Susan’s Inside Writing: Conference Gleanings


I’m starting this post as I’m waiting to head out to breakfast on Saturday morning. I figured I’d start writing down what I’m taking in:

The biggest light bulb moment of the day: Agent Jennifer Jackson telling me that the covers of the Demo Tapes are great, but they don’t tell her what the book’s about.

(Just wait until you guys see the cover for Trevor’s Song. There will be NO DOUBT what that book is about.)

Jennifer’s comment reminded me of the genesis of The Demo Tapes. That I’d intended for it to be a strictly vanity thing, and it was you guys who asked for an ISBN and started setting up book tours and the like for me. But clearly, choices made for one reason aren’t helping to further my cause.

Biggest But…. but…. but … Moment: Talking with Emmanuelle Alspaugh of the Judith Ehrlich agency, who I also really liked. I asked if the plot of what I’m working on was marketable, or if I am still too left-of-center to expect commercial publication. She focused on the setting. Fictional cities, even ones as kick-ass as Riverview, aren’t hot right now, she said. I either need to take the story urban fantasy or move to a real city.

But… what about the PLOT???

Yeah, I’m cautious. Spell it out or I have trouble believing it’s okay.

Most pleasant surprise: Hearing Jenny Bent, Alex Glass, Janet Reid, and Jennifer Jackson say they’ll sign authors who have self-pubbed. They are totally open to it. Jennifer even said the fact that I’m making money with The Demo Tapes is a huge bonus. (But you should still buy more copies and keep spreading the word, okay? The more, the better!)

Biggest shocker: How much fun I’m having getting to know Janet Reid, Jennifer Jackson, Jenny Bent, and Alex Glass. These are all people I could be friends with if I lived in New York and worked in publishing. They don’t just know their stuff, they have given me an insight into what it REALLY means to be an agent.

I mean, think about it. They have big client lists. Clients who need stuff — and who don’t operate on regular 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedules. And yet they give up a weekend to come talk to people (some of whom are quite clueless, although well-meaning) and educate people about the publishing industry. They don’t NEED to do this, boys and girls. Not THIS group. We’re talking about agents who are at the top of their game.

Their kindness, their giving, and their heart is something else. If you think all agents do is sign people to contracts and sell their books, you are SO WRONG.

Best I Should be Dying but Instead, I’m Eating This Up Moment: When Janet Reid started picking on me during her social networking panel. Every last person in the room turned to see who the cut-up in back was. Worst of all for my defense, I had pulled my chair out into the center aisle, the better to see Janet. I smiled, waved, and fought the urge to say, “I’m @WestofMars. Come follow me and buy my books!” Seriously. I ate it up.

Best meal I Ever Paid For: Sharing a plate of nachos with Jennifer Jackson and hearing HER take on both the bad agent I wasted five years with (back before you could research agents on the web and had this great writerly support. Yes, I’ve been doing this THIS long) as well as the agent who offered representation two years ago and promptly vanished. Janet agreed about the Disappearing Agent. Alex and Jenny heard the story of the Five Year Waster and absolved me of that crime, too.

Most charming woman on the planet: Ramona Long. You may remember her from the famed B&B flood in Confluence, PA. If not, you’re missing out. The more time I spend with Ramona, the better.

Best Jaw-dropping Moment: when CJ Lyons said Erin Brockovich wanted HER to co-write some books. Yay, CJ! (who is also a nice and amazing person on her own. Very warm — just the type of doctor you want when you take your kids to the ER.)

I can go on and on. But… I’ve got breakfast to get to (It’s now Sunday morning) and a long drive ahead of me and intentions, intentions, intentions. I need to act on them. So I’ll let you all digest this. Trust that I’ve learned even more than I arrived here knowing, so stick around and I’ll share the wisdom.



  1. Shelley Munro

    May 17, 2010 3:56 pm

    Wow, Susan. It sounds as if you had an awesome conference and have returned re-energized. You are an awesome writer and one day soon people will learn they’ve been missing out! 🙂
    .-= Shelley Munro´s last blog ..Pointy Toilet Paper =-.

  2. Alice Audrey

    May 18, 2010 1:23 am

    You make me wish I were there.
    .-= Alice Audrey´s last blog ..Welcome, Ann Pino =-.

  3. Anna

    June 4, 2010 8:48 am

    Glad to hear you got so much out of the conference. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..The BEA Post, or I Need Another Vacation to Recover From This Vacation! =-.

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