Saturday, May 25, 2013

I can almost hear Willie Nelson singing "On the Road Again."

It's the time of year when we work a lot of conferences. For me, quite a number of years ago I went to a conference as a writer trying to decide how to use my faith in my writing. I took a test as part of the process designed to tell what my spiritual gifts are. They turned out to be writing, music, and the gift of encouragement. I work as an agent and particularly go to as many conferences as I can trying to use that gift of encouragement.

I'm also there to connect with writers and to find good projects that I can help get to market. And to make connections with editors that I can interface with to help make that happen. I work for my clients, but initially it is almost like I work for the editors. I work to try and find out what they are looking for then try to help them find it. I'm like a marriage broker, I find something an editor is looking for, I find a writer that has it, then I arrange an introduction. Sort of like Barbara Streisand did in "Yentl."

People ask me if I make money going to conferences and working. There have been a few that I have actually ended up in the black, but most of the time when expenses are paid I end up breaking even at best and some cost money . . . some a significant amount of money. I try not to do that too much.

I don't like to fly to conferences. Not that I mind flying, but I genuinely hate airports and the mess they have become. When possible I drive it, far less stress, and the trip itself can be nice particularly when Saundra goes with me. We have changed to a small class B van RV for a road car. It's small so it doesn't get bad gas mileage and it can save a couple of hotel stays on the road which offsets extra gas cost. It provides a nice break and thanks to technology I can still be online while on the road getting my work done while Saundra drives. It's like an office on wheels. At least we'll be back to doing that when she gets her cast off (she fell and broke her arm).

I really believe if a writer is serious about their writing they need to try to get to a conference or two each year to network with agents, editors, and other writers. That's a primary place where things can be learned to improve their writing skills and to start learning to increase their visibility necessary for book sales. If you are doing that perhaps we will meet out on the road.

I'll be the guy in the big hat.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Conference high in the mountains

Okay, there was a little more snow in this picture than there is this year but I'm writing from the Christian Writing Conference in Estes Park CO. It is just beautiful here.

I'm seeing a lot of 0ld friends, some clients, and some new writers bringing their projecgts to me holding them out with hope in their eyes, I hope that I am offering encouragement, maybe useful information that will make their baby stronger and more publishable and actually for a few will possibly be able to take them on and achieve publication.

I'm talking to conflicted writers who hear others talk about their "calling" and take pressure from them when I talk about the fact that not all writers have such a call and it is ok. We can write for the Lord as an offering too and if it is well done it is no less acceptable to him. It's just a different way of writing it.

I've talked to writers who are just starting and are deluged with information that they find more confusing than helpful. I've explained that little information in writing books is useful, little information from conferences is useful UNTIL YOU START TRYING TO WRITE. The best way to learn to write is to do it. Until the writer is trying they don't know the questions to ask or the information that they need.

In addition, a writing conference has all levels of writers in attendence, from beginners to well published writers and there is content here for all of them. A new writer has to learn to filter, to see how to discern when they are hearing something they need now and something they will not need for a while and when they do reach the point where they need it they will understand it.

All of this has already gone on and is going on and it is just a couple of hours into the first day. I taught an early bird class and have a couple of others to present, a panel to moderate, and my dance card on one-on-one appointments is nearly full.

It's going to b e a great conference.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I hate my job

Actually that's not true, I just said that to get your attention.

But it's not entirely false either.

Most of the time I really like working as a literary agent and have helped a goodly number of authors in getting their writing careers off and running. But I often have to devote big blocks of time to working down the submissions in my inbox and that means turning a lot of people down. I hate that, and it kinda depresses me to have to do it.

Oh, I know in advance it has to be done, I get hundreds of them and I couldn't handle that many if I had a dozen people on staff helping me. Not to mention the fact that that's far too many to submit to publishers, they don't have the capacity to do that many books either. But knowing it has to be done and having to do it are two different things.

I am too aware that what I have to evaluate in a short period of time someone may have taken a year or longer to write. It's their baby, and no parent wants to see their baby get turned down. I'm one of the few agents that came from the writing side rather than the publishing side, I've had my babies turned down . . . turned down a lot actually. Maybe that makes me too sensitive to the feelings of the authors sending to me.

Sometimes it gives me the blues.

The best cure for the blues is getting somebody a contract or seeing a clients' new book come out. Or maybe in a situation where I got to help Carrie Stuart Parks hold her baby out to publishers and saw six of them show immediate interest resulting in an auction situation where she got a nice three book deal. That can cure a lot of the blues.

But today I'm working submission, stepping on dreams, and not feeling good about it. I'm sifting through the pile looking at a lot of good books but looking for that jewel that rises above all the other good books. The one I just HAVE to try and help get to market. I have the blues.

If you are one of the wonderful editors that I get to work with to help get these jewels to market, and you just happen to be reading this, today would be a really good day to let me know you want to make an offer to one of my clients . . . how about it?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

An unscheduled interview

I belong to a lot of social media sites, facebook, twitter, writing groups, etc. I don't have time to participate a lot but I watch what is being discussed and who is doing it. Sometimes I see something being discussed that I think maybe I have something I should contribute and I do, but mostly I quickly just keep my finger on it quickly before I delete and get back to work.

I take note when someone without sufficient experience is giving advice I consider not to be solid and when I see that I will watch a bit closer for a bit. Usually a more experienced writer will chime in and I don't have to, but if not I'll speak up. Not that I consider myself an expert on everything, but I attend a lot of conferences, network with a lot of people who are terribly knowledgeable and well, a lot of good information does come my way.

But what's with the title of this blog? What's an unscheduled interview? I keep an eye what I have on my plate, what I have in my inbox to work. If I'm holding some work to evaluate I recognize if I start seeing that name coming through the social media. In a proposal people often tell me what they want me to hear. As part of the evaluation process if I start having some interest I'll probably google them to get a closer look.

But if I see them coming up in social media I may tune in. I get an informal look at who they are, what they think, if we might be a personal match for each other. Snooping? No, it's out there for personal consumption. It's out there because they want others to know them better and that's what I might use it for.

I've said that the process of getting an agent and the process of an agent deciding to represent a client is a lot like dating and it is. First and foremost it is about the writing, pure and simple. I'm looking for well written stuff that I can fall in love with and really want to help get it out on the market. But I also want people that I like and get along well with, people I connect with, people who will fit well in my very tight-knit client group.

Sometimes I can find out a lot about that in an unscheduled interview.