This past weekend my stint as a volunteer for the MWA writer’s conference ended. I’d volunteered to help out with the recruitment of agents, and it morphed into becoming the only person recruiting and organizing both agents and editors for the conference. At first I was overwhelmed, but as time went on, I gained an awesome intern. The experience was rewarding and educational.
THE SKINNY ON LIT AGENTS
They are the nicest people. Yeah writers you heard me, they rock. They work extremely hard, put in tons of overtime, and still have to be personable all of the time. Most of them that I’ve met personally during my recruitment process are natural sales people. You know how people that do well in sales are personable, adventurous, and passionate about what they sell – well Literary Agents are just that.
These wonderful people read over 100 submissions a week – ON THEIR OWN TIME. During their workday they manage the author’s they’ve signed, have sell meetings where they pitch an author to editors, call publishing contacts and do tons of paperwork.
Oh, and they don’t get paid to do the conferences that run over the weekend – that’s their own time. You know what else – each and every author that these agents came in contact with, they encouraged them, answered their questions, and appreciated the contact.
They have specific guidelines of which to pursue a piece of work and they don’t get to decide what their specialty is. It’s more than a job to them, they love books, they love authors, and they love their job – that’s why they stick with it and give over 200% efforts towards it. Lastly, some burnout quick, and leave the field for an easier, more appreciated career. Wouldn’t you if you were thought to be the bad guy to the very customer you seek to help?
THE SKINNY ON EDITORS
These wonderful people are the ‘inside man/woman’ that pushes for work that an agent sends them. They have to come up with valid support for the publisher to add this manuscript to their list. They also spend their own time reading, editing and working with authors to get the manuscript in the format that will be acceptable to the publisher. You know what else….they work just as hard as Lit Agents, and burn out just as quickly. Lately, they’ve taken on double the workload due to layoffs and cut backs at the larger publishing houses.
*Another nugget: They love authors who are willing to pull up their sleeves and get excited about marketing their product. Wouldn’t you want to hire someone that would work just as hard as you are for the success of the product they created?
THE BENEFITS OF CONFERENCES
Well, if I can toot my own horn here – I will. Strictly by accident, I’d requested that all authors that were scheduled for the MWA pitch sessions submit a query letter and the first five pages of their manuscript. Both the agents and editors told me that they appreciated this read ahead opportunity. They told me that at other conferences THEY DON”T GET TO PREVIEW the query letters or manuscripts of those who come to pitch their novels. What?! Yep, you heard me. So the authors that attended the MWA conference this year, got special attention.
Gosh, was I glad that I didn’t know the protocol for pitch session, lol!
I know what you’re thinking – why should I pay for this when I can just mail them my submission. Trust me – these are sooooooo worth the money. The agents and editors I worked with, admit to reading over 100 submissions on their free time a week. Wouldn’t it be nice to get one-on-one time with an agent and know that they read your stuff before they met with you? I believe because the agents read a sample of the author’s writing prior to the event, several people from our conference were asked to send a partial in. Wow! Many other authors got their questions answered, got quick critiques of their manuscripts and the complete and utter attention of a possible champion for their work.
You know what else – some people were even advised to set up a platform for their book, self – publish first, and to seek out someone to clean up their manuscript for submission.
NUGGETS TO RUN WITH
Conferences are a definite must do, pitch sessions are too – but BE PREPARED, PRACTICE FIRST, and if at all possible, send your submission to the conference organizer and request to send your stuff ahead of time. Also bring hardcopies of your submission to the event. You never know what opportunity may knock at your door.
Lastly, agents and editors are hardworking people who go the extra mile to find a gold nugget in a mass of submissions. Figure out a way to bring your gold to the top.