Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Before You Hit a Conference, Here's What's Happening With NY Publishing

The name of the game is entrepreneur. Roll that word around on your tongue for a spell. While you’re at it, you can reshuffle the job of writing to the bottom rung of your to-do list.
A few years ago, a speaker at one of my favorite conferences (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold) had the vision of the future in regards to publishing, shared it, scared the lunch out of my back side—the same could probably be said for my fellow addicts...whoops, I mean writers—and sure enough he was dead on. It has come to pass. The days of the talented new writer being ‘discovered’ by the mighty New York press machine are all but on life support if even that. Publishers sign writers via different means now.

But who can blame The Big Apple for its modern strategy?

Have you ever seen Shark Tank? Before you register for a seminar and editor/agent pitches, tuck that TV program into the back of your mind.

If you decide to attend the convention, you’ll probably get a kick out of the similarities between the investor/product inventor negotiations and the editor/writer pitches. No doubt, somewhere in the conference, you’ll wander into a workshop on ‘developing your brand’, much like James Patterson is a brand. If you get a little face time with an agent, chances are they’ll ask you about your media presence: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etcetera which work like a dream for established celebrities, but just drain precious time like life blood from struggling writers. That’s not just my opinion. Ask the aspiring authors at the conference and you may unleash a Pandora’s Box of groaning.
Note, also, that independent presses (or for clarity, publishers other than the biggies in New York) consume most of the conferences these days. Sure, some heavy players will be there, but for the most part, they’re hanging out to haggle with the agents who have placed their clients with indies and are ripe for the next step.

Think about it. If you were an editor with an acquisition budget to risk on a keyboard plucker, wouldn’t you want to know that he or she has investments in their business, some established tenacity, maybe even a little bit of a following? All New York has to do is kick back, watch Amazon, and take its pick of desperate novelists who are ‘on the brink’. I think this is pretty smart of the giant presses. Make no mistake. It IS their business model now for regular-joe new acquisitions.

Recently, I mentioned on the Rock that back in the day, I had pals who got picked up by New York at conferences. Bam. Pow. Like out of the movies, somebody’s dream just came true in a five minute meeting. Yet those victory stories started waning basically to almost nothing. Even with small reputable presses, the book deals dwindled. That’s because all the editors hit a slump of us writers who value putting words on paper much more than spending time trying to be the popular kid on Twitter.
This current technique does yield fruit though. I have a good friend, talented mystery writer, who has worked her tail off and just recently signed a contract with one of the giants…after paying dues with a classy independent for several years. We’ll probably be interviewing her shortly. I’m SO tickled for her.

Here’s to you attracting a big money investor at your next novel pitch!



Sisters of the Quill said...

Sadly some agents and editors are also there to meet up with their clients (at one conference, we even had someone admit that and NOT want to take the pitches he'd signed up to entertain). In my day of working the editor/agent appointments, occasionally I overheard editors and agents making fun of writers. Disheartening. But I guess they are human too... and are there to schmooze and gossip about the industry, make their own connections. Everybody has an agenda. We simply need to be aware of that going in. And it is easier to get a book out now but harder, I think, to get the big few to pay attention or at least give a fair read of some sample chapters. We must adjust. No choice. If we accept it, we're less likely to lose our lunches in our shorts! Ugh. That engaged all the sense! Karen

Anonymous said...

Like Karen, I've working years of conferences and I've also heard several times editors jabbing/making fun of writers (hey, are we THAT frigging invisible to you?! We're IN THE ROOM WITH YOU ALL)...and in one notable case one get extremely indignant that a new writer of hers (my words) didn't bow down before her and jump when she said "jump." I was driving this editor and several others from the airport to the conference and was thoroughly DISGUSTED with this person by the time we reached our destination, and I informed the writer (a friend of mine) about what had been said. On another trip, a well-known and high-powered agent I ferried from the airport flat-out talked about himself the entire ride, without taking a single breath. It was only when I was getting his bags out onto the hotel's curb that he asked what I wrote. I knew exactly what he was doing: monopolizing the time to keep me from pitching to him...which I quickly realized I wasn't going to do early on anyway because of the man's incredibly inflated ego and abrasive manner. He also said he wasn't taking pitches---but sure did talk about HIS book a lot at the conference.

People are people no matter what they do, the clothes they wear, the languages they speak: you're going to have the good and the bad in them. Just realize this when you go to interact with them. I've also met some really cool people, like Mark Coker, of Smashwords. This guy impressed the hell out of me. AND he's a GREAT person and ain't afraid to confront the doublspeak and obfuscation of the New York crowd.

Great post, Gusto.

Chiseled in Rock said...

Frank, I KNOW who that agent is that you're talking about without even having to ask you to whisper it. LOL. Karen, preaching to the choir, easier to get a book out yes. And the price paid is it's way harder to get the power deal. I guess we could chalk that up to the ol' 'supply and demand'. :)

One of the reasons I posted this and failed to mention is I wonder about the bang for the buck with conferences in general now. It wasn't difficult for me to connect with an agent or indy presses just through blind submissions. Honestly, veteran of the cons like yourselves, I don't believe I can assert that one connection made through these gatherings put me in a better 'publishable' position.