Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Con Agent

Maven Carrie Ryan This weekend I went to a local con - ConCarolinas (for a recap, see JP's post here). It was awesome -- totally tons of fun and my first SFF con! Of course, because I didn't even hear about the con until the Monday before and therefore couldn't pre-register, I went rather stealth :)

But here's the thing, over the course of the day I attended, I heard a few authors give advice that kinda made me squirm. And it made me want to blog about it because I felt like some of this advice was perpetuating some myths about agents and getting an agent. Of course, rule number one that I must highlight is that there are often no hard and fast rules. Everyone has their own approach and you have to figure it out for yourself. Even so... here are my thoughts on some oft perpetuated myths (spread out over a few posts...).

One thing that really stuck out to me: a few people (and some of them well published authors) said that the best was to get an agent was to go to cons. Now, while I agree that you can make some great connections at conventions, if you're only going so you can attend a pitch session and stalk some agents at the bar, you're wasting your money. Here's the thing, you can be the most fun person ever, you and the agent you meet can go get manis and pedis, you can spend all night sharing embarassing stories and margaritas, but if your book isn't any good, none of that matters. Sure, knowing the agent might get a little more attention, but you still have to deliver the goods.

Agents are generally on the lookout for books they can sell -- they want to fall in love when they open their slush. You don't have to go to cons and meet agents in person in order to have them fall in love with your work. Trust me, I've met plenty of agents at cons and none of them ended up offering me representation for my book (in fact, one of my queries didn't make it past the slush reader for an agent I'd met several times). All the offers I got were from the good old fashioned slush pile. Yes, agents do read queries and they request pages and they make offers without having ever met you!

Don't get me wrong, cons are great things. It's a super fun way to meet other like-minded people and to be surrounded with the buzz of it all. Meeting agents is part of that buzz and it's part of the business. But it shouldn't be the only reason you go. Save the money from plane tickets and hotels instead and invest them in stamps :)

More myths to come next week (unless, you know, I forget or get distracted :)

So tell me what you think -- is the best way to get an agent to go to a con?


Darcy Burke said...

No, the best way to get an agent is to write the best book you can and query (and pitch if you can) the heck out of it. Cons are good for the pitching aspect, but as much for getting a real feel for selling your story as obtaining representation or editor interest.

That said, I pitched my agent at a conference. (I also queried like mad!)

Jackie Barbosa said...

I think going to conference and meeting/rubbing elbows with agents (and editors) can help you get your manuscript read (just as a recommendation from another writer can), but it's not going to get you an offer of representation or publication unless the book is solid. Which, I think, is pretty much what you're saying :).

I suppose if you are an author who has a very hard time writing a good query letter, but you can pitch your work well face to face (in my experience, queries are easier than face-to-face pitches, but YMMV), going to conferences and pitching may be your only surefire method of getting requests. But by and large, I think having faith in your query letter and letting it rise from the slush works most of the time.

Amie Stuart said...

Hmmm I met Karin Tabke at RWA and her agent is the one who recced my now agent so maybe there is something to be said for it. But it's not the be-all and end-all of it all :)

Courtney Milan said...

I met my agent at a conference. But it probably would have happened anyway--it was really just all the serendipity attached that allowed me to make a decision really quickly.

And honestly, I think I would have presented myself better on paper. I was exhausted and flummoxed when we talked.

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