Thursday, October 19, 2006


Last weekend I was invited to San Francisco to speak with the RWA chapter there. First of all let me say that this is a brilliant idea. For those chapters (or writers' groups) unable to put together a conference (which is very costly and time-consuming), inviting an agent or editor to speak at a chapter meeting is a great alternative. All expenses paid, of course, the group flew me in Friday night for a small dinner (delicious Thai food) with a select few and to speak to their group at their monthly meeting on Saturday (delicious donuts).

Of course I knew ahead of time that this group has some very talented authors (since two of my clients are members), but I was really impressed with the talent, professionalism, and thought that was put behind my trip. When I speak to a group I tend to prefer an open forum of questions and answers rather than me standing there jabbering on for an hour. Since I’m never sure what place the group is at with their writing, I find it’s a better way to ensure that they are going to get the information they want, and make it worth their money.

I was so impressed with the questions this group was willing to ask. They weren’t afraid to get personal and push me further if they didn’t feel I gave them a thorough enough answer and I really appreciated that. In the grand scheme of your writing career, it’s rare for authors to get the chance to sit down with an agent or editor and really find out what goes on behind closed doors, so when you do I really encourage you to not be afraid. You will never be blackballed for asking a question, and if it’s something an agent is uncomfortable answering, I will guarantee that she knows how to talk around it.

What was a little nerve-wracking for me though is that another agent, a colleague, attended as well. This is someone I worked with a number of times as an editor, and she was kind enough to stop in when she heard I was speaking, just to say hi. It is always so fun to see old friends. But there I was, standing in front of a crowd, and a fellow agent, giving my perspective on the industry, what authors should expect, and what an agent does. And as some of you have probably figured out, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion, which often flies in the face of what other agents are willing to say. A few times during my talk I had a brief flash of, “Oh no, I wonder what she thinks about this.” You can imagine how reassuring it was then when she came up to me after my talk to chat and say how right on target she thought I was because, you see, no matter who we are we always need reassurance that we’re doing it right.

So thanks to the SF group for being so welcoming and making my trip fun. I always enjoy an interaction more when the questions are a little different and challenging. And, if I can remember them I’m going to try to use some of those questions as later blog posts.



Kate Douglas said...

The really neat thing about having an agent speak at a chapter meeting is the informal "one on one" writers are able to have with the agent. The canned part of Jessica's talk, though brief, added a lot of insight into her end of the business, but the questions and answers are where you really got the inside information.

elysabeth said...

One reason I love our SinC meetings - we have "experts" come talk to our group (although we are dealing with mostly mysteries within the group) who are very informative. We even have had guest speakers as return engagements because we (the group) felt there was so much more the person could give us or we really felt the connection/entertainment value this person had to offer.

We try to have an author every other month with experts in the fields the remaining months. Since we don't really meet in November and December (meeting times coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas) we generally get five good months of expert talks. This year alone we have had some interesting perspectives come along - we have had a Federal Public Defender (a repeater from last year), a DA (I think he was) who brought parts of an interesting case that he was working on, an ex-arson inspector turned to human trafficking (this was really interesting and within the next week - one of the CSI programs ran a similar show as to his talk - freaky if you ask me), an attorney who has been on both sides - defense and prosecutor, and several authors who are represented by this group (Jim and Joyce Levene come to mind right now; last year we had Jennifer Patrick).

Me personally, I love the experts coming in as I gain more from them than the authors, but the authors can be good too.

And as mentined on previous posts, I've met Jacky personally at the Greenwood (SC) Mystery Weekend that was put on last November - so keep up the good work and passing on all this wonderful information - E :)

Tracey said...

You gave some really great insight into a very crazy business. We all appreciated your open and frank oppinions.

Bella Andre said...

Your talk was fantastic! But who was the other agent?! How interesting.... And of course it was so fab to see you. I suppose I should get cracking on one of the 18 proposals I'm supposed to be sending your way.....
;-) Bella