Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Mishmash of Responses to Comments

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 While we may be a month out of date once in a while, we are not six months to a year (or longer) out of date as are most other sources.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.


Scott Jensen said...

First, thanks for addressing those questions. Very informative. It is also good to hear that the agents are not getting paid for the "pay for interviews" as that would have a vanity-press smell to it. Does the conferences though pay for the agent's airline ticket, hotel room, and meals?

I do have a question about GLBT. What is needed to qualify for this? Sex scenes? Soapboxing? Where GLBT is crucial to the plot? Struggle against oppression, ignorance, and/or bigotry as part of the story? Or can it just be the main character is "simply" one of them and it isn't delved on in the story? Just a normal part of their lives like them being a member of a certain race. I had thought about making the main character a bisexual woman but didn't because ... well, read the next paragraph for the reason.

Also, in regards to GLBT, does the author have to be one of them? What is the expectation of the readership? What would be their reaction if they learned that the author wasn't the same as their story's main character? I do realize that people understand that if I write a story where the main character is a serial killer, Buck Rogers, a viking, and so forth, that no one expects me (the author) to be one of those. However, is there a different expectation with it comes to GLBT stories? If I, a straight guy, were to write a story where the main character was a bisexual woman, would I need to use a female pen name? Back in ages past, women used male pen names for similar audience-expectation purposes.

As for my "dark" mystery, there are suspence elements to it but not hanging-by-one's-fingernails moments. The closest it comes to that is the main character being tailed by one of those his operatives is tailing and then confronting them. There is also the aspect that the reader knows what's really going on as no one else in the story (not even the main character's operatives) know he's actually a bad guy. He manipulates everyone and the suspence (if you call it that) might be in there as for whether or not he can pull it all off and how. Would that qualify as a suspence? I don't think the story as is can be qualified as a thriller since there's no gun play, cliff jumping, mad car races, and such.

As for adding length, I laughed when I read Rex Stout's first Nero Wolfe novel "Fer-de-lance". The VAST majority of that story was a red herring. Once the real target of the real killer is revealed (and if you eliminated the remaining red herring elements), the story would probably barely qualify as a short story. I laughed, "Well, that's one way to beef up one's word count." Would that be a possible solution for my story? I do have something I can inject into the story but it would be along the lines of a red herring. Not directly related to the storyline. It would be thought to be related until its resolution whereupon the reader would realize it had nothing to do with the events of the current case. The main storyline would then continue on. On the bright side, it would more clarify the main character and what he is. It would definitely be a suspence / thriller piece. I didn't include it partly because it would move the novel more away from being a pure mystery. I thought I'd then have to classify it was a "mystery/suspence/thriller". But maybe that's not a bad idea. Hmmm. Thoughts?

Linda Adams said...

Thank you for putting all this info out about how writers should prepare for face to face meetings. I worked with the agents as a volunteer at a regional writing conference, and we had a number of people who didn't understand what the face to face was. One tried to pitch a short story to the agent and another pitch an idea for an unwritten novel!

Anonymous said...

You are mistaken Mr. Brown. I checked your blog for information two months before, one month before, and two days before FWA conference. You had time to post a crabby blog, but neglected to take time to update your information in it and on the website. Really, I think this is about you expecting things of others that you don't expect from yourself and then behaving badly over it. And I did let FWA know how I felt about your inaccurate information. Also, you didn't answer Scott Jenson's question about what the conference does pay for. Airline ticket? Hotel? Meals?

Keyhotee said...

To Anonymous at 10:23: Talk about expecting things of others and not of yourself, do you really expect agents to work through Thanksgiving to answer your antagonistic questions? I notice you didn't post until after the holiday, so why would they? It is pretty clear you have a bone to pick with these agents and have no problem airing it publicly, which strikes me as unprofessional. Your accusatory tone is unnecessary and your whining is getting tiring. You've apparently talked to the appropriate people, so what are you looking for?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Really, Anonymous, I’ve been trying my level best to ignore you. I’d think that by this time you would have figured this out. However, since you insist, here goes:

First of all, your insulting and insinuating comments and vindictive attitude are not welcome here, although if you want to post some constructive criticism, be my guest. That is always welcome. If you want us to admit we make mistakes, we’ve already done that. We make mistakes just like writers, editors, other agents, publishers, etc. We apologize for it when we do it. Perhaps FWA will refund your money if you are that unhappy with the results of the conference, but we have no control over that.

As for Mr. Jenson’s question, we have been on holiday break and not really responding to anything on the blog. Wasn’t just about everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving busy this last weekend? We were out of town and didn’t really think about blogging. In response to the question, though, it depends on the conference as to what each pays for, if anything, and how those arrangements are made. You can contact each conference before attending if that is a concern of yours. Whether they give you that information is up to them, as this considered a business arrangement between conference organizers and those they invite, including editors, publishers, writers, other agents, speakers, etc. It is considered confidential information and not usually released publicly. You can also ask what the arrangements are for editors and other writers who present, as well as what fee the keynote speaker is paid. Again, whether they offer this information is up to them, and we doubt they would make it public.

We’ve already addressed the updated information on our site issue, as well as the others, and we won’t revisit them again. Please keep in mind that this is not a forum for people to vent their wrath. It is an informational blog, so, consequently, if you have nothing constructive to say, then your silence would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the FWA, and as Chair for next year's registration, I find this conversation between anonymous and WM informative. As registration chair for 2007, it's my job to make sure that registrants who pay for interviews get the interviews they want. This is something I am noting for next year, and something to bring up to the Board on our first meeting.

As writers, we can do our due diligence, all of our research, spend money on interviews, and still not land that contract. This isn't anyone's fault. The industry changes so fast that even doing the best we can, sometimes we're just not able to catch up.

Just because WM's editors are cold to cozies right now doesn't mean that all agents' editors will be. I encourage you to keep submitting, keep pitching and don't give up. Markets ebb and flow. Maybe cozies are in a down cycle right now. It will pick back up at some point. Don't give in, don't give up. Just keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I re-read the post about GLBT. I don't suppose the "main element" could be the main character??? :-)

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

"I re-read the post about GLBT. I don't suppose the "main element" could be the main character??? :-)"

The main character being from the GLBT community doesn't necessarily make a book for that group of readers. It is more about a sense of being that is pervasive throughtout in addition to the characters. In other words, adding gay characters doesn't necessarily put a book in this category. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was published by Scribner (not a GLBT press)as a mainstream book--a love story actually--but the target demographic was a general audience. GLBT fiction is more of that which is focused specifically for readers in that community, although it may attract readers in a mainstream audience as well.