I am at the RT convention in Los Angeles, sitting in my favourite seat in the bar, staring at my least favourite feature in the Hotel Bonaventure—the glass elevators. They are such a problem for me, these miserably windy conveniences. First, because I'm on the 15th floor, which eliminates the fine-I'll-just-use-the-stairs option. And secondly, because every time I step into one of these plexi-glass nightmares, I come up with a new falling-death scenario. The worst is being trapped in one of the hotel’s elevators during an earthquake. I use up just about every well-worn movie trope imaginable over that one.
All things considered, I'm not keen on using those elevators, and so, that's the excuse I offer to the fact that I'm writing this blog seated at my preferred table in the lobby's bar. I have the laptop, the glass of merlot and the topic.
So far, the blog has been building on a linear fashion. A ‘Moment’ followed by a Step, followed by another ‘Moment’--kind of like threading pearls onto a sturdy string. But today, we’re going to deviate just slightly from the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other format. We’re going to talk about conventions, because I don’t want to wait for another year to shine the light on another great tool in your quest to find the perfect representation.
If you’re new to writing, you may think that the only way you’re going to get an agent is through a query, which is real bad news for some of you, because it just may happen that you truly suck at condensing your story outline into 35 words of pithy brilliance. If that realization has come a little late, and the form rejections are falling into your inbox with depressing speed, here’s something to cheer you up: a convention gives you another crack at pitching your book. Many agents use these gatherings as opportunity to discover new talent. They’re not there for the hangover or entertainment, they’re looking for someone new. It could be you. That is, if you have a smokin’ finished manuscript, and the story-skills to pull off another one.
Now, remember, I used the adjective ‘many’. Some agents have a full client-list, and so they go to the event with a different agenda. Their dance card is full of meetings--editors, clients, and friends. Do your homework before you go. Know who’s going to be there, and what their interests are. Be prepared.
During this convention, I had my first in-person meet with my agent, the—gosh-darn, hand-over-heart, awesome—Deidre Knight. I went to the appointment with the intention of not wasting it, but of course I did squander time, because, well, did I mention my newly acquired agent was super, and funny and she made me feel all gooey-happy inside?
Once we got past the, oh-thank-God-we’re-hugely-compatible segment of the appointment, we got down to business. And that’s when I pulled out my list of seven questions.
Here they are:
1) How did she plan to sell my book?
2) Will I stay in the loop during the process? How much of the feedback, negative or positive, will I hear?
3) If she sells my book, what will my next 12 months look like?
4) If I ever signed for a series, what will her involvement be, once the ink is dry on the page?
5) What did she think about the ‘branding’ issue, and in terms of a platform, where am I weak, and what steps should I take to remedy those flaws?
6) What does she want from a client? If she could choose just one thing from me—other than the obvious ‘write a wonderful story’ option—what would it be?
7) I have something else I’d like her to look at. Did she have time to read it?
She answered those questions with honesty and clarity, and now I have another list of goals. One day, you might find yourself sitting opposite your agent, with your little heart going pitty-pat in your chest. Have you got your list of seven questions ready?