Just back from a fun, informative weekend at the Colorado Gold and thought I'd pass on some information:
1) GREAT session called Cold Critiques Reads where Agent Miriam Kriss and Editor Ben LeRoy listened to moderator read first page and a half of a random volunteer submission and either of them would stop the reading when they were fed up and then explained to the audience why they would reject it --or ask for more. It was very entertaining, but also an enlightening glimpse into the reasons behind rejections. And occasionally, they didn't agree, so the fickle subjectivity card came into play. I'd love to see more of those by a variety of agents and editors!
2) Romance Author Shirley Jump, author of more than like 34 books, did a great workshop on writing the synopsis that sells.
3) The Agent panel, featuring Kristen Nelson, Miriam Kriss, Becca Stump, and Donna Bagdasarian was entertaining and informative. The tone was very no-nonsense and blunt. They would like to see more "smart, sexy, salable books". Becca Stumpf would like to see more Sci/Fi for young people and girl protagonists. So if that's what you write--query her!
They all said do not even TRY to chase the trends--work to identify new trends and if THEY knew what the new, hottest thing would be, they'd all be rich. They particularly emphasized the importance of voice--so much so that I was tempted to print out the first page of my story and hand it to them and ask if this "voice" was anything they might be interested in. I mean, really, why waste everybody's time even pitching the story if they might not like your voice?
They all--editors included--seemed so emphatic about voice, that in my cynicism, I thought, heck, at the next conference, why not make ALL the agents and editors read the first page of conference attendee's work--anonymously, of course, then check the box next to the voices that are acceptable to them. I mean this would really streamline things quite a bit, I'd think. Right? BTW--I'm only half kidding.
4) I LOVED this question to the editors: Will font make or break the deal? HA HA to all those PICKY contests!!! They all agreed that webdings wedinrt IsIs the only totally unacceptable font. Ben LeRoy HATES currier new--but that's just his pet peeve. As long as it's legible and NOT cutsie, they're pretty flexible.
5) When asked if first publishing with a small press hurts your chances with a larger publisher, they all agreed NO. In fact, Daniela Rapp with St. Martin's said that they "regularly monitor what the small presses are publishing looking for up-and-coming authors, waiting to pounce and steal them." Then Denise Little recounted the famous Tom Clancy story where after being utterly, widely rejected by EVERY big publishing house in New York--twice, he published with a tiny Naval press and his book contained stuff somebody thought was top secret, so the white house aid put the book on President Regan's desk. Well, Regan just thought it was a suggested read, and read it for fun. When leaving on vacation a reporter asked him what was in his hand, and he held up the Clancy book and read the title and author and said, "Best book I ever read." And the rest is history
6) How much editing do the editors still do? Quite a bit. All these editors are very hands-on. It depends upon the book, but they do what they need to do. Oops, the editors on the panel were, Ben LeRoy--Bleak House, Daniela Rapp, St. Martin's, Denise Little, Tekno & Five Star, ad Faith Black of Avalon.
7) Also, St. Martin's publishes 600 books/yr. WOW. I recently heard that there are something like 140,000 new books published every year. Holy Cow, that's a LOT of competition! And we thought it was bad just getting to publication. No wonder authors now have to promote so much.
8) The words of advice from agents and editors: Keep writing. Don't give up. READ, READ, READ! People who make it to the top learn every day. They listen and learn. Denise Little tells us that Dean Koontz took editing better than anybody. Sooo if he can be gracious about editing, I guess I can too.
There were lots of wonderful workshops, but these are just a few of the highlights and current news from New York. Next time, be there!