Agent Monday: The BEA 411

BEA 2015Happy Agent Monday, everyone!  Remember me? Yeah, it’s been a very busy few weeks, so Agent Monday posts have given way to Agent Monday action. Last week was all about BEA – that’s the big book expo held each year in NYC. It’s jammed with publishers and editors and librarians and book sellers and authors and, of course, agents. So today I thought I’d give you the BEA 411.

BEA is many different things to different people. If you’re a publisher, it’s the place to highlight your upcoming line of books, hype your newest authors, and to interact with book sellers and readers and rights agents and anyone else who connects with your business. For authors, it’s the place to have your own new title on display, perhaps do a signing at your publisher’s booth and build buzz. For readers, it’s where you can hear some of your favorite authors speak, where you can grab a ton of free books, and where you can nab some autographs.

But what do agents do there? Well, my day started off with a meeting in the rights department with an audio publisher. There they shared what they’re looking for, and I clued them in on some of my clients’ upcoming projects. Next? I zipped down to the conference rooms and caught a panel of editors buzzing their upcoming young adult titles. I love hearing these panels because the editors share what drew them into the books. I take notes – and when one of my clients has a book that touches on something that one of these editors specifically noted loving – well, that makes them the perfect editor to pitch to.

After the panel is done, I talk to the many other editors in the audience that I spot. Some I’ve met before, and some I’ve spoken to on the phone before.  Lots of chatting and biz card sharing ensues.

I meet up with fellow agency mate Linda Epstein, and together we “walk the floor” – not as spicy as it sounds. Actually it just means we walk through the zillions of publisher’s exhibits on the main floor. It’s so instructive to see what each publisher is highlighting. Plenty of editors are manning the booths, and this leads to many conversations with these good folk. Business cards are swapped, and info exchanged. What are they looking for now? Would they like such and such? I’m building up my editor info file, taking copious notes, and I’m also pitching various client manuscripts I’m about to go out on submission with.

Folks, this takes a lot of organization. Since I represent picture books and chapter books and middle grades and YA’s, and adult fiction and memoir, you can bet I have a wide range of projects almost ready to go. As an agent, I need to keep in mind which publishers would truly be a fit for a project, and which wouldn’t. No point in pitching a memoir to a house that doesn’t handle those, right? And I have to be ready at the right moment to pitch each book well. PLUS I have to do all of this while not being pushy – so, yeah, you have to know when to pitch, and when to just chat. I gauge an editor’s particular interest while speaking with them. If they express a particular interest, then I can pursue that saying something along the lines of, “I think I have something you’ll really like. Would you be interested in…”  They are! I make a note of it, and this week I’ll be sending out a range of submissions to a range of editors as a result.

So Linda and I walk the floor together for about an hour, and then I head off on my own to grab some food and rest my feet… Looking through my conference brochure I see that my dad’s favorite author is signing RIGHT NOW. Crap!  I gobble down the rest of my food and scramble back to the exhibit floor. Eeek!  There’s a huge line, but I’m not too late.  I nab a copy of Nelson DeMille’s latest novel, and get in line – I’m #140, and the cut off is #150. I patiently wait on line, and 40 minutes later I get his signature.  Father’s Day gift – check!

Dennis signing at BEA 2015

Author buddy Dennis Tafoya (far right) signing his fab crime novel THE POOR BOY’S GAME

Okay, the next 3 hours are spent with more walking the floor action, plus a few appointments with editors where we sit down and talk business. I also see authors I know, agents I’ve met over the years, and book sellers I’ve worked with as an author. It really is an amazing community out there full of some seriously cool and fun people.

Still, I’m fried. It’s 4 p.m. and I’ve been going since 5 a.m. But I’m not done yet. Now I head out of the convention center and walk uptown to do something I’ve been looking forward to all day – meeting my author Harmony Verna and her husband Jay! We meet at a pub and hoist a cold one, toasting Harmony and her upcoming debut DAUGHTER OF AUSTRALIA. If you’ve loved THE THORNBIRDS, then this novel will take your breath away. Actually, it’ll take EVERYONE’S breath away – it’s that spectacular. And we have lots to celebrate. Just the day before, Kensington Publishers sold translation rights for her book to a publisher in Germany. Huzzah!

Marie and Harmony at BEA15

Meeting up with my client, fab author Harmony Verna! (right)

NEXT, the three of us head over to the BEA cocktail party hosted by Kensington Publishers. More celebrating!  We meet her fab editor and foreign rights team and publicist and other authors. So fun.

And now? Now I’m done.  But wait!  There’s just one more thing I have to do.  As I head back to the train station to go home, I step over a gushing subway grate and zip! My skirt does a full Marilyn Monroe.

Yup. THAT’S BEA.

Resting up till next year, but first I must jot down one more note: NEXT TIME WEAR PANTS.

*Marie is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Agent Monday: Meeting Face to Face

MP900387533Happy Agent Monday!  Last week was just TOOOOO busy for posting.  The Book Expo America (BEA) conference was held in NYC last week, and I was there all day Wednesday. That meant prepping for the event (figuring out which booths to visit, which editors I wanted to meet up with, which clients’ books I was going to do some “market research” on, which events I wanted to attend, which other authors/agents were attending that I could say hi to, etc. etc. etc.)….  The day itself was awesome. There’s just something about seeing people…about meeting face to face.

At BEA I was able to talk with some fabulous editors who had only been a voice on the phone, or, in the case of one London editor, a “voice” in emails. Sitting with these people, relating our enthusiasm about their publishing line, about my clients, is energizing. As they say in one of my fav mindless programs The Bachelorette (new episode tonight – woot!), we had an awesome connection.

I also loved being able to talk at depth with various publishers’ head sales people. Where were their lines headed? What was their vision as a house? What did they hope to publish more of? These people were fabulous in giving me all the juicy details. I scoured the exhibit floor, pulling catalogs of smaller publishers, eyeballing the very best in literary presses, seeing who had the most innovative new approaches.

One of the supremely thrilling things about BEA is seeing so many people in one spot who are completely devoted to the written word. Hoards of readers and authors and editors and publishers and agents and booksellers, lugging bags filled with ARC’s and catalogs. The excitement was palpable.

Yes, all of this was fab. But I had one other face to face ahead of me at the end of the day – a dinner with one of my clients who I’d not met yet. And I couldn’t wait!

It may seem strange to think that I have clients I haven’t even met yet, but that’s the way it often goes. Of course I feel like I know that author the moment I fall in love with his or her writing. Their personalities are all over those pages – that’s what we mean by “voice.” But still, I wonder will that person be just like I’d imagined? Will I be like they imagine?

For those of you about to meet your own agent for the first time, whether it’s at a conference or for coffee or for dinner – I want to remind you of something: you are already their client!  This is a happy moment to connect face to face and deepen your relationship…or, as they say on The Bachelorette, “to take things to the next level.” So relax and be yourself. You don’t need to sell yourself. Phew, right?

It’s a great time to learn a little more about each other, to talk about your journey as an author, to share more of your dreams, but also just to hang out and see what else you have in common.

But also remember that it is still a business relationship you are forging here. So that means you arrive on time, dress appropriately, and try to keep things as positive as possible. If you need to share concerns, definitely do. If the agent asks you about your relationship with a past editor or agent, be honest, but don’t be a gossip or dig dirt for dirt diggin’s sake. And you don’t need the meet up to be all about business or even slightly about business if it isn’t needed.  A lunch or dinner that is 99% hanging out with just a few biz-related questions tossed in is just fine too.

In the end, you want to feel more connected to your agent, to understand them better, and to enjoy  their company. And visa versa.

So, after BEA, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and having dinner with my client Tracey Baptiste! She was on-time, and smiling, and we hugged immediately – she’s part of my agency family, after all. We had a lively dinner filled with laughter and experience-swapping, and talking about her future and both of our wacky paths to this moment. And we ended with some exquisite desserts and another hug.

I’ll soon be pitching Tracey’s exquisite middle grade novel THE JUMBIE SEED, about a girl who unwittingly draws out the jumbies, malicious monsters inhabiting her island’s woods, and soon discovers she has more in common with these creatures than she could have ever imagined. I can’t wait to send this one out to publishers…and now, after meeting Tracey face to face, I’m more excited than ever.

Here’s the thing: I always feel passionate about my clients and their work and I feel an almost mother-bear like protectiveness about them. I want them to thrive!  After I meet a client face-to-face, I have a face – voice – and fully formed person even more in my mind when I think of them. Mother bear to the max! After meeting Tracey in person, I know without a doubt that not only will a publisher be fortunate to have her manuscript, but that an editor will thoroughly enjoy working with this author. And that certainly will give me even greater conviction when I pitch.

So if you have a chance to meet your agent in person, grab it.  Perhaps she is coming to your area for a conference and you could drive up to meet her there (that’s how I got to see Stephanie Winkelhake), or perhaps you are flying into NY to meet your new publisher (that’s how I got to hang out with Carmella Van Vleet).

Meet up, make a connection. As they say in The Bachelorette, it’ll be “just awesome!”

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Authors TP the BEA

Simmons and Tafoya - up to no good

Okay, this is too hilarious not to share.  We’ve all heard the story of the author who followed the agent into the bathroom at a conference and slipped a manuscript under the agent’s stall. Well, at this year’s BEA conference a group of authors decided to take this one step lower.

Authors who are members of the Liars Club (a group that I’m a proud member of) thought they’d have some fun toilet papering the BEA bathrooms with rolls they had custom printed with their group’s logo and website.  Also, napkins printed with the group’s info and clever pick up lines like “Is that a two-book deal in your pocket?” were slipped beneath cocktails and coffee cups at several BEA events.

Participating in the shenanigans were authors Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, and upcoming The Bird House, Washington Sq. Press), Merry Jones (Zoe Hayes mysteries including The Borrowed and Blue Murders, St. Martin’s Minotaur), Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, and upcoming Wolves of Fairmont Park, St. Martin’s Minotaur), and New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry (Dragon Factory, St. Martin’s, and upcoming Rot and Ruin, Simon & Schuster).

Simmons, Tafoya and Jones lurking

The Liars Club is a group of 13 authors who basically lie for a living, and who work together to share their work and their love of writing. “We thought this would be a hilarious way to get our group name out there,” said Simmons, the TP criminal mastermind. “Of course it didn’t work out exactly as we’d planned.  First of all the lines to the women’s rooms were so long, that mostly we had to place the rolls in the men’s rooms.  Women use more TP than men, so this bothered me from a marketing standpoint…”

“It all felt very cloak and dagger,” said Jones. “Napkin-wise, we ultimately voted on the Starbucks napkin stand as having the most traffic.  We lingered a bit, trying to be cool, waiting until no one was around, then artfully fanned out the napkins there. But no one arrested us. Hey, we weren’t stealing, we were giving.”

“We got some interesting reactions,” said Tafoya. “One literary agent, seeing us taking pictures of the mayhem with the TP, said ‘Of all things to document, I can’t believe they are photographing the bathroom!’  I got the feeling he thought we were tourists.”

There was one particularly dicey moment when Simmons unwrapped a roll and shrieked “Oh no! It’s only one ply!”  Mostly, though, their prank went well, and was taken in good stride, with some of the TP getting stuck to conference attendees’ shoes.

“The whole experience was a riot,” said Maberry.  “Now we have to wonder how we’ll top this next year.  Maybe Liars Club hairspray and mouthwash near the sinks?”

Is Maberry plotting the next caper?