the “real” heroes have left the building. The real world influences pop culture all the time, and it often defines a generation in the process. We’re not as lost as we were in the early ’00s, but life didn’t go back to how it was either.

The teens reading YA only know about 9/11 from history class. Imagine what your perspective of government, global politics, and even just day-to-day life might be like if you didn’t remember September 10th.

Someone on Twitter asked what I meant by “concepts/politics” in my tweet, and, in addition to major world events, I mentioned race and gender. I used the “Long Duck Dong” Syndrome of ’80s movies as an example. Movies geared toward teens are by no means perfect, and definitely not always politically correct, but overt racism is no longer mainstream comedy. Nor is language used to hide rape references, like in movies like Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds. For every “boys will be boys” attempt in modern teen movies, there’s a smart, sassy girl ready to shoot them down and make them the butt of the joke. 21st century teens still see horrible socioeconomic disparities, gender roles being challenged and disputed, and racial equality taking leaps forward and backward at the same time, but they also hear more voices who were previously silenced because of changing attitudes and social media. (The 21st century is, after all, still a teenager… it has a way to go before it reaches mature adulthood.)

These are ideas that go beyond whether your character uses a cell phone or still says, “totally buggin’.”

We don’t all need to be scholars or philosophers. I still want fun, commercial stories about teens being teens, and I am a firm believer that teens are teens are teens. Meaning, their circumstances and perspectives change, but they don’t. Not really. That’s another reason why I love YA. I don’t need to be a 21st century teen to remember what it felt like to be a teenager. The heart of your stories – the emotional arcs of your characters – should be timeless. That doesn’t mean you can ignore a changing world that influences how your audience relates to your novel.

Another reason I’m elaborating on these tweets is because a lot of replies had to do with pop culture, which I understand. There were jokes about not mentioning certain bands or making their characters accidentally wear outdated styles. These are things to keep in mind when you write, but don’t give them more power than they’ll actually have on your reader. At the end of the day, these things are superficial. Teens might roll their eyes, but they’ll keep reading if the story is compelling enough.

That said, using too many outdated references can absolutely set off a teen’s bullshit detector. Sure, they can Google that band from the early ’00s and, yes, they’ve heard of VCRs before, but do they care? If they look it up online, will their understanding of the book as a whole really be effected? Probably not. So why risk interrupting the narrative? When I tell my authors to delete certain references, it’s not because I think teens won’t understand them. It’s because I know the reference isn’t really for them.

Besides, those superficial references are easy to fix anyway. You don’t need to study modern teens or be up-to-date on the latest trends. You just need to remember when it’s OK to be non-specific and embrace fiction. You’re writers; this shouldn’t be difficult.

For example:

  • “Low-rise skinny jeans” = jeans
  • “Smartphone/”cell phone” = phone
  • “Facebook” = social media site with a cute name you made up
  • “Taylor Swift” = pop star

See? Easy.

Honestly, unless your plot is heavily dependent on whether your main character tweets, listens to Justin Bieber, or uses their phone, you probably don’t need to call attention to it at all. The best uses of setting are the ones you barely notice because you’re already fully immersed in it. Trust your reader. They will assume your characters do “normal teen things” even if it’s not directly written on the page. Don’t over-think it. (I mean, it’s not like you’re writing an episode of The Vampire Diaries or anything.)

As writers, you don’t need to envision the future, or even make a comment on it, in order to write about the present. We (writers, agents, and publishers alike) just need to remember what the present is and respect who is going to build the future from here.

The Truth About Patience

Hey everyone. I don’t usually blog about my specific clients or deals I’ve made because, as is stated on the side panel of this blog, Glass Cases is a personal blog I run for writers and is not affiliated with my agency. That said, THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by my client Jennifer Mathieu, was recently published and I wanted to share this particular publication journey.

The Truth About Alice, on paper, seemed like a quick, easy sale. I submitted it at the worst possible time, in retrospect: May 30 – a week before BEA and only 5 weeks before a holiday weekend. But despite the usually hectic publishing schedule, Alice was on submission just 7 weeks before it received its first offer.

If only all publishing stories were that simple. Unfortunately, this one isn’t either. The Truth About Alice‘s road to publication actually started back in 2009.

A timeline, if you will:

  • 2009: Curtis Brown agent Nathan Bransford signs a client named Jennifer Mathieu and sends out her smart, funny coming-of-age YA novel. And gets many “nice” rejections. Editors loved the voice, loved the story, and hated to say no, but… the rejections started piling up. Realistic YA was still considered “impossible” to sell in the post-Twilight paranormal craze that led into the post-Hunger Games dystopian craze. 
  • 2010: With Jennifer’s novel on yet another round of submissions, Nathan breaks the hearts of every aspiring author – and his fellow agents at Curtis Brown – and announces he’s leaving publishing.
  • Mid-2010: I start building a client list of my own. With three clients to my name, Nathan tells me he has a client whose voice I will love. I read Jennifer’s book and the voice blows me away. Like, laugh-out-loud, miss-two-subway-stops kind of love. I speak with Jennifer and we click immediately and I take on a brand new client. Everything is happy until Nathan sends me a very long list of editors who already rejected Jennifer book and a very short list of editors who “probably” will look at another revision. As a new agent with hardly any contacts of my own, I silently curse Nathan’s name.
  • 2010-2011: I work with Jennifer on a revision of that first novel and put it on submission to a small group of editors. Identical rejections from 2009. Jennifer works on a standalone companion novel, which I also put on submission. More “nice” rejections that think the novel is “too quiet.”
  • Mid-2011: Jennifer tells me about an idea she’s outlining that involves multi-POV versions of rumors about a teenage girl. I tell her to explore that idea and we shelve her other project after receiving a particularly painful rejection. (Not because it was mean, but because it was so overwhelming positive and full of regret. Yes, editors get rejected too.) 
  • 2012: Jennifer finishes her new novel, now called The Truth About Alice Franklin. After some tinkering, I put it on submission right before June. 
  • July 2012: We receive four offers on The Truth About Alice Franklin from major publishers, with a few more bringing it to acquisitions. I hold my first ever auction as an agent (and try not to have a heart attack in the process). After a very close auction, we accept a two-book offer from Roaring Brook Press, where it becomes The Truth About Alice.
  • September 2012: After two agents and almost four years of being on submission, Jennifer holds her book contract in her hands. 
  • May 2013: I decide Jennifer hasn’t had enough drama and leave Curtis Brown for a new agency. I’m overjoyed that Jennifer moves with me to Bradford Literary Agency!
  • September 2013: Jennifer’s editor, Nancy Mercado, also decides the drama factor wasn’t quite high enough and leaves Roaring Brook Press to join Scholastic. We panic until Jennifer is paired with new-to-us editor Katherine Jacobs, who we immediately love and who is an enthusiastic champion for Jennifer’s career.
  • April 2014: With The Truth About Alice not yet published and the “Book 2” of that two-book deal still being revised, Roaring Brook Press buys what will be Jennifer’s third standalone contemporary YA novel.
  • June 3, 2014: The Truth About Alice is published and Jennifer officially begins her career as an author. Not only that, but the book has become an Indie Next Pick for Summer 2014, an Amazon Best Book of the Month in Teen/YA, and has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and The Daily Beast, to name a few.
Yeah, so I threw those last links in there to brag a little because who wouldn’t brag after spending almost five years waiting for everything you know an author deserves.
There were so many times Jennifer and I both could have thrown in the towel. I could have taken one look at that list Nathan sent me back in 2010 and decided Jennifer wasn’t worth taking on. Jennifer could have gotten frustrated by a string of rejections, losing her agent, and getting stuck with some assistant who had barely made a sale. (Thankfully, she didn’t see me that way!) In other words, The Truth About Alice may never have been written, let alone sold, well-received, and the first of three standalone novels. 
I hope the moral of this story is clear. DON’T GIVE UP.

This should go without saying, but sometimes it’s easy to forget. Especially when it can feel like your publishing road is paved with Murphy’s Law. Especially when each new rejection stings harder and harder. Especially when it seems like it shouldn’t be this hard.

Jennifer didn’t want to go the self-publishing route, but I get that writers have more legit options now than she would have in 2009. Even still, those who want an agent and a “traditional” publisher shouldn’t give up on their career choice just because there’s a shiny back-up option.

Patience is the first thing you learn in publishing. From querying to getting feedback to finding the right agent to revising to going on submission to sometimes going back on submission to getting an offer to finally waiting for publication…. publishing moves slowly.

If you’re a writer who’s on submission, something to keep in mind is that – like Jennifer – the first book you write may not be your debut novel. Your second book might not be either. In fact, that’s fairly common. An agent has to fall in love with your writing and your story, but sometimes the industry has other plans for you both.

Have patience and keep writing. Then write something new. Keep getting better with every book and don’t worry about where they may end up. Expectations, when had, are rarely met, but sometimes when you least expect it, they are exceeded. 

We Need Diverse Books

This week an important Twitter campaign launched called #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It went viral, according to Salon, which I think is technology-code for “popular.” I participated in the hashtag along with many other writers, agents, editors, publishers, librarians, and PEOPLE who demand more representation in their books.

Then something called #DiversityWL (Diversity Wish List) started. Agents and editors have been posting what, specifically, they hope to find in their slush piles. I’m happy this exists, but I’m not sure what to add to it. My “Diversity Wish List” is simply: well-written books in genres I represent. That’s my wish list no matter what. I want my “diverse” characters to be people in those stories.

So I started thinking about this more and realized it’s easier for me to say what I don’t want. “Diverse,” to me, isn’t calling out “Other-ness.” The “I’m Different And That’s OK” books had their place, but it’s 2014 and I think we can do better. I think we can offer more.

For Adult and YA, here is “Diversity Wishlist.”

1) LGBT characters who are more than just “the best friend.”

Give me a main character who’s main plot line doesn’t revolve around their sexuality. In YA, I know coming out stories and bullying stories matter, but those books have been written. I want to see a gay teen not be constantly reminded that there’s something “weird” or “unacceptable” about who they are. Your target audience becomes a whole lot easier to reach when they see themselves in stories, and not just as puppets for straight people to learn valuable lessons. And when straight teens read those stories too, it doesn’t always need to be about making them feel bad for the main character, nor does it need to make gay teens who aren’t bullied wonder where their stories are.

2) Main characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds, regardless of race.

The books I often see about “poor people” tend to be about a family struggling to get by, but rarely do I see entire worlds and viewpoints being developed. I don’t want to just know the characters have little money. I want to see how they save money in subtle ways. I want to see what’s important to them that may not be important to families who never have to worry about money. What makes their view on the world different and why does it matter?

3) Non-white characters in non-stereotypical roles.

This one is obvious. I want diversity within my white characters, but I also want to see people who don’t usually get to be the main character. What I’m NOT looking for: the sassy Latina best friend; black or Hispanic teens in gangs; “honor-driven” Asian-Americans who may or may not play a string instrument (Seriously, why do I always get queries with Asians who play the violin? Am I unfamiliar with this stereotype?); Muslim characters who’s primary function is to be Muslim first and a person second. The list of stereotypes can go on, but these are the ones I see most often. When I think “diversity” I don’t think “token,” but sadly that’s what I’m still getting.

Those are just the Top 3. Any other good books with unique characters who meet my criteria should also make their way to my slush pile. I want to bring new stories and new types of heroes into the world, and I want to help writers of all colors and backgrounds get published.

But, my main criteria will always be:
1) Is this well-written?
2) Do I love this story?

Because, yes, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but status quo is unlikely to change over a forgettable character. Art influences history. So put your best out there, writers. Then, of course, remember to send it to me!

 

2013: A Year in Queries

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. This will be my last post of 2013, which means it’s time for my annual end-of-year query stats.

I dubbed this year the year of ALL THE CHANGES, and my career was no exception. In April I closed to queries to prepare for a career change. I moved from an assistant-level position with Curtis Brown, Ltd. to a full-time agent role with Bradford Literary Agency. Back in June, I blogged about moving to Bradford and included my query stats from January to April 2013.

I re-opened to queries on June 10, so for the purposes of this blog post, the stats I’m using will be from June 10 – December 22. As a reminder, the stats are from unsolicited queries only – aka “the slush pile.” Any requests made at conferences, through blog/Twitter contests, or via referrals weren’t part of the tally. So, without further ado:

June 10-30:
Total: 272
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Women’s fiction, Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism, MG fantasy

July:
Total: 391
Requests: 4
Genres Requested: Women’s fiction, Literary Fiction, Urban Fantasy, YA Fantasy

August:
Total: 320
Requests: 3
Genres Requested: Adult Sci-fi, MG Horror, YA Fantasy

September:
Total: 303
Requests: 8
Genres Requested: Literary Fiction (2), Adult Paranormal Thriller, Adult Sci-fi, YA Paranormal, YA Thriller, YA Fantasy, YA Sci-fi 

October:
Total: 297
Requests: 5

Genres Requested: YA Contemporary (2), YA Mystery, YA Fantasy (2), MG Magical Realism (2), MG Contemporary 

November:
Total: 281
Requests: 5
Genres Requested: Adult Sci-fi (2), YA contemporary (2), Adult Magical Realism 

December (1-22):
Total: 150
Requests: 0
Note: I’ve received 22 new queries from 12/23-12/29. Since I haven’t read them yet, they weren’t counted toward December’s total.

Total Queries Received Since June 10: 2,024

Total Manuscript Requests: 29

Most Requested Genres: Literary fiction, Magical Realism, and Sci-fi

Least Requested Genres: Paranormal and Women’s Fiction


Month With Most Requests: September

Most Popular Query Day of the Week: Wednesday

Total Offers of Rep from Queries: 0 – Don’t be alarmed by this number. More often than not, if I’m interested in a manuscript, I ask for a revision (“R&R”) before offering representation. This is even more common if the manuscript comes from an unsolicited query.

Total New Clients since June: 1 – The fabulous Gina Miel Heron, a woman’s fiction author I met at a conference in 2011 and kept in contact with while she finished her manuscript and then, later, the R&R I asked for in 2012. Sometimes it’s a long road to representation!  

Total New Clients in 2013: 2 – Before moving to Bradford, I also signed YA author Stephanie Scott, who I met via a blog contest in 2012 and officially offered rep in February 2013.

Total Queries Received in 2013 (minus hiatus): 3,206

I received about 700 fewer queries this year than I received last year. Given my agency switch, a tighter focus on what genres I represent, a two month hiatus from queries, and attending fewer conferences, this makes sense to me. What I noticed about the queries I did receive this year is that the quality of them was much higher. I can’t request everything I want to sometimes, but what I did request often resulted in revision requests or some very, very tough decisions. 

While these query stats can be a bit hard to process, I should remind you that most agents receive hundreds of queries for genres they don’t represent. Someday, perhaps in 2014, I’ll feel ambitious enough to split my query stats up into Genres I Represent vs. Genres I Don’t Represent. I think a lot of you will feel much better about the request rate that way! 

Also, I’ll repeat last year’s post and remind you that I do respond to every query I receive with the exception of the following:
  • Mass queries (addressed to more than one person – and, yes, we can tell when you BCC us).
  • Pre-queries (emails asking whether they can query).
  • Queries sent as attachments or links, with nothing else in the body of the email.
  • Queries addressed to someone else (even if it’s a copy and paste error, I’ll assume you meant to query that other person instead).
  • Possible query for a self-pubbed book, but possibly just promoting a self-pubbed book. If I can’t tell if what you’re sending is, in fact, a query, I won’t answer it.
Most writers do follow guidelines and research agents and respect that querying is Step One in the process to getting an agent. We love you for that, writers, and we hope you keep doing that in 2014. 

As for me, I envision 2014 to be a much more sane year than 2013 has been. I promise no more agency moves or, barring any emergencies, breaks from queries. I may even get back to blogging at a semi-regular pace! In the meantime, I thank you for reading my little blog for another year. Have a very happy new year, dear readers. See you in 2014! 

On Being a Real Writer

I’ve been thinking about labels lately. How one gets one and whether they deserve to have it. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the label of Writer and whether it applies to me.

Most readers of this blog know that I write, though it’s not something I’m pursuing professionally for now. For now. Maybe someday. It’s the “maybe” that makes me hide from the label Writer.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to seek publication?

I have an MFA in creative nonfiction, and this tends to come up a lot when I’m at conferences or do interviews for blogs. I’m an agent and I have an MFA and “do you still write?” is the question I always get. My answer is usually self-deprecating, or when I’m feeling confident, I say something like, “Yeah, kind of.”

My nonfiction of late has been this blog and few stray pieces I’ve never submitted. I’ve instead completed a draft of a YA novel, and have two more YA projects that aren’t even half-finished. Writing is important to me. I care about the characters I create and I know I created them for a reason. Sometimes I need to write. I think about writing more than I talk about it, and I talk about it more than I do it. All of my projects remain unfinished.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to finish at least one thing even if it kills them?

There’s always something to blame.

I’m an agent and my clients come first. Then requested material and queries come first. Then going to conferences and networking events and being so exhausted all the time comes first. Then reading for pleasure comes first because it’s rare I get the opportunity to do so. Then Twitter comes first and “keeping up with industry news” that quickly turns into who else watched Supernatural last night. Then having a social life and maintaining friendships comes first. Then eating and sleeping and just being quiet comes first.

Writing isn’t something I’ve made a priority. Part of that is because I know I’m not on a deadline. I’m not a Real Writer. I’m not published, nor am I really trying to be yet. My career is my focus, and writing will be second to that.

Aren’t Real Writers supposed to put writing ahead of everything else?

My professional and personal life is surrounded by Real Writers. I’ve sat listening to them talk about their process and how torturous it all is. I’ve read tweet upon tweet, countless blog posts, on how hard writing is. Beautiful, poetic posts that make me believe that whoever could talk about writing in such a way must be a Real Writer. Not someone like me. Certainly never someone like me, who wouldn’t be able to wax poetic about anything with a straight face, let alone the writerly mindset. If only I were a damaged soul who needed a creative outlet because my own mind simply cannot contain the multitudes of my depth.

But no. A Real Writer is someone else. Not someone like me who has never viewed writing as something set on destroying my very essence. For me, writing is just a thing I do.

I write or I don’t write. When I do, it is hard and I push myself when it gets harder. Then I stop. Sometimes I don’t pick up my pen again (yes, a pen) for weeks. When I reach a point of transcribing to my laptop, I usually get struck by a fresh wave of inspiration and type for hours. Then I stop.

Aren’t Real Writers more prolific than that?

I’ve joined writer’s groups, rented houses for self-imposed writing retreats, studied my craft, and found my voice. I did all the things Real Writers do. I read all the things Real Writers read. I appreciate the same words that Real Writers connect with. Yet all I feel is distance between myself and Them.

I’m a writer because I write, but I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself as a Real Writer. As I think more about labels, I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter. I never took myself seriously as a writer because I thought being a Real Writer was more serious than it is. But if I’m always the one to mock my own creativity, why should I expect anyone else to take me seriously?

My goal is to embrace that writing is a part of me too, even if it’s a part I buried for a while. 2013 was supposed to be the year I “got back into writing,” a promise I’d been breaking since I received my MFA in 2008. The difference this year was that I did finish that novel; I did start writing again and treat it as more than just “something I used to do.”

Maybe 2014 will be the year I stop caring whether I measure up to Real Writers’ standards – or at least what I imagine their standards for Real Writing are. Maybe only then will I let myself believe I, too, am one of Them.

Tell me, fellow writers – was there a moment where you realized you’re a Real Writer? Or do you also run from the label?

Socialized Media

One of the most common questions I get from non-publishing friends is “Why do you have so many Twitter followers?” I get this from publishing friends too, I guess. The answer is, I don’t know. I try to be informative without being bland, and sometimes I take a break from publishing and tweet about my commute or TV shows. I have no idea which side of my Twitter personality people have responded to most, but I hope it’s a combination of the two.

I can’t really offer a guide on how to gain Twitter followers because:
1) Who am I?
2) Everyone uses Twitter differently, and I won’t assume you want to use it identically to the way I do.

Knowing how you want to use social media is probably a good first step in gaining followers. But other than that, I have no idea how to make people follow you. (Don’t be boring? Give them cookies?) What I can provide, however, is a list of things I see people do on Twitter that make me want to unfollow them, or even block them.

Tweeting too much.
If you have less than 1,000 followers but have tweeted over 80,000 times, I am suspicious of you. It’s not that what you’re saying is “bad” necessarily, but it means one of two things:
1) What you are saying is not effectively building an audience.
2) You have no interest in building an audience, and are treating Twitter as a sounding board for whatever pops into your brain.

Not having a Twitter avatar/not tweeting enough.
People like following humans on Twitter! Make friends by eliminating the Lifeless Twitter Egg and tweet at least once once a week. Also make sure your tweets say more than “I don’t know how to use Twitter” or “I don’t tweet enough.” Because… why are you even there? No one forced you to join. No one should join a social media site if they have no intention of using it.

Only promoting your book.
I’m cheating with this one a bit because I, personally, instantly mark these people as spam. So, I never really see this on my feed. If a writer pitches me their book via Twitter (when it’s not for a pitch contest) or sends me a link to their Amazon page, I click on their profile and 99% of the time, they’ve sent almost every other agent on Twitter that exact same message. THIS IS NOT MARKETING. It’s spam. Similarly, writers who don’t have books of their own will spam Twitter feeds another way – by only talking about their friends’ books. Like all book promotion, this, too, should be limited.

Not having a clue what you’re talking about.
This is obvious, but sometimes I see industry folk (usually newbies who are eager to impress) and authors discuss “publishing” and realize they don’t actually understand the business. I’ve been an agent for 3 years and worked in the industry for a little over 6 years. I’m no longer a “newbie” but I certainly have a lot left to learn. I’d like to believe I’m smart and capable of being the “rock star” I’m sometimes referred to online, but I’m not… yet. So, when I don’t understand something, I do not tweet about it. And if I do this by accident, and am called on my bullshit, I curl up into a ball and die; I do not keep tweeting and being all indignant about my lack-of-knowledge.

Streams of consciousness that turn into floods. 
Similar to tweeting too much, tweeting too often and not staying consistent is also something that makes me click Unfollow. For example, using Twitter to talk to about an article you read, and quickly realizing it’s going to take about 5 or 6 tweets in a row to get your point across. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. Nor is taking time to respond to others who add to the conversation. What does look unprofessional is when someone turns my feed into this:

“This topic merits discussion. Here’s a link _______” [2:22pm]
“Here is Opinion #1 why this topic matters” [2:24pm]
“And Opinion #2” [2:25pm]
“@follower1 I agree because of reasons!” [2:28pm]
“I have to bring my cats to the vet today. Sooooo sad.” [2:29pm]
“@follower2 Oh, I disagree. Did you not see that link?” [2:30pm]
“My book has a pub date!!!! Please pre-order it from Amazon!” [2:31pm]
::SEVERAL RETWEETS ON VARIOUS TOPICS IN A ROW::
“I’m so excited for fall to start. Pumpkin spice latte season, y’all!” [2:32pm]
“@follower2 Let’s keep arguing about that other thing for a while. Does anyone even remember what I posted before?” [2:33pm]
“Here’s an adorable kitten GIF. Because Mondays, right?” [2:35pm]
“Did you all watch Breaking Bad last night? OMG!” [2:36pm]

I see this often, not just from writers, but from agents and other industry folk. There’s nothing wrong with any of the above-mentioned tweets individually, but spewed out in a 15-minute chunk is a problem. Yes, you should have variety in what you tweet about and engage in conversation and let your followers know about any new developments with your book. But, basically, chill out. Space out your tweets and understand that not every thought you have needs to be shared. The information you really, really want your followers to know will end up getting buried. Usually when I scroll through my feed, and I see the same person appear 10 times in a row, I’ll just read whatever their most recent tweet was. Because… ain’t no one got time for that.

Too. Much. Information.
Revealing how much of your personal life you share online is, of course, up to you. If you’re using Twitter as a tool in your professional life, however, be smart about what you say. Do we need a live-tweet of the birth of your child or a Vine of your colonoscopy? NOPE. If we learn your children’s names, do we necessarily need to know them as well as our own family?

Granted, I’m skeptical of how “social” every single website has become, and given the actual physical attacks on literary agents that have made the news, I’m about one step away from living in a bunker. I’m also just as much of an introvert online as I am in person, and for me that means needing my privacy. I understand not everyone is like that. But, if you do share, remember not to over-share and make things uncomfortable. Don’t be that guy at the party who brings a pleasant conversation about books to screeching halt because all he wants to do is publish a book to prove he is good enough, mom, and why doesn’t anyone love him, I mean, really. Twitter shouldn’t count as your weekly trip to church, therapy, or be a substitute for coffee with your real-life best friend.

I’ve said before (on Twitter) that social media is like a cocktail party – fun and casual and not as buttoned-up as the office – but some networking and shop talk will occur, so don’t get too drunk. Any actual business (e.g., pitching your book, information about submissions, following up on queries, etc.) should be saved for the office, aka “email.” Now, go forth and make smart social media choices!

Any Questions?

It’s been said a thousand times, but the publishing industry sloooooooows during the summer months. This happens for obvious reasons (vacation time) and less-obvious-to-the-public reasons (editors are preparing for their upcoming fall and winter launches and catching up on material sent to them in the spring).

As an agent, I read submissions and queries as I receive them. I don’t have to worry about “launch” and I don’t have to wait until my superiors return from vacation before I can take on a new project. It also helps that my editorial deadlines are self-imposed. This means I spend most of my summers preparing clients’ work for fall submissions, catching up on queries, touching base with editors on existing projects, and traveling to conferences.

The most recent conference I attended was from the comfort of my own home (well, a Starbucks) and it was the free online conference, WriteOnCon (which is wonderful, and did I mention free?). I did a live chat with a few other agents in which we answered questions specifically about querying. Writers always have many, many questions about querying to the point where I just want to hug them. But since I can’t do that through the internet, I try my best to answer their questions. 

The questions during WriteOnCon could have been direct quotes from the questions I receive at every conference I attend in person. Most of them are fantastic and smart, and I don’t mind answering them 50 different times because every single time is important.

Questions like:
“How important is my author bio?”
“Should we use comp titles?”
“How long should a query be?”
“Can we send a previously rejected query after a major revision?”

… and other good questions that pertain to querying in general – as a process, as part of the business, as a necessary step toward reaching a larger goal.

There are other questions that always come up though – whether in Q&A sessions at conferences or in #askagent chats on Twitter – that only tell an agent the writer is at best, uninformed, and at worst, desperately unprofessional. These questions are rarely questions at all. They are masks to hide their pitches behind.

Here are questions to reconsider before asking an agent during a Q&A session:

What is the market like for [insert genre/style here]? 
Unless the topic of the Q&A session is specifically about the state of the market – which would be rare in circumstances involving unpublished/unagented writers – do not ask this question. We all know what you’re really asking, and if we represent your genre, you can query us. Questions about the market for a specific genre tell me you don’t actually care about the answer. You just want to know that there’s a market for your book. That tells an agent you’re writing (and querying) for the wrong reasons. If the answer to that question is “the market is dead,” does that mean you’re going to stop writing? If so, what happens if I sign you as a client but we have trouble selling your first book? I wouldn’t want to work with an author who gives up that easily or is unwilling to write another book. Also, it tells me you’re not reading in the genre in which you’re hoping to contribute. You should already be aware of what’s been published and the general trends in the genre you’re writing.
What are you looking for right now?
This question is asking the agent what they represent, which is something that will vary among agents and is another sneaky way to finding out if the agent represents your book. Do your research on where/whom to query, but panels are not the place to ask for specifics you can easily Google. It’s your chance to get insider knowledge that isn’t on their websites and Twitter feeds. 
Are you looking for new writers?/Do you work with debut authors?
99.9% of the time the answer to question is an all-caps YES. Agents close to queries sometimes for various reasons, and if that’s the case it’ll say so on their websites/Twitter pages (aka, the things you should be checking before you query anyway). If you’re still unsure, just try anyway. Worst that happens is an auto-response that says no, or you just don’t hear from them. The point is, it’s not a question to ask during a Q&A. It’s an agent’s JOB to find new authors. If you’re querying us at all, chances are you are a debut author. I can’t think of any agent who’s ever said “I only work with published authors.” If an author is already widely published, it’s likely they have an agent already too. So… YES, we want new authors.

Is this something you would like?/Can I send this to you?
This question is one I usually receive after I do a critique. At conferences, part of the draw for authors to attend is getting a one-on-one session with an agent and getting personal feedback on their pages. Once the 10, 15, or 20 minute conversation is over, I always ask “do you have any other questions for me?” And sadly, from at least one person, that question will be whether I want to represent the manuscript based on the opening pages I just read. No. The answer is no. Even if it’s a genre I love and my critique was entirely made of praise, that was not the point of meeting with me. If there are no questions about the critique itself, or larger industry-related questions, then just say “Nope. No questions. Thanks!” (And then query me after you revise.)

I understand frustration with rejection and feeling like any chance you get to speak directly to an agent should be used to sell your book. Professionalism is about curbing that impulse and thinking before you act. Agents experience rejection all the time, but if I’m at a cocktail party I don’t pitch books to editors. I get to know them, get a feeling about their taste, and then we either set up a lunch or I’ll send a follow-up email to pitch books to them. Think of conferences and Twitter as the cocktail party; your query is the lunch date.

If you’re interested in other query-centric discussions on this blog, feel free to read these as well:


Conferences: A Cheat Sheet

I’m a big fan of writer’s conferences. I went to two last month, have one coming up this month, and another in August. Last year I went to nine of them (which, I admit, contributed to my slight burn-out by the end of 2012). I like meeting writers from other parts of the country. I like seeing other parts of the country. And I like knowing that even in the smallest of towns far, far away from Big Literary New York City, there are tight communities that care just as much about the craft of writing as they do about the business of getting published.

No matter where and what conference I attend, there are always similarities among the writers. I’ve gotten quite good at knowing who is ready for publication and who still needs time to find their voice, as eager as they may be. Of course, the best times are when writers surprise me.

In 2011, I wrote a post on how to pitch to an agent at conferences, or rather, how not to pitch. Since then I’ve been to a lot more conferences and met a lot more writers. More than just pitching to an agent, here are a few tips to keep in mind when attending a writer’s conference:

1. You Will Not Leave a Conference With an Offer of Representation
OK, I’ll say you will very very rarely get an offer of rep at a conference because I’m sure there have been exceptions to this rule somewhere. But, 99.9% of the time, you will not get this offer at the actual conference. Going to a conference based on who the faculty will be is great, but keep in mind that even if your dream agent (which you should not have!) attends, he or she still needs to read your work before making an offer. Your pitch, premise, and overall demeanor could be perfect all weekend, and you may even make a personal connection with the agent of your choice, but that doesn’t mean we can magically pull a contract out of our back pockets. Your job is to pitch your project to an agent. Even if they say “yes,” that “yes” is usually followed by “send me your query and sample pages.” I’ve had writers stare at me blankly even after I told them to send me material, as if they expected more from me. Do you really want an agent who doesn’t even read your work first? No.

2. A Conference is For Learning
Meeting agents and editors is great, but the main reason to attend a conference is to learn. Conferences provide more than just pitch sessions. Agents and editors often critique work, and the organizers of the conference offer several excellent seminars and workshops for writers to attend. It’s about learning the craft, learning the business, and learning that just because you finished your novel doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication.

3. Writer-Friends Are Valuable
Regional conferences are the best way to meet other writers in your area. Your friends and family can provide all the support in the world, and a few of them may even be skilled enough to read your work objectively. But writer-friends? They are a special breed. They can turn into Real Friends, but unlike your non-writer friends, they know exactly what you’re going through. They’re going through it too. They know what writer’s block is; they know what querying is like; they know the hell that is the revision process. Having them in close proximity means you can also get offline and grab a drink (or a cupcake) with them, which is just as important as sharing your work sometimes.

4. No One is Forcing You to Attend a Conference
Conferences are expensive. Organizers need to pay for the location, provide meals, cover travel and hotel costs for faculty, and a lot of other minor expenses that add up. That means you, the writer, have to pay to attend. You get quite a bit for your money, but it’s still your money. Remember that you volunteered it for the opportunity to be there. It’s amazing how many writers yawn their way through seminars, become defensive over critiques, and ask questions such as “what good is an agent anyway?” during Q&A sessions. It makes one wonder, why are you even here???

5. Agents and Editors are People Too
Please treat us with respect. This post at From the Write Angle is one to bookmark and memorize about this point. Also, understand that the time to pitch your book is not when we are chewing our food or going to the bathroom. Thanks. 🙂

How many of you have attended writer’s conferences? What do you wish you knew about them before you attended that you know now?