Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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JuiceinLA
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Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by JuiceinLA » August 2nd, 2010, 7:57 pm

Hi all, I am wondering about your thoughts on the utility of attending a writer's conference where you can submit materials for one-on-one critique by agents and editors. I just signed up for an upcoming conference and spent gobs of money not just for the conference, but to have an agent and an editor critique my first 20-ish pages. I did this because I have gotten positive feedback in many cases of query, but no one giving me the real truth. In other words, I don't know why my manuscript is ultimately being rejected. I don't know if its my pitch in the query letter, or since I often get the request for either the first 50 pages and/or the full manuscript at what point in reading the agents are rolling their eyes and saying "gah- I can't sell this!".

I am one of those people, who now that I have written the darn thing, just want to sell it. I don't care how much editing is needed, my ego isn't wrapped up in this book. So I would be happy to find out what it needs to be more commercial. That is why I am hoping some big time agent with a large agency connection, who may or nay not have already passed on my query letter will tell me why they passed me up the last time. Am I expecting too much?

Does anyone have experience in doing one on one sit downs at a writer's conference? How did it go, was it useful?

thanks for sharing!!!!

Margo
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by Margo » August 3rd, 2010, 11:02 pm

I did a pretty incredible sit down with an agent at a workshop. He'd read 50 pages in advance. There is no way I would have figured out for myself any of the things he told me. A half dozen beta readers hadn't come close to seeing what he saw. Two weekly writing groups, each led by a published novelist, hadn't either. There comes a point (for some writers, me included) where the professional feedback is just necessary. I highly recommend seeking out a professional opinion to anyone who is good enough to be getting personalized rejections the majority of the time but who can't quite figure out what those rejections really mean or what the stumbling block really is.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

JuiceinLA
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by JuiceinLA » August 8th, 2010, 11:25 am

Thanks Margo, your advice is much appreciated. Wouldn't you know it, the minute I swiped my credit card through for the conference charge, one of the agents scheduled to review submissions at this same conference responded to my query letter, said if I can get the memoir down to 100,000-120,000 words that she'd be interested. (I have heard this critique before, I am at 140,000 words) Then she suggested hiring an editor. I queried the editor she suggested, but that person (who edits mostly self help fitness books for c and d list "celebrities) has not responded and its been a week. I am spending my time trying to research the whole "freelance editor" process and of course the costs are so prohibitive. Even if I could determine someone was reputable, and good at memoir editing, I am not sure i could throw the cash down.

So off to the conference I go. I continue to edit, but I am at the point where I need an objective third party who will look at it with an eye to making it commercial, telling me what works and doesn't.

sigh.

John Dillon
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by John Dillon » August 8th, 2010, 3:02 pm

JuiceinLA wrote:Then she suggested hiring an editor. I queried the editor she suggested, but that person . . . .

It's very exciting that you've gotten some really positive feedback on you memoir. Keep up the good work. I'm sure you can find a few places to trim some fat. Even if you're reluctant to cut sections/passages, there must be sentences that you can trim to say the same thing with less words. Over the course of a 140,000 word memoir, you may be able to trim a few thousand words that way.

Regardless, I would be very wary of an agent that refers you to a particular freelance editor. It may be completely legitimate, but it smells funny. If you haven't already, make sure you do your due diligence re: the agent and the editor. You probably already know that, but I just wanted to put it out there. Good luck!!!

Margo
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by Margo » August 8th, 2010, 3:33 pm

JuiceinLA wrote:I am spending my time trying to research the whole "freelance editor" process and of course the costs are so prohibitive. Even if I could determine someone was reputable, and good at memoir editing, I am not sure I could throw the cash down.
The best freelancers I know run about $2,000-$2,500 for a full ms analysis, just to give you a rule of thumb for what top notch help actually costs. It might be cheaper to go for an analysis of something like the first 50 pages and a synopsis. That would probably run you $500-$750 with a really good editor. Unfortunately, the editor I generally recommend doesn't do memoirs.

Cost is a big issue for most of us. However, attendance at a conference, hotel, transportation, and food can easily run you $500+, and then the editor/agent probably won't be reading 50 pages, and the analysis probably won't be as thorough as it would be through a contract service.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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steve
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by steve » August 8th, 2010, 3:57 pm

JuiceinLA wrote: said if I can get the memoir down to 100,000-120,000 words that she'd be interested.
Word count = interest. That sounds insane.

Did she recommend the number of prepositions and semi-colons you should use?

I'd run away from this advice and this person.

Patricia Holt offers editing for a fee. I like her blog a lot; she was the SF Chronicle's book editor for years. A good critic, yes, but I can't recommended you pay her or anyone else to edit, unless you want to pay a starving grad student $20.
Last edited by steve on August 8th, 2010, 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Margo
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by Margo » August 8th, 2010, 3:59 pm

steve wrote:
JuiceinLA wrote: said if I can get the memoir down to 100,000-120,000 words that she'd be interested.
Word count = interest.

Very very common. Thems the rules of business.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Mira
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by Mira » August 9th, 2010, 1:05 pm

Wow, this is an interesting thread.

It sounds like, overall, the feedback you are getting is basically: the MS is good, but needs some editing and polishing. Anf it sounds like you have an offer on the table (?) Is that accurate? I guess the first question is: do you want to work with this agent? Do you trust her/him?

So, I guess I don't have any advice about whether to go with this agent, or polish the MS and solicit more widely, but I do have a suggestion about something else......It's just that the feeling of your post feels abit hurried to me, and I know you want to sell this, but......it's a memoir. I don't know you, but still, that's your life, and that's important. Changing your MS, spending money, getting an agent, these are all big decisions. My recommendation (ignore if it doesn't feel right) is that It's okay to slow down alittle. Take some time to think about all this. What do you want for your MS? What type of agent do you want to work with? Just how much money are you willing to spend on this? And what is your ultimate goal here - why did you write the memoir?

It sounds like you have something that is ultimately sellable, but there's no rush. I might take some time and think it over carefully. You don't want to look back and think that you wish you had gone another direction. Take some time would be my suggestion, for what it's worth.

But whatever you decide, good luck!

JuiceinLA
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by JuiceinLA » August 9th, 2010, 3:30 pm

What a cool group of people to chime in on this- all with interesting things to say. And thank you for the positive energy and comments! I will have to check Patricia Holt out, thanks for the tip! The issue of hiring an editor is even more difficult to "suss" out than finding an agent. I would love to hear about any other experiences in hiring an editor- or reasons why an author decided to forego it.

I pretty much have had the same thoughts as articulated here, My experience is that it is totally common for word count to equal interest, when there is a chasm between the word count of your book and the typical length of said book in the industry. More than one agent has said "love your idea, your energy- get the word count down and call me" or "publishers won't look at a memoir over 120,000 words". And I believe this is true and makes sense. It doesn't matter how wonderful the story is for a no named author with no industry contacts if you are so far off the industry standard for book length. That part doesn't surprise me, or worry me.

I fully expected that others would not find certain parts of my story as charming, hilarious or important to the story as me (I am not objective) I just thought that that would come up after a publisher picked the book up.

The "hiring an editor" issue is just as Margo and John have said- its very costly and like most I don't have those kind of funds laying around. Nathan wrote an article or responded to a question in 2009 about this- and said if you can swing it and the cost won't hurt your bottom line, then you might consider it, but I got the sense he was reluctant about the idea in general. Most editing is based on a price per page or price per word, burdensome when what you need is someone to go through and chop 20,000 words, . I would have given pause to spending $1,000 for someone to read my book and tell me I have enough ridiculous stories about vodka, that I should lose a few... but it looks like to get anyone reputable, I would end up paying $3,000. That is just way beyond my means.

So I continue to try to whittle- like John said. On my 1st and second passes with the "red pen", I cut 46,000 words, mainly by cleaning up so much language, getting rid of redundancies, and self indulgent storylines. I even went so far as to look at every sentence to see if it could be reduced. I stopped doing that when it felt like sacrificing my voice and the tempo of the story. I honestly feel (at this point) I need that objective third party in the industry who knows what it takes to get a book on a table at Borders, to look at it. Cut a story, or a superfluous character, tell me where the arc fails to rise or properly fall, or at what point people begin to get bored. For instance, there is a place could end the story earlier than where I do, and lose those 20,000 words in one fell swoop, but I am too in love with my existing ending point to make the cut.

As for why I wrote my memoir? Because its some quirky funny shixxa, and I think other people could totally find encouragement and maybe even inspiration within themselves, walk away thinking that "if she can do this, anyone can." In other words, this is not Mr. Holland's Opus. Accordingly, I am not married to every last word. I am married to the idea of it being read by others (ie: publishable)- even if I have to cut more. More important than this being an "art" form or expression of my inner most self (its not, its a snapshot in time, 4-5 years ago) its about saying- "hey I went through what you go through and believe it or not, you can make a change for the better even in this world we live in now." "

whew- that was a mouthful! Thanks again everyone!
Last edited by JuiceinLA on August 9th, 2010, 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JuiceinLA
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Re: Benefits of attending conferences for finding agent

Post by JuiceinLA » August 9th, 2010, 3:41 pm

John Dillon wrote: If you haven't already, make sure you do your due diligence re: the agent and the editor.

John, you said it for sure! Finding an editor who works in your genre with a track record is tough!!!! Although I must clarify my post, I asked the agent if she could recommend anyone, once she indicated word count was holding her back, and she said she knew of an editor, but not whether the editor would be right for me. I am sorry if I mislead you all. As Mira so astutely noted, I tend to sound rushed- and for some reason these days I am totally rushed in life, in general.

thanks again. I genuinely appreciate all the correspondence and thoughtful suggestions!

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