First a disclaimer: These tidbits I’m about to share from SCBWI Dallas Agent/Editor Day are not intended replicate verbatim what Molly or Jennifer said. Rather I’m sharing the kernels followed by my thoughts for discussion. Sound good? Great.
I’m beginning on the Agent side of things today with insight from Jennifer Rofe, literary agent at Andrea Brown.
Interesting Fact #1: Jennifer said recently she’s finding more new clients through conferences than other means. This perked my ears up a bit because I think most writers have heard cautionary words about not expecting much from conferences other than meeting fellow writers (which is, of course, still a fantastic reason to go!) But it’s nice to know that agents are actively looking to meet new clients at those type of gatherings. However, it made me wonder why conference meetings might becoming a more attractive way of adding to the client list. Is it because with the economy only those “serious” about their craft are willing to fork over the cash to attend? Is it because those that go to conferences are interested on working on their craft period and are therefore more likely to sign with an agent whether it be through slush, conferences, or referrals? Or do personal connections play a valuable part?
Interesting Fact #2: Jennifer talked about taking on a certain client whom she’d met at a conference. This particular author had written a book with lovely writing and characters that leapt off the page, but a sort of mushy, not-enough-there plot. To me, mushy plot sounds like a pretty big deal, right? But Jennifer asked for a revision and this author was able to turn around a quick overhaul of the plot that impressed Jennifer. She took the author on as a client and after a couple more rounds of revisions, sent the book out to editors and had an offer within three hours. I found this story encouraging for a number of reasons. First, agents are willing to work on a book they love, on a writer whom they know has a special talent. The book boils down to more than a sum of its parts (voice, character development, plot). A book lover can see the diamond in the rough, knows there is the X factor, even if it might need a bit of excavation. Second, I think we hear so often how agents are looking for reasons to say no. That might be true. But here is a concrete example of an agent who looked for what needed to be fixed in order to find a way to say yes. Finally, I love that the author’s quick turnaround with the edits didn’t go unnoticed. I think it’s easy to wonder whether an agent ever notices the fact that a writer drops everything to get those revisions done promptly. It’s nice to hear that it can be appreciated.
Interesting Fact #3: Simple but true, agents are people. I know, I know. I’m as shocked as you are! But seriously, Jen Rofe was about my height, funny, and had really cute hair. I’m just sayin’. She didn’t seem like a femme bot to me. Apparently the author I mentioned in the story above didn’t get the memo, though, because Jen said that the author spent an entire conference avoiding her because the author was so nervous! Good thing they did eventually meet, though. Don’t let nerves get in the way of opportunities. It might not lead to an agent-author relationship, but you can ask questions and learn things, right? Again, regular folks.
Ok, that’s all for today. More tomorrow…Editor side.
*In other news: It’s CINDY PON’S RELEASE DAY!!! Founder of AW’s Purgatory, she is an inspiration to many of us. Support her and her debut novel, Silver Phoenix.