A Bear and an Agent Walk into a Bar (Part 2 of 2)

So….last time, I posted about arriving at the Festival and seeing the first panel discussion.  Sometime during the panel, my sister had texted Dad and me, saying she was at the Festival.  We told her we would hook up with her after the panel and when it ended, and since there were a few hours before the next panel I wanted to see, we wandered over to the student union to meet her.

I chatted with her and my niece and nephews for a few moments before she introduced me to her friend.  Her friend – a nice woman named Kathryn – told me that she had a friend over in the Horror Writer’s Association tent, who had self-published a book and Kickstarter’d another.  She said I should go over and say hello, so I did.

Turned out to be a great move.  The author in question – John Mulhall – sat and talked to me for about twenty minutes about how he had launched his book and marketed it.  It was great information and I was happy that he was so willing to share.  In fact, the two ladies flanking him at the Horror Writers Association tent both joined in the conversation and offered tips and helpful advice.  They were both just as pleasant and friendly as could be, and I curse myself that I cannot remember their names.  I picked up John’s latest book, Dark and Broken Things.  I haven’t gotten too far into it but it’s pretty good.

I talked to John for a few moments before moving around the table and speaking to R.J. Cavender for a bit.  He’s the Editor-in-Chief over at Cutting Block Books and has been editing and promoting on the horror writing scene for some time.  Like the others at HWA, he was pleasant and helpful.  I came away from the discussions feeling pretty positive about having made some network connections.  While writing horror is not my favorite thing, I seem to sell more of it than anything else.  I wasn’t so dense, I guess I’d take the hint.

The second panel I sat on was called How to Score an Agent, which featured two literary agents (Arielle Ekstut and Michael Larsen), who, for 45 minutes, were peppered with questions from the audience.  Well, it was less than that; the moderator (who I think missed his calling as a prison warden, given his disposition) had a list of common questions that had been submitted in advance, which took up about 30 minutes. Many questions were pretty standard, such as asking what caught an agent’s eye, was it all right to deviate from the requested submission format (Arielle and Michael disagreed on that one a little), etc.  A lot of the information confirmed what I already knew.  Michael noted that agents often had two slush piles:  one for the the correct submissions and one for those that were not formatted correctly, did not give the right information, or those that did not research their agents (such as sending sci-fi to an agent seeking non-fiction).  Obviously, agents were only pulling from the former while the latter were automatic discards.  Both Michael and Arielle agreed that strong writing would always grab the attention of an agent, pretty much regardless of anything else.

I absorbed that one and leaned back in my chair.  I’ve been over some of my submissions with a fine-tooth comb.  I do everything “right.”  I give the agents that which they ask for, I format properly and research my agents quite a bit.  So why am I not getting any response?  Must be the writing.  Maybe I am just not good enough.

Well, that last thought cast a slight pall over my mood but I can’t complain.  The festival was a lot of fun and I learned a ton.  I am glad I went and plan on spending two full days there next year.

Maybe I’ll even remember to get some good pictures next time….

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