Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Writing Conferences

One of the things I most enjoy about my job is teaching at writing conferences, which is strange, because it almost never pays off in terms of business. In fact, until this year, I'd never signed a writer I'd met at a writers conference, in spite of teaching at multiple conferences every year since 2011.

This year I've signed two writers, one I met at the Henderson Writers Conference at the end of April and another who I recently signed after the James River Conference in October. I've already sold the book from the first writer (reading this blog, you'll soon learn that I don't mess around once I'm ready to move), and will be going out with the second manuscript in January.

But it's rare to meet a new client at a conference. I usually get pitched some interesting projects, but like most promising manuscripts, when I actually see them, the majority fail at some level of craft, or don't reach the level of urgency that propels me forward to the end of a book. I get hundreds of submissions, and the odds of any individual book reaching the offer stage is low, alas, regardless of where it comes from.

Conferences are also disruptive to the schedule. I fly out of a small airport, and even a relatively short trip usually involves a layover somewhere. It usually involves losing a day on either end, plus the three days of the conference.

So why do I go to so many? One reason I shared with the paying attendees. It's a solitary business, and ninety percent of the time you're working by yourself, surrounded by people who don't really understand what you're doing, or why it's so exciting to talk about books and contracts and submissions.

I go to a conference, and all of a sudden I'm surrounded by like-minded people, who can talk about this stuff all day and into the night. Writers aren't the only ones who return from conferences invigorated. I come back to my home office with renewed enthusiasm, ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work setting the literary world on fire.

The second reason goes back to the sheer number of rejections I hand out in my job. I won't claim that delivering rejections is as tough as receiving them, but it still kind of sucks. I know how hard writers work, and with how much fear and hope they send their queries winging into the ether, and it's discouraging to hand out rejections day in and day out.

Going to a conference, then, allows me to offer that feedback that I can't give on a daily basis. I most enjoy teaching classes about queries or opening pages, but panels are also fun, and even pitch sessions don't bother me as much as they bother some agents, provided they're limited in number.

First Post

I've had a few blogs in the past, and they always fell by the wayside eventually, so no guarantees on this one!

I'm a literary agent at Veritas, which is based in San Francisco, but I operate from a home base in New England. Well, for now. I might be moving back out west where I started in a couple of years. The long winters are starting to hit me pretty hard, now that I'm at the advanced age of . . . okay, not so advanced, but it's darn cold up here this time of year.

I welcome queries, but not through this blog. My email is michael (at) veritasliterary (dot) com. Please only query me with things that I represent. You do know how to find that information, right?