Saturday, August 02, 2008

Saturday's Report from the RWA Front

Yesterday started out as one miss after another for me and for those of you who I put out I am deeply, deeply sorry.

I'm an early riser, always have been, so when at conference I like to get going as early as possible. My first appointment was for breakfast with a client. I had scheduled about an hour. Well throw in things like slow service and great conversation and the next thing you know I was late for my pitch appointments. And, of course it took 10 minutes for the server to get our bill to us. So I was really late and mortified. I missed my first two appointments and, frankly, there's no one to blame but me. So for those two who I missed appointments with and for the writer whose appointment I was late for and for the RWA organizers I can't apologize enough. The organizers however, brilliant as they are, did get the phone numbers of those two missed appointments for me and I did reschedule. I already met with one and am waiting for the other to return my call. I hope she isn't too offended to do so. gets worse. While dashing to my pitch appointments I was grabbed in the hall by a distraught client. Something had happened to upset her and she needed to talk to me before noon. Well I was booked solid with pitch appointments from 9-11am and a workshop from 11-noon. The workshop was a group workshop with Christie Craig and friends (see an earlier post for more information) and I knew Christie would cover for me, of course I also know I'll owe her for that, so I told my client to meet me at 11 outside of the pitch appointments. Clients come first and for clients in crisis everything is dropped.  

We got things worked out and I made it to the workshop of course, 10 minutes late. Christie had covered for me, but for those who were in the workshop again, I apologize.

So after a morning of doing nothing but chase myself I had no choice but to spend the afternoon sight-seeing in San Francisco. It was wonderful. I have never, ever played hooky on a conference to have fun, but I think I need to do it more often. I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and looking forward to another day. Much better than the exhaustion I usually feel by Saturday. I took a cable car, walked the wharf and had more cupcakes then I dare tell you about at Kara's Cupcakes. Holy Cow!! I am a cupcake aficionado and when friends and I travel that's the first thing we do, is find the local cupcakes. Well Kara's is definitely ranking as one of our top choices.

Tonight is the Golden Heart and Rita awards and I'll be cheering on client Shelley Coriell.


Anonymous said...

Jessica, don't beat yourself up too much. You are only human, and thanks to your informative posts, we've seen the heavy workload an agent shoulders at these conferences.

I'm sure your appointments will be glad to reschedule, and from a writers POV, probably were relieved to have an extra day to get their pitch perfected.

Great that you took some time off for yourself and found some yummy cupcakes. Have fun at the Rita awards tonight, and congrats to Shelley for being a Golden Heart finalist!

Anonymous said...

I think admitting mistakes, apologizing -- all good things. But it all still seems very unprofessional. Is this type of behavior common among agents? Maybe this is to be expected because of the rush and the crazy schedule? I don't know. Seems like it is feasible, but on the other hand it seems like someone should have told the first waitress there was a strict time limit right off the bat -- just like if you had show tickets. And dropping a workshop for a client? I see that, but if people chose you, they did not want a stand in. Your client is very important -- you have lucky clients indeed. I wonder how many potential wonderful clients you may have alienated?

And just like so many things in publishing, this is nothing personal. It just raises red flags for me about what could and does happen that might make me think twice when querying an agent.

Although being humble and honest is a good thing.

I do disagree with Tina Gray though. If I had a pitch appointment and you didn't show, I would be disappointed and angry.

Guess it's all part of it.

Robena Grant said...

I was in the workshop that Christie gave and it was quite fun the way they covered for you. They handled it with humor and that was a great segue into the showing of the video. So, no problem there. I know you probably felt awful about being late but nobody seemed upset or offended. I think we all trusted you'd arrive eventually.

Glad you had a chance to explore some of SF. It was nice to meet you in the lobby and chat for a few minutes. And I have to say it again, "I thought you would be much taller." *grin*

Anonymous said...

I have been to conferences before, not a writers conference, but other professional crafts ones and I know first hand how crazy they can be. Time really does get away from everyone.

Don't beat yourself up. You are doing exactly what you should do, contacting your appointments and making it right.

Glad you are having a good time in the city. SF is a wonderful place to visit.

Anonymous said...

I guess I would say you need to lighten up, Anonymous. You have to take troublesome events in stride wherever you go. Jessica has made herself available to those who lost their appointments, and I'm sure she'll give them her full attention out of guilt if nothing else.
Even the oddest things can happen for a reason, and the sooner all of us learn it's not all about us, the better.

Jude said...

What a stressful morning! Taking some downtime was the perfect solution.

We all have those days when one thing after the other goes wrong. I am sure everyone involved understood and could empathize. And, if there were any that could not, consider it an informative revelation of character.

Blogging National

Elyssa Papa said...

Oh Jessica, I'm so sorry your day yesterday was just not going well. I'm sure everyone understands, and you did the best you could do in that given situation. Don't beat yourself up too much.

Hope your client is feeling better, too. What matters is that you were there for your client when she needed you. That's what people want in an agent.

And omg, those cupcakes look delicious!

Mark Terry said...

Sounds like you tried very hard to make up for it. Kudos.

As for the going to conferences but not doing any sightseeing... are you crazy? Why do you think they put them in cities people want to go to?

No matter the conference (okay, maybe not Magna cum Murder, in lovely Muncie, Indiana), whether writing or science, I try to make sure I see some of the city. It's nice to be able to write off some sightseeing on your taxes. I'm typically happier if there are cool things to do, see and eat at within walking distance or on some good, easy-to-use mass transportation (Houston was a bit of a failure in that regard) because I don't like to mess around driving a car in major cities unless I have to.

Anonymous said...

If you're into cupcakes, don't miss the cupcake belt buckle (and other cupcakey matters) described yesterday at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.

(I don't have any connection with them, just a satisfied reader -- even in the absence of any cupcakes.)

Christie Craig said...


You were wonderful at the workshop. And hey, we just told everyone you got tied up and would be with us shortly. Then when they saw you tied up with real rope in the video, well, I think they took us seriously.

Thank you so much for being such a great sport. And annoymous, Jessica is one in a million and even a few minutes late we were lucky to have her. On top of that, she wasn't scheduled to speak until the end of the workshop, so other than missing her smile, no one missed out on anything. And let me tell you, an agent who would let us tie her up for a humorous video is so approachable.

Thanks again, Jessica.


Anonymous said...

I gotta agree with anon -and because it's unpopular to say so I'm going to chicken out and be "anon" as well. I would be pretty annoyed if an agent missed my pitch appt. because breakfast got away from her. And in this case, consider the added stress of having to make a pitch. Not very professional. It seems to me to re-inforce the image already out there that agents hold the power. If an author missed the appt because they didn't manage their time and breakfast ran over would they be able to reschedule quite as easily with the agent? Unlikely.

Anonymous said...

Sorry anons10.56 & 2.44 but huge disagreement on what you are calling unprofessional. I am sure all of us who work full time (and I am not saying you guys don't) see appts and meetings missed/delayed because of earlier meetings running late. I work corporate and it happens way more than it should but unless I am missing something, the breakfast was a meeting. It wasn't like Jessica was eating scones and tea with friends and looked at her watch and said "oopsie".

Yeah, a phone call warning of the delay would be nice but I am guessing that the organizers didn't provide that information (maybe a good hint for organizers -- provide agents/editors with cell # of writers they are scheduled with for just such "emergencies".)

I think Jessica reaching out to the missed the apointmentsand offering to rescedule was a great step in resolving the issue.

As for choosing to handle a clients crisis vs an on-time arrival for a workshop --- are you kidding me?? No question the right choice was made. Do you handle people whom you have a working, professional relationship (ie have a contract with) and who ideally are making you money, or so you tell them to wait while you handle a workshop which already had 3 (?) other people leading it. And 10 mins late, Please?

It's a crazy world, and s- happens, and we all role with it by making the best choices we can. If already 1 of the 2 missed appointments is already handled, clearly Jessica made the right choices (though I agree, a heads up to the server when ordering is a good idea -- sadly 20/20 hindsight). But looks like as long as apt#2 gets rescheduled, no harm/no foul except some nervous, exasperated mins wasted waiting/worrying during the missed appointments. If you are out there in the world, I am sure you have been on time for job interviews, stressed, sweating only to have the HR person etc late, delayed etc. Tough world, but when someone is offering you a service, you are sadly at there mercy schedule-wise. Sorry for the tough love, but that is my rant. (& I drove through a snow storm for a job interviewed cancelled at the time of my arrival and I survived after muttering a few curses to myself -- an so will these authors)

peace out

Anonymous said...


Once again, thanks so much for your assistance, both with the makng of the video and with our workshop, the Great Agent Hunt. As always, you rocked!!

For those of you who would like to see the workshop video, here is a link: ">Great Agent Hunt Workshop Video

Keri Ford said...

Glad you got a breather to sight-see!

I personally think those two authors who missed you were very, very LUCKY! I can only imagine how terrible you feel and are doing everything you can to make it up to the authors...meaning, they came out better in the long run!

To the two anon posters who found Jessica's actions as red flags:

If you found it unprofessional that she put her clients first, then Jessica probably isn't the agent for you. On the same note, she probably wouldn't enjoy you as a client. But that's just my opinion.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I expected interesting comments today and I haven't been disappointed. I knew I would get flack for this and frankly, I deserve it. In my mind it is unprofessional to arrive late and I am upset about it. I think it is disrespectful to those who had made appointments with me, practiced and worried about it and of course I have taken full responsibility for the situation. I also wouldn't expect them to be anything less then upset and angry. I would have been furious in their shoes.

The best I could do was call them both the minute I got the chance and do my best to make it up to them. When we do something wrong we hope to be forgiven and given another shot, but we shouldn't expect it.

As for the workshop. I didn't drop it. I was late. Christie had informed me that I wouldn't be speaking until the end so I knew other then introducing myself, which Christie could do in my stead, no one was going to miss out on anything. If it was a workshop I was expected to give on my own I probably would have done my best to figure out an alternative.

I think in fairness to anon, this is behavior that should raise red flags. If I were on the other side of the table and had an appointment with an agent who didn't show it would probably make me wonder about that agent's ability to ever get to things on time. And it might make me cross that agent off my list. I guess it's a matter of taking a look at how it's handled next and seeing if you can move on from that.

And one last thing, I have had authors miss appointments and I have given them a second shot. My feeling on this is not that I hold all of the power, but that I've tarnished my image. Not a good thing. However, that being said, I do think it does reinforce the thought that some have that agents don't respect an author's time and I apologize again for that.

As one anonymous said sh-- happens and I think that we all need to remember that on both sides of the table.


Anonymous said...

I think you should be commended for even telling us about the missed pitch appointments. Publicly admitting fault is not an easy thing. But you have disillusioned us. Who knew uberagents were human? Chin up! This, too, will pass.

Michele Dunaway said...

I sold my first book as a result of an RWA appointment, way back in 1999.

I'm not in SF this week as I'm working, and today (Saturday) I'm reading this after spending the afternoon boating on the lake with friends. But I've been to enough RWA conferences to know they're pretty much the same in one sense--conference hotels are often not used to the influx of people (even though you would think they should be) and the hotel restaurants can't handle the crush. I've actually had my meal picked up by the hotel restaurant manager (and those of my table mates) without even asking because service was so slow and so bad and the hotel felt awful. Telling the waitress you have a strict time limit doesn't do a darn thing. Everyone else tells the server the same thing. No one is there for leisure, everyone has somewhere to be.

Sure, if I was those appointment people, I might be furious too. But I better check my ego darn quickly, and it has nothing to do with "agent power". This is business and things happen.

It's not like Jessica blew them off. The minute Jessica called, now they get this great one-on-one time with her outside of RWA pitch hell.

It's a cattle call. Every so many minutes the doors open and the next group of people flow in to find their agent/editor. The room is usually noisy. You can see everyone and they can see you. Some published authors report that it's hard--their editor/agent might be a few tables away while they are talking to someone new.

Things happen. Back at my appointment, I showed up early like they tell you to do. I followed the directions to get in line. About 2 minutes into my pitch, after the editor who later bought me had requested the full, the RWA volunteers show up. Seems I was in the 8:20 spot, instead of the 8:30 one. Oops. I'm sure the person I bumped still hates me, even though they put her in my spot and it was an honest mistake.

So, you make lemonade from lemons. When Harlequin called to buy my book, the editor said, "I had so many pitches. Which one were you again?" And I replied, "The one in the wrong time slot."

She remembered exactly who I was. And, 22 sales later, I don't think it hurt me.

And back that editor, she'd been promoted about one month before the appointments. So all these people who'd signed up to see her? They were pitching her books for her old line, not the new one like I was. How upsetting is that? She wasn't going to be reading their stuff but passing it to someone else.

And as for the line of how many potential clients you've alienated, I agree with the person who said that you stop for the contracted client. You can also see that Christie understood.

There's a reason BookEnds clients understand. On that one occassion that we might need Jessica to be there in an instant for us some day in the future, we know she would be. That's worth a lot.

Michele Dunaway said...

One other thought that hasn't come up. It was breakfast with a client. It was an emergency with a client.

People have commented that agents hold all the power. What no one has mentioned is that those clients also have power--the power to leave, and take their career with them. A career that she's perhaps helped to build and helped to nurture. They can easily terminate the contract and move on, taking a big chunk of change immediately out of Jessica's income. This type of situation happens to agents all the time. Clients and agents break up all the time. Maybe she'll address that in a future blog, this myth of agent power. Her clients must come first or she risks losing them.

Anonymous said...

I think the key here is that Jessica is doing her best to make things right, and it sounds to me like she isn't taking the situation lightly.

I decided against accepting an offer of representation from an agent once upon a time because of the unprofessional way she handled a missed meeting. She left half a dozen incoherent voice mails on my answering machine, each time with a different story of why she didn't show. It was glaringly obvious that she was just too drunk to meet anyone for lunch. (And was still drunk, for that matter.)

Given the agent's track record, I'm sure she would've sold my books by now, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I totally didn't need that kind of drama in my life.

In other words, there *are* flaky agents in the world, but my hunch is that Jessica isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Wow, drunk agents! Now that's an interesting future blog subject.

Kate Douglas said...

Personally, after seeing Jessica in action at the conference, I don't know how she gets anywhere to anything on time, but 99% of the time she does. She can't walk down the hall w/o someone stopping her, and I think that's because she has made herself so accessible to so many writers through her blog and because of her amazing personality. Anon and need to chill out. S*&^ happens, life goes on and what goes around, comes around. And like Michelle said, both times Jessica was held up were due to her clients' needs. As one of her clients, I'm impressed by her sense of priority. Of course, regarding the workshop where she arrived late...personally, if I had a choice of listening to Christie and Faye or Jessica, I'd probably go for the dynamic duo! If anyone ever has a chance to hear these two ladies speak, run, don't walk for a seat in the front row. They're hysterical AND informative.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think an occasional snafu could work to your advantage. If I were an agent I would not want to work with adult children (English translation: most writers) and slipping schedules a bit will help you sort out the grown up kiddies from the mature adults. You are giving them a lot by offering your time at all. The ones who get in a snit because they don't like the scheduling are not worthy of you. Adults will behave like adults and thank you for your graciousness in seeing them, even at an unexpected time. Those are the kind of people with whom I would prefer to do business.

I understand agents never remember anyone's names, but in a case like that I would start a written list to which I could refer later. It could save some Excedrin headaches and speed up the process of tossing unsolicited query letters into the rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Jessica, thanks for the report of conference going ons. I really wish I could have been there.

I'm also a sucker for a good cupcake.

As for missing appointments, things happen. We're all human. To be honest, knowing she had to cancel to help her client shows how dedicated she is to her clients. If she's making it right, no harm no foul.

Again, thanks for the great conference blog. I'm all geared up for DC in 2009.


Kate Douglas said...

For anyone interested, I've posted some photos, including at least one of Jessica, at Just click on the link to RWA 2008 in the box at the top.

Vicki said...

Jessica, you are amazing. Yes, you missed the appointments, but anyone who's been to RWA conference, knows how things can happen.

What you did by getting the contact numbers is wonderful. Other agents/editors have missed appointments and that's not always the case.

Or like one of my appointments it was moved without my knowledge to a different day. Did it work in my schedule? Nope. Did I make it work? Oh yeah, and I'm so glad I did since it was requested.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is yes, it's professional to be on time and all that jazz, but conference is the one place where we all have to be flexible and work around changes. Besides, this is a business where things change, deadlines move up, launch dates move up or down, etc...and we adjust and are happy. :)