Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And I Didn't Even Get to Meet Jenny Rappaport

by Sariah S. Wilson

Recently in an LDS writers group I belong to someone asked why we should bother belonging to the Romance Writers of America (RWA). A fellow RWA member gave several good reasons why you should belong to this organization if you write romance.

An example of why it's a good idea was the special presentation that my local RWA chapter did. We had an agent panel. Actual agents (Marta Justak and Jill Lawrence of The Justak Agency and Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Ltd.). People who really sell your books and make sure you get lots of money.

We were given the opportunity to "pitch" to these agents. Pitching does not mean that we threw our manuscripts at them (as my 8-year-old wondered). It meant that we tried to sell them on our stories and get them interested in seeing more.

Nine times out of ten, the agent is going to request a partial (and will only not ask for it if you've pitched something to them they don't represent).

So why bother?

There are a couple of reasons.

First and foremost is that finding an agent is sort of like getting married. It's an extremely important relationship. And just as you hopefully want to date around before you settle on one person, you need to find out as much info as you can about various agents before you pick one. This isn't always easy to do, but getting to listen to them present and talk to them in a pitch session gives you a much better idea of what they're all about and whether or not you'd mesh professionally.

The second is that since the agent will most likely request the partial, you get to put the coveted words "requested materials" on the envelope, which moves you to the top of the query pile (please note that you shouldn't use these magic words unless they're really true because agents tend to become very, very unhappy with you if you try and lie).

I was supposed to pitch to Jenny Rappaport, who had originally been scheduled to come. She's James Dashner's national agent, so I planned to shamelessly name drop and tell how big of a fan James is of my work and how he demanded that she take me on as a client (okay, not really. I just wanted to be able to say, "I know James Dashner" so that I had a way to break the ice. You know how I am about making conversation). Unfortunately, Ms. Rappaport became very ill and was unable to travel. I was bummed, but these things do happen.

I was given the chance to pitch to one of the other three agents, but I passed on the opportunity to give one of the as-of-yet unpublished writers in my chapter the chance to pitch instead. Plus, based on the Google information I'd gathered, I didn't think any of the others would be a good fit for me.

Ginger Clark proved me wrong. She represents exactly what I want to write - paranormal chick lit, and she even calls it that despite chick lit being "dead." Unfortunately, I'd already made my decision, but now I have another potential agent to add to my list of people to query someday.

Ginger Clark represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal chicklit, literary horror, and young adult and middle grade novels. When asked about trends, she said what sells:

Military sci-fi
Alternative history
High fantasy epic sagas (Robert Jordan type)
Urban fantasy with a female lead
Romantic fantasy
Literary fantasy (like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell)
YA normal girls with normal lives wanted (Gossip Girl type books are over)
Any sort of fantasy or sci-fi series for YA or middle school age group

She said paranormal is still very, very hot but as of 2006 editors have said they're sick to death of vampires, so if you have a burning vampire story you'll have to make it fresh and new to sell it. She said currently 20% of all romances sold are paranormal. She said she was eager to see a genie or succubus series. Historicals are making a comeback, and this is being bolstered by the paranormal historical. Cross-genres are also hot right now.

They were asked what authors do that just turn them off. Ginger Clark said needy authors are hard, the type that call every day. Authors who refuse to do revisions, and those that are passive-aggressive in their interactions.

The Justak Agency echoed what Ginger said, and said their pet peeves are authors who don't do what they say they're going to do, and authors who disappear when its deadline time so that you can't get a hold of them. They also had a hard time with authors who are impatient, ignore editoral feedback, are too emotional about said feedback (that is so me and I am so in trouble).

The things the agents are tired of seeing: books about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012, vampire books, woman in jeopardy protected by an undercover police officer, copycat literature that mimics either books or movies.

The other good thing about going to a panel like this is the motivation factor. It encourages you to go home and get in front of your computer and get that literary masterpiece ready to send in to one of the inspiring agents you listened to.

Has anyone else attended a conference or panel that you found motivating?


At 11/11/2007 10:23 AM, Blogger Josi said...

very interesting, I might need to join RWA, sounds like there is a lot I have to learn. Thanks Sariah.

At 11/12/2007 1:41 PM, Blogger Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

There's some great advice there Sariah. Thanks for sharing your experience.

At 11/12/2007 1:48 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Most interesting. Thanks, Sariah.
I'll have to go look up Sabbucus!

At 11/12/2007 5:12 PM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Sariah, sorry you missed Jenny. I'm sure name dropping me would have only hurt your chances a little. :-)

At 11/16/2007 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there many men at RWA? Is that like a no no to have men writting "romance"?

At 11/16/2007 5:03 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I couldn't give you a percentage of how many men are in RWA, but there are probably more than you would expect. I don't think it's a "no-no," more that you write what you like to read, and it's my impression that most men either a) don't like to read romances or b) would never admit to it if they did. With my first novel I asked my 20-something brother what he thought of it and he said, "Some Nephite chick and Lamanite dude hook up. I don't get it." My sisters, on the other hand, all read it in one sitting.

We do have several male members in my local RWA chapter. There are some famous male romance writers who write under pen names, because of the perception that women wouldn't buy it if a man's name was on it. It also works in reverse - it's why Harry Potter was written by J.K. Rowling and not Joanna Rowling.


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