Sunday, July 10, 2011

ThrillerFest lives up to the hype

What an amazing weekend. I've been to conferences in other industries before, but have never felt the sense of community as I did in New York City.  Who would've thought such a big city could create such a cozy sense of belonging?

I was starstruck at first.  Come on, we're talking Steve Berry, John Sandford, Karin Slaughter here.  The first day, I just sat with my jaw hanging open as they taught what they knew at CraftFest.  Talk about learning from the masters.  I'll just say that I have almost an entire legal pad of notes, and I didn't even make it to the conference until Wednesday afternoon. (Silly day job.)

But I was soon talking to other authors, which is totally out of character for me.  I met a wonderful woman from New Zealand who is going to be my new critique partner.  I met another quite nice lady from New Hampshire who practiced pitching with me.  I walked up to another author (a NYTimes best-selling author, by the way) from Indiana and introduced myself.  I pitched agents without soiling myself.  And I went up to Karin Slaughter, one of my idols, and said hello.  She even said hello back.

So what's the take-home point?  Conferences are all about networking.  They're not about creating a hierarchy, or about pointing out who is successful and who is not.  They're about creating a tight-knit community of like-minded people who need one another to get to the next level.  That's the real reason for conferences.  I'll do well to remember that the next time I attend one.

Oh, and as for ThrillerFest?  If I can't attend next year, I think I'll cry.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Twitter made me think

On Twitter today, an agent asked "What would you like to tell an agent?"  That got me thinking.  There's so many things I'd like to tell/ask an agent that I'm just going to get some of them out here.

First off, I love when agents give me a "yes" or "no."  I hate being left hanging for months on end.  I'd much rather know it's a "no" than wonder if I might, possibly, get to yes.  At least, after a month or so.  (I can take the wondering for a while.)  If it's too difficult to respond to everyone, which I get is quite likely, at least have an auto-responder that let's me know that my query got to your inbox.  I'm always wondering if I got filtered like spam.  If I got an auto-response, I know I'm in the cue, and if I don't hear anything in eight weeks, I'm almost certain it's a no.  And that closure does wonders.

I also like it when an agent's website clearly delineates what he or she is interested in.  It also helps if it says that the agent has a "no response= no" policy (see above paragraph).  Plus, it's fun to read what the agent represents, what he or she is working on, and what he or she is reading for fun.  Websites are such a great resource for writers, and I love it when an agent has a good one.

What I'd like to know:  How cool is it to read books for a living?  I can only imagine how fun it would be.  Granted, you have to get through a lot of slush to get to the gems, but finding those gems must be such a rush.  If I lived in NYC, I think I'd be looking at a change in occupation.  It sounds like hard work, but fun work for someone who loves books.

How do you pick what you read?  I'm sure that there are times when the query and the book perfectly align, but that can't be common, either.  I hope my query accurately represents my manuscript, but I wonder if other writers even care, or if it's a "get my book read at any cost" game.  I don't like playing games, and I'd bet most agents don't, either.  It must be difficult.

On that note, I'd like to thank the agents for all the hard work that they do.  Wading through slush can't be fun all the time.  Dealing with editors can't be fun all the time.  And dealing with writers who don't know how to take "no" can't be fun, either.  So, thank you, agents.

Now, please sign me!