Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why Conference Pitches Often Don't Get Agents/Editors Those Clients

It is conference time! You have registered for that conference and are all excited about going. Not only that, this is a chance for you to sit down, face to face with an editor or agent to pitch that story. You just feel that if they see your face, connect it to the story, you will be set and that contract is on its way to you.

Ahhh, but wait a minute. This might not be the best place for you. Let me explain.

Although I have signed authors from conferences, in many cases, the pitches I hear have me saying no before that person even left the table. You may be wondering why? If we hear the story and you have the chance to talk it out and skip the painful query letter and synopsis writing, you would think this would be the perfect situation. But when it comes down to it, the real reason the rejections will be coming your way is that you did not do your research. You were pitching a story that was going to be rejected, regardless of how much prep you put into the pitch.

Too many authors seem to believe if there is an editor or an agent there, they need to pitch their project. This is wrong. The research you theoretically would be doing before you send out a project via email is the same research you should be doing before you get that appointment with the editor or agent. Our names, bios, links to our websites and what we are looking for is ALWAYS in the conference information. READ IT! We reject your stories because you simply were pitching us a project we just aren't looking for.

I remember sitting at a pitch session where authors would simply line up for the panel of editors and agents sitting across the length of the ballroom. If there was an editor or agent with a small line, or with no one in line, the author just ran there and started pitching. They had no clue who this person was, or even what they wanted. This is not only wasting the time of the editor or agent, but it is also discouraging for you to hear "No" over and over again.

Now, let's take this to the next level. There are many authors who are pitching a story to that editor or agent BEFORE the story is even finished. Think about this... You wouldn't send that proposal out to the editor or agent if the story was not done. So why are you doing it here?

Oh, I know many of you say, "But this is a great opportunity!" To do what? To show the editors and agents that you are not professional? That you don't know the procedures for submissions? Probably not the smartest approach you could take.

Think of it this way. Those editors and agents are available 24/7/365 via email and their normal submission process. You can take the time to make sure that your stories are golden, that the query letters directly addresses what that editor or agent wants. Or, you can  blow that one chance with a pitch that is less than perfect, just because the person is there.

I would also add that too many of these writers, who are either unprepared, or who did not do their research, end up taking those pitch appointments away from people who could use the slot.

I love to meet with authors at conferences. I love listening to the stories and having the chance to ask questions after hearing the pitches. But I am also someone who is not going to have you send a project to me just because I don't want to tell you no to your face. I will say no right there and then.

So, do me a favor. Do your research. Pitch if you are ready. Pitch if the story is appropriate for that person. Pitch if you and your story are a right fit for that editor or agent. If not, take the time to network with other authors, take a couple of workshops or work on getting that story ready to send out. Your time will be better spent doing that.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wanted: Active Authors

When I am looking at new authors to potentially sign at the agency, one of the things I am looking for is how active the writer is. No, I am not necessarily talking about someone who is writing 20 books a year, but I am looking for someone who is always striving to make forward movement. Unfortunately, there are many authors who seem to think that once they get an agent, they just have to sit back and let that person do all of the work. This is far from true.

What we are talking about here is really an issue of "Out of sight. Out of mind." To really be successful when you have an agent, or even an editor, is to make sure they know what you are working on at all times and to show progress. Doing so keeps your name in their mind, so when they
are talking to editors, your name will always pop up.

I think one thing many writers seem to believe is, if they are working on a project and really have nothing new to share, they don't want to bug the the editor or agent. In reality, we want to be bugged. We want to know what you are doing. It doesn't take much. A simple update in a couple of lines with an email is enough.

When you just disappear, the agent is not going to know if you have decided to move on or not.

So, if you haven't talked to your agent recently, send them an email. Let them know what you are working on and if you have some new projects to review. Who knows what may happen?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do I Need An Agent?

This is from a prior post, but I think it was worth repeating.

First of all, I get it. Agents are not for everyone. There are a lot of authors out there doing really well without having an agent. However, there are a lot of authors out there who have found themselves in predicaments that made their publishing careers less than pleasurable. These might have also been situations that could have been avoided, had there been an agent in their corner.

What people need to know is that agents are not there to only negotiate contracts for you and take your money. They are part of your team to step in when things might not be going along so well for you. They are there to allow you to focus your attention on the creative side of your career with your editors. That icky business stuff is left to them. One editor I worked with described it as a way to make sure that fun part of the relationship is still in tack while the agent deals with the business.

I see all of the time authors who are unhappy with the way a publisher wants to do things with his or her book. While the editors have in mind changes that would make the book more marketable, an author might see things a different way. The author's approach might be taking the book in a different direction. Now, this might be due to the author not knowing some marketing trends and the publisher's approach is the better decision, or it might be that both approaches have merit. It is just a matter of communication. However, when authors are now sitting in a situation like this, the whole writing process can reach a stand-still. And here is where it gets ugly.

Authors can now view the publishers as being unwilling to do things "their way". They start to be difficult when it comes to the writing and communication back and forth with their editors. They may even find themselves sitting on social media, chat groups, or talking with other writers just to vent. They aren't thinking that what they say will get filtered around to others (including the editor they are supposedly trying to work with, other editor and certainly agents). Look people do talk.

And then things get really nasty. When it comes time for new contracts, suddenly what they wanted may not be there. The publishers decide to "take a new direction". They aren't doing this to punish the author and say, "See, I told you we would win." They are indeed taking a new direction because that working relationship was damaged and too hard to maintain. The may have also done this because they had heard from all of that external chatter that the author was unhappy and may indeed be wanting to go another direction.

I should also note here that this doesn't just happen to brand new authors who haven't been around the block. This can happen to a lot of seasoned authors who may have been doing this on their own for a while. Things were moving along nicely for years and then, WHAM! That one book with some issues brings in a ton of problems. Not fun!

Now let's bring in an agent. First of all, will an agent be able to fix everything? No! Is an agent a miracle worker? No! But they can be the one to serve as an intermediary to help smooth things out. Those issues you had with the book that brought things to a standstill? They can talk it through using different words and approaches that might open the eyes of the publisher, or simply be able to come back to the author and describe what the publisher was really saying.

The agent is also there so you can vent in private. Yell and scream at them. They can take the punishment and you know that information is not going to go anywhere else through those pretty leaky internet social media sites.

Now, as an agent, I hope to never find myself in a situation such as this. We want things to always move like clockwork. But, in those rare situations, having that agent in your corner might be enough to keep you moving and through that rough time in your career.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why Certain Heroes Tend To Rock!

A lot of people tend to think that in romance, there is a fixed formula and if an author doesn't stick to that formula, publishers will not take it. In reality, the only two items that tend to be of a concern when it comes to romance is that the story must show a growing relationship and there is that happily every after. Still many seem to think that only certain characters work. What people should understand it that it isn't so much an issue of only wanting certain characters. It is more of the fact that certain characters sell better than others.

This is the reason why we see those standard trope characters such as:
  • Navy Seals
  • Special Ops Vets
  • Firemen
  • Doctors
  • Cowboys
With these characters, authors can tap into a lot of character traits that are fantastic with romance novels.

First of all, you have a group of guys who will tend to be physically fit. These guys need their bodies
to do their work so you can count on the fact that when they take that shirt off for a book cover, you will be getting a body perfect for marketing.

Secondly, for most of these occupations, you need to have dedication and drive. These people are focused and driven to do great work. They have a lot of people counting on them so they are going to do great things.

Now, when it comes to the cowboys, we add in the special touch with animals. This is that touchy feely side of the guys that you might now see with the other professions.

So, how do authors bring in that touchy feely side for the other heroes? This is where rescuing babies, the hidden baby storyline or even making the doctor a pediatric surgeon comes into play. We see that soft side of them come out here.

I think the thing to note here is that there are just some combinations that offer romance authors a lot of options when it comes to showing that relationship development. This is not an issue of the only things that work, but simply that some things work better than others.