Overheard at the 2018 Agents & Editors Conference


From Friday Genre Sessions

"Ideally, you want a pitch to be 2 to 3 minutes, a brief telling of your story, not of your life."

 - Kate Caldwell

"If trauma is an integral part of the arc, you have to include it, but if you haven't processed that, it might not be the time to pitch this piece. If the point is to engage, trauma-bombing is a way to shut that down."

 - Kate Caldwell

"Think about your voice as a lens--the way you're looking at the world, a guiding voice. In the best pitches, you're able to speak in that voice."

 - Rachel Starnes

"Start with the elevator pitch. It's most important."

 - Tracy Wolff

"Treat the agent like they are a real person."

 - Liana LeFey

"Know the tropes: tvtropes.com."

 - Liana LeFey

"Telling an untold story is important."

 - Anne Keene

"Publishers love superlatives. Why are you the person to tell this story. Don't write the book first. Know who the audience is."

 - Kate Winkler Dawson

"Know where it belongs in the bookstore. How is your story relevant to readers today? Write an editorial or article about your topic. Show you're already writing about it."

 - Anne Keene

"Hire a fact checker."

 - Kate Winkler Dawson

"Do not be ashamed of what you do, because what you do is awesome."

 - Marshall Ryan Maresca

"This is why we can't have western fiction. Everyone sees a cowboy hat and forgets how to art."

 - Tex Thompson

"Here is the magical sentence: This book can stand on its own or be the first in a series."

 - Marshall Ryan Maresca

"Think about the pitch as a first date. You don't bring a wedding ring to a first date."

 - Tex Thompson

"Genres and dog breeds: There's a million of them and they're healthiest when crossed."

 - Tex Thompson

"Every single person who's ever published a book was once a person with no publishing credits."

 - Marshall Ryan Maresca

"Agents are afraid of vampires."

 - Tex Thompson

"You want it to feel natural, like you're having a conversation, even though secretly you've memorized the whole thing."

 - Becka Oliver

"Having comparison titles is really smart...but you never know what author might be off-putting."

 - Becka Oliver

"Your pitch is not a synopsis."

 - Becka Oliver

"The categories and genres that you should care about mentioning are the ones in the bookstore."

 - Becka Oliver

"You want to have a few satisfying sentences that leads them to ask for more."

 - Becka Oliver

"It helps if you understand your story."

 - Becka Oliver

"Think of pitching like bar talk."

 - May Cobb

"Writers drive the market, too. People are creating new genres all the time. It's the writers doing it, not the publishers. You can't predict the market and you shouldn't. Write what you believe in."

 - May Cobb

"Mysteries start with a crime scene. In a thriller, the protagonist is trying to prevent the crime."

 - Scott Montgomery

"You don't have to worry as much about genre placement as you think you do."

 - Scott Montgomery

"I've seen so many friends get ahead of themselves, thinking about the movie deal."

 - Scott Montgomery


From Saturday Presentations

"Writing a Great Synopsis"

"A synopsis should spoil the book and give away the ending."

 - Jennifer Chen Tran

"Write a synopsis of a movie or a book you love."

 - Sarah Phair

"Present tense for a synopsis would get the movie into my head."

 - Susan Velazquez

"Read synopses of books you love and try to emulate it."

 - Sarah Phair


"What Makes a Memoir Stand Out?"

"Fiction and nonfiction use the same voice."

 - James Melia

"Hold on to your vision."

- Julie Berwald


"Working with Publicists, Marketers, and Booksellers"

"The #1 driver of how well a book sells at indie bookstores is 'have the people work at the store read the book?'"

 - Brian Contine

"Working with a publicist can help get your book at the front of the store versus the author promoting independently."

 - Abby Fennewald

"Publicists are looking for great book covers."

 - Marika Flatt

"Ideally, the publicist truly likes the book and becomes passionate about it so they can light a fire with the media."

 - Colleen Devine Ellis


"Real Talk: When Is Your Book Ready to Query?"

"Can you query when your fiction book isn't finished? No! Other problems: Not querying the right agent, your query is too general, not being aware if your category is saturated."

 - Terra Chalberg


"Real Talk: How Agents Spend their Time"

"A lot of what an agent does is therapy. Tell your agent everything and don't do anything without consulting them."

 - Arielle Datz


"Turning Your Worldbuilding into Drama"

"Determine how the world constrains your characters--that creates your conflict."

 - Sherry Thomas

"Control the flow of information; no data dumps."

 - José Skinner

"When the reader can see what is about to happen, but the main character doesn't know, that is gold."

 - Patrice Sarath


"Building Your Readership on the Web and IRL"

"I think my experience would have been completely different (writing a book) if I hadn't found my online audience."

 - Paige Schilt

"Let me tell you: Haiku is perfectly made for Twitter."

 - Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

"It really is important to find your internet niche. Promoting yourself and research/research/research is absolutely essential to establishing your online presence."

 - Isobella Jade

"Support other authors! Because you'll meet other supportive people you can learn a lot from."

 - Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz


"Real Talk: Self-Publishing, Indie Publishing, and Big House Publishing"

"Always get a copy editor. The copy editor is going to notice if you say your character looked out of a window 4.5 feet off the ground."

 - Carolyn Cohagan

"You need reviews."

 - Carolyn Cohagan

"No matter how you publish, you have to be selling yourself in some way."

 - Carolyn Cohagan

"If you come out of editing with very few edits, your editor is not doing their job."

 - Jedah Mayberry

"Does an editor form a relationship with the author or with the book?"

 - Jedah Mayberry

"What you discover when you write a Minecraft book is you need three Minecraft books."

 - P.J. Hoover

"When I started, I looked at what the writers I loved were doing. Find people you really love. Look at their track record."

 - Jack Kaulfus


"'I Was Hooked When...' The Craft of Catching a Reader's Eye"

"A memoir has to be very unique."

 - Adriana Dominguez

"There needs to be something pushing the boundary of what the story is."

 - Adeena Reitberger

"I know by the fourth or fifth sentence if I want to read a story."

 - Ben Reed

"To hook a reader, you have to be a reader."

 - Julie Wernersbach

"When an email says dear sirs, and we are an all-woman press, it does not encourage me to read it."

 - Tatiana Ryckman

"I want to know my work is finding a good home."

 - Tatiana Ryckman


"Real Talk: Writing a Query that Stands Out from the Pack"

"Be professional and concise with a pitch"

 - Wendi Aarons

"I don't care about biographical details unless it's something actually relevant to me selling the novel."

 - Connor Goldsmith


"The Agent/Author Relationship"

"We want to love your book as you want us to love it. I want to be able to say yes."

 - Sharon Pelletier

"I like to meet people at conferences so I can suss them out."

 - Rachel Orr


"You've Got an Agent. Now What?"

"It's within our best interest to carry the work as far as we can."

 - Wendi Lulu Gu

"Some ideas are easier to sell becuase of market reasons."

 - Wendi Lulu Gu

"Editors are the ones who will be your advocate for the rest of the project."

 - Grace Ross

"Advances are not free money. They're an investment. After you've earned out the advance, then the royalty kicks in."

 - Arielle Datz


"Memoir or Fiction: How Best to Tell Your Story"

"Every life has something important to share. You have to find what that is."

 - Deb Olin Unferth


"The Editor/Author Relationship"

"Look where your favorite publishing/editor/writer is."

 - Rene S. Perez

"Developmental editing is your diagnostic moment."

 - Natalia Sylvester

"Editors love it when you know your delivery deadline."

 - John Byrd

"If my vision is comletely different from the writer, I will not be a good fit."

 - Vivian Lee


"The State of Kids' Lit Today"

"We all have our phones We have other things to do. A good YA novel has to be able to grab our attention and take us away from that."

 - Laura Creedle

"Even though adults are the ones buying the books, I want to see books really written for the kids."

 - Rachel Orr


"Which Shelf Will Your Book Sit On? Finding Your Place in the Market"

"Writers are artists. If you give us guidelines, we will head for the fence and get outside the lines right away. I define genre as living. Genre is organic. There are evolving labels that don't necessarily have to be set at publication."

 - Stina Leicht


"Turning Historical Details into Story"

"My greatest concern with historical fiction is to let people believe in and feel these sensory experiences of the world in a different time."

 - Tex Thompson

"In historical fiction, especially that which concerns minorities, you are walking into the absence of recorded facts."

 - Cherise Fisher


"Before Publication: Setting Yourself Up for Success."

"You have to decide which hills you want to die on."

 - Bethany Hegedus

"The best way to promote your work is to promote other people's work."

 - Nikki Loftin

"When a publisher accepts a book, it's a business decision."

 - John Byrd

"I will sell a book in a parking lot if it gets sales."

 - John Byrd

"Have a super strong network of people. Take advantage of every opportunity, and then things fall like dominoes."

 - Jess Hagemann


"Where Publishing Begins: Submitting to Journals and Magazines"

"Have we heard this story before? How is this adding to themes that already exist?

 - Adeena Reitberger

"Your only job as a publisher is to help other writers."

 - Adeena Reitberger

"We don't solicit at the top tier because we're looking laterally and at writers we respect."

 - Levis Keltner

"There's no money in story submissions. It's about platform. There is money in novels."

 - Grace A. Ross

"Being an editor makes me very hard on my own work."

 - Adeena Reitberger

"Once we've had that short dialogue with a writer, we keep an eye out for their work, even if we can't initially publish them."

 - Adeena Reitberger


"Real Talk: What to Expect from Your Debut Book"

"Joint readings have been so wonderful. It was about community."

 - Natalia Sylvester

"The experience is a fabulous combination of complete joy and utter terror."

 - Marshall Ryan Maresca

"I love readings!"

 - Jason Gallaher

"Never respond to reviews on social media."

 - Beth deGuzman


"Making a Nonfiction Proposal Stand Out"

"What's most important is that you can have the authority to tell about the subject."

 - Dana Murphy

"Write a really great query letter. Don't send unsolicited attachments."

 - Dana Murphy

"I'm looking for the first book or the best book on a topic."

 - Casey Kittrell

"Honesty is really important."

 - Casey Kittrell

"The goal of a proposal is to show you've thought through how this book will be sent out. The proposal should be written in the tone of the completed book."

 - Kristina Moore


"Keeping Your Novel's Plot Moving"

"Plot should flow from character. It is the propulsive ending."

 - Christopher Brown

"Sometimes you have to write a lot of backstory and cut that."

 - Christopher Brown

"Character makes a decision: that's a plot. Plot is not a dirty word."

 - James Melia

"If it's a slog to write a astory, it's going to be a slog to read."

 - James Melia

"There needs to be a question that drives the reader forward."

 - Chaitali Sen

"If you bring your character to a threshold, can you make them cross it?"

 - Chaitali Sen

"We have a visceral need to have stories."

 - Nicky Drayden


Sunday Presentations


"Building Your Publishing Team" with Kris Pauls

"Use the same criteria you would apply to a freelancer when considering a friend or family member."

"Be savvy, be fair, and be fun."


"Busting Stereotypes in Modern Crime Writing" with David Eric Tomlinson and Matthew J. Hefti

"What is the main societal question in your book? What is central to the struggle of your character? Where is your passion? Your nugget?"

 - David Eric Tomlinson

"You don't have to always like your characters, but you must love and respect them."

 - Matthew J. Hefti


"First Pages that Will Hook Readers" with Lindsey Lane

"As writers, we're always examining the other."

"Only put in information that is important to the reader. Deleted sections of work are called the 'organ donor list'."


"Establishing and Developing Convincing Characters" with John Pipkin

"Sometimes when we think we have plot problems, what we actually have are character problems."


"Getting Your Synopsis Ready for Competitions, Agents, and Editors" with Richard Santos

"We didn't spend years writing a book to not spend a week writing a synopsis."

"Make sure you know your own story."


"Developing an Author Brand and Image" with Isobella Jade

"Your resources and network are so important. Keep in touch with people."

"You need to be the engine of your own PR. It's possible to do it yourself."

"Believe in your story so much that others will, too."