Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trade Shows

First, I wanted to say that I love your blog. Thank you for all you do to help out everyone in the blogsphere. Second, I had a question about trade shows, namely BEA. If an agent goes to the show, is it appropriate for a writer to approach them and introduce themselves? Maybe talk to them about their novel? Or is this considered rude and annoying?

The answer is complicated.

There are trade shows where unpublished authors are allowed in - and trade shows where they are not, the BEA being one of those. Three years ago, when I attended my first BEA, this was not being well enforced. If you paid the money to register as a publishing company - whether that company existed or not - you could get a badge and access to the floor. Since it was an internet registration, you didn't have to show your credentials, be it a small town rag or Simon & Schuster. Agents, however, had their own tables in a segregated area to meet with clients so they wouldn't be bothered, and the guy at the door was pretty strict about who he let in (I had to argue to go in to speak with my boss because I was not registered as her assistant).

According to my boss, they're trying to crack down on that at the BEA because editors and agents are sick of dealing with unpublished authors pitching to them. It's not that they don't want new authors, it's that it's hard to say "No, go away, I seriously have a meeting with buyers right now" to someone looking desperate. The BEA is, primarily, a show for publishers, agents, and industry people to do business with one another, in a limited space and a limited time, especially if they have to man a booth for the next 6 hours, then be on a panel, then attend a wine-n-cheese, then spend $4.00 for a friggin' bottle of water (THANKS, Javitz Center), then stumble around from author event to keynote speaker in the haze of someone who has been awake way, way too long.

There's that motorcycle Zen guy who tells the story of pitching his book at a trade show and getting a million dollar deal (I'm sketchy on the specifics here) and that started the whole business, but really, please don't do it. If you happen to be at the trade show for trade show reasons and you happen to be talking to an editor whom you know is currently buying the type of book you are trying to sell, "Can I pitch my book to you?" is not a bad question to ask. In all fairness, that's how I got my first book deal, so I can't totally write it off. That said, don't crash the BEA and chat up every agent who happens to be in the bathroom line with you. That's tacky.

The 4 Questions

I have spent too many unhealthy hours reading blogs and websites filled with advice on queries for far too long. From what I have learned, everyone wants something different but they wont all tell you what it is that they want. So I have a few general questions. 1) If you have a website for your book or work is it appropriate to give them the address in the query?

Put it in, but there's almost no chance we'll look at it. Still, it doesn't hurt.

2) On some sites I read queries where it looks like the first half of the query is sucking up to the agent and has nothing about the book. If I am querying an agent they should know what I am after. Their approval. Is it necessary for me to try to tell them why I want to work with them and list all of the books they have published that I have read?

Throwing in a reference to a book the agent represents isn't considered bad. It shows you did research on the agent and are not just mass-querying. In some agencies it gives you points. Honestly, I see it so much I just ignore it and focus on the book that's being pitched, but again, it doesn't hurt your query, so you should do it.

3) Early on I was over excited and sent out a query to an agency I quite desperately wanted to work with. They rejected me because they didn't feel a connection, but said it was a great concept. This prompted me to reevaluate the query and the book which turned out for the best. Is it ever appropriate for me to resubmit to them? If so, how long must I wait?

A couple months, but don't expect anything. It will probably be rejected again. There was a reason the first time and it may have been unrelated to the format of the query letter. Like "Ugh, I've seen too much of this lately" or "I'm not taking on new clients now unless it's specific genre."

4) I have no credentials that relate to my writing. I don't feel I should have to tell them anything about my self if my writing conveys that I am the best person to write this story. It takes up more of their time and they don't care who I am, I don't mind that. I'm arrogant but not egotistical. However most agents websites say "tell us about your self" in their criteria. Do I have to if they request it?

When they say "tell us about yourself" it means "tell us what writing credentials you have, and if you've written non-fiction, what credentials you have to write this specific book." You don't need to put in any other biographical information. By the way, I can't stress that last part enough. If you have written non-fiction (other than memoir), you should have some credentials proving why you're qualified to write a book about your subject. You know, degrees you might have, research you might have done. That sort of thing. We don't see enough of that in non-fiction proposals.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Trilogies. Or, Potential Ones.

My boss is NOT one of the many people who planned to go to the London Book Fair and has lost out on their deposit. Of the international fairs, she usually does one or the other - Frankfurt or London - and it was Frankfurt, which is in the Fall. It did create a panic in the industry last week when the volcano-related news came out, but the London Book Fair is going forward anyway, as most people in Europe can take buses or trains to get there.

Hi Rejecter. (I'd rather spell that with an Or, sort of like a Terminator!). This question may suck, but I'm asking it anyway: It seems like nearly every fantasy or scifi book that comes out now is part of a trilogy (or longer in some cases). Is this because publishers mostly want trilogies, or is it because the writers can't get Lord of the Rings out of their minds and think everything needs to be a trilogy? If I have a novel I want to pitch, should I be telling publishers "This is Book 1 of a Trilogy", in the hopes of more interest?

I don't have a straight answer for you here. Publishers in certain genres, specifically fantasy books and mysteries, do like multi-book series of an often unspecified number at the time of the buying of the first book. That said, they don't love them from new, untested authors.

As for agents, I don't think it would hurt your query, but I don't think it would help, either, unless your book has a stupid fantasy name like "Book 1 - The Prophey" because if you don't mention there's more books we'll just be wondering. The thought, when publishers buy a book, is often "Will this book succeed?" way before it's "How many of these can the author pump out and how fast can they do it? Because George R.R. Martin is screwing us over. I mean yes, we're still making tons of money off it, but we're really wondering if he's going to finish the series before he dies or some relative will have to pick it up and it will be lame."

Keep your focus on the first book. Getting one book published is really, really hard; many of my readers would be more than happy to tell you that. This is the book you want the agent to love and the publisher to buy.

I don't know whether other people who handle more fantasy hold the "unpublished author with a trilogy" against the author in the query or not. I just see it so often I ignore it, whereas if it was in a non-trilogy-friendly genre I would definitely hold it against the author (like, say, memoir). So, leave it out unless you can't, in which case just give it a line.