Agent's Panel at the Southern California Writing Conference

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Thread: Agent's Panel at the Southern California Writing Conference

  1. #1

    Agent's Panel at the Southern California Writing Conference

    I recently gave some workshops at the Southern California Writer's Conference, in San Diego, a major conference that has been running for 24 years. One of the features of the conference was an "Agents and Publishers Panel", and I'd like to pass on a couple of things I heard there.

    It's nice to get things from agents directly instead of all the rumorreports you get on the net. Trouble is, it's a fickle biz that changesfast. Some agent utterances I consider completely useless (like "whatpublishers don't want"..which can change in five minutes with a boywizard of angst vampire book hit the lists). But a panel of severalagents talking is usually a really good barometer... you see agreementand consensus right there in real time. Toss in a few publishers, andit get's very valid.

    The panel I heard consisted of agents Jill Maar from the SandraDijkstra Literary Agency in San Diego (a very strong agency who madebig bones with Amy Tan and Robert Ferrigno among other NYT listkillers), Jennifer dela Fuente from the new Fountain Agency (SanDiego), Sally Van Haitsma from Castligia Agency (San Diego) and NatanyaWheeler from Nancy Yost Agency (NYC) and publishers Lynn Price ofBehlerPublications (memoir, personal difficulty, inspiration books) andJennifer Redmond of Sunbelt Books (Southwest and Borderbooks..interesting because they distribute as well as publish their owntitles).

    I'm going to recap a couple of things here that caught my ear.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  2. #2
    Of particular interest to me personally (since I am a long-time self-publisher and was at the Conferencedoing workshops on self publishing and approaching publication byonline publishing) was a question you see a lot on the internet (andhear a lot of heavy, diametrically opposed opinions on from people withno experience or clue) namely, "Does self-publishing hurt or help yourchances of getting a contract with a traditional publisher?"

    The salient fact from the discussion was that everybody on the panelwas completely in agreement with the idea that it certainly doesn'thurt, and if significant can be a major persuader. No disagreement onthat.

    There were different opinions on just what constitutes notable success.Ms. Redmond mentioned an author they signed based on the strength ofhaving sold 500 books on his own, and another 500 with them after theypicked him up.

    Ms. Van Haitsma mentioned an author they'd signed to represent who hadsold 40,000 books on his own. Impressive, but I was especiallyinterested with what Ms. Wheeler replied to that: "If he could sellthat many books on his own, why would he want apublisher?" That created a stir and she went on, "He'd be getting10-12-15 percent royalty with a publisher, but he's probably keeping95% of the book price doign it himself. He'd have to sell 10 times asmany books to make as much." Like I said, interesting insight...andfrom an agent, with the vested interest in the big house system.

    But to iterate, unanimous in the group that a successfullyself-published book, far from being a stigma to the author, can be seenas a major plus by agents.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  3. #3
    One other area of general agreement (and some laughs and horrifiedgasps) was the general topic of "What turns us off?" The ladies had alot of fun with this one, swapping horror tales.

    One major area noted: SPAM queries. Not just people who mass emailqueries (and even screw up so the agent can see the names and addressesof everybody they mailed to), but things like regular rounds ofapplication: all had tales of some guy who sends in the same query (andseveral immediately recognized who the other was talking about) twice ayear, maybe changing the title, or even his NAME each time. This,believe it or not, they see as a no-no.

    Generic address was another sore point, Especially if it's Mr. Oranother agent's name. Or misspelled. Know who you're addressing and doit right, was their consensus.

    Inappropriate queries was another biggie. Ms. Redmond mentioned gettinggay erotica submitted to her company, which mostly handles border works(such as my Mexican Slang dictionary, by the way).

    Then somebody mentioned bad grammar and spelling and everybody had one.Mispelled the agent's name. Misspell the AUTHOR'S name. Two agentsmentioned that they'd seen the word "query" spelled five differentways. My favorite had to be Ms. Redmond's mention of a book submittedto them for distribution that had bad spelling on the spine of the book.

    Concensus: this is the easiest part. Yet many blow it. So don't be thatchump--make sure your query is worth the time to send.
    Last edited by Linton Robinson; May 1st, 2010 at 06:31 PM.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  4. #4
    your space bar is broken.

    good post though. interesting for sure.

  5. #5
    Actually, that's all pasted in. It's the forum software that's glitching.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  6. #6
    suppose that would make more sense

  7. #7
    Interesting stuff Lin, particularly the publisher/agent reactions to self-publishing. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

  8. #8
    My feeling, Sigg, is that this has been a recent turn-around in the industry. I would wonder what that same panel would have said three years ago.
    The decline in publishing (along with the increase in success of ebooks and other self-publishing venues) seems to have turned things around.
    See my books Hidden Content (and in heaven).

  9. #9
    I wonder that also. Sally Von Haitsma's words are truly interesting, and speak volumes. If this stuff gets any more interesting I'm gonna have to buy a car and investigate more closely.
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  10. #10
    Did they videotape that conference, and if so, is it available to the public?

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