This post is an attempt to answer different questions from the comments we have received since returning from the FWA conference. First up, the purpose of our blog is to keep us from having to update our Web site every other day. Between the two, we are the most updated source of information on our agency available. While we may be a month out of date once in a while, we are not six months to a year (or longer) out of date as are most other sources. We have mentioned here that mysteries, for the most part, are in the dumper and, consequently, it was only a matter of time before the cozy, humorous or otherwise, would be affected by this downturn. The most prudent tact, therefore, if you were worried about spending money for a pointless consult, would have been to contact us prior to the conference. We do have people who send us questions many of which we do answer here of you can contact us at our agency addresses. Other people post on our blog. That’s what this blog is for—thank God for technology.
As far as paying to meet with me, I have no control over that and it is something you will have to take up with conference organizers. We suggest that any writer who is dissatisfied with his/her conference experience contact the organizers and give voice to those concerns. This is how many conferences decide on what workshops to offer and which publishing professionals to bring in for future conferences. Participant feedback is vital to the continued success of any event and we encourage you to share yours with the conference committees. By the way, many writers who paid for “interviews” took their time to ask questions, get advice on ideas, and, in general, pick our brains. To any writer going to a conference, we suggest that you keep this in mind for future reference, as most agents are more than happy to discuss other publishing topics besides your project. I have had writers who mistakenly signed up with me for a consult use the time to get information they couldn’t possibly get otherwise or that they didn't feel comfortable asking about in front of others, so it is important that writers have questions or ideas they want to discuss just in case. We enjoy helping people who have helped themselves.
As far as paid for interviews, (this will also answer part of Mr. Jensen’s question), we have no control over what conferences charge for them or what they do with the money after they receive it, or even if they charge. We are under the impression that it goes for scholarships, conference funds for the next year, contest awards, etc. At some conferences we have attended, the consults are free; at others, they charge. We usually don’t know if they do or don’t or how much they charge, and it is of no relevance to us. We make nothing off of these.
If we had our way, there would be no consults or interviews unless there was a writing sample to accompany them (sent to us prior to the conference). The SCBWI handles it this way, as do some other groups. The reason for this is that sometimes the participants don’t understand what the consults are for, the level where they should be before they sign up for a consult, what they should do during that time, or what they have written. Some writers sign up for a consult thinking their romance is something we would be interested in seeing, only to discovered they have written a love story. The time is therefore wasted. Sometimes we get the feeling that the only reason that the writer came to the conference was to pitch every editor and agent there, and some expect to go home with a contract in hand that day. This is a huge gamble. Somewhere along the line, someone said that if you want to get published, you have to spend the money to go to conferences and network with agents and editors. Don’t get us wrong—conferences are wonderful places to network and meet with agents and editors, as well as fellow writers (with the emphasis on fellow writers). However, if your expectations are that you will come home with a publishing contract, then you might be typing with the wrong keyboard.
It is exhilarating for us to be able to meet with writers, as their jobs and ours are at times very isolating. We have met some really wonderful folks at conferences and think these events have value for those who are ready for and open to the experience.
Hope this helps answer some questions.