Overheard at the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference

General Fiction
  • "Why should anyone be interested in reading your book?" - John Pipkin
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • "If you mention a book that's come out in the past five years, it shows that you are current in the genre." - Tex Thompson
Picture Book/Middle Grade/Young Adult
  • "Nobody gets into this industry to make people feel bad." - Leila Sales 
  • "There's one story that's told, the easiest story, the story the newspapers are writing about. But there's always a story underneath. Why don't I tell that story?" - Josh Frank
  • "Every book is its own small business. Why are you a good business bet?" - Juli Berwald
  • "Start with a bang; start with the meat of a story. Don't be coy." - Meg Gardiner 
Historical Fiction 
  • "I have never successfully pitched." - Patrice Sarath
  • "When you're pitching, if it could work for any other book, then it's not specific enough for yours. We're all using the same letters of the alphabet, the same tropes, and headed to the same ending. So what sets your story apart?" - Katie Golding



Crafting Irresistible Opening Pages 
  • "If your opening pages have been worked within an inch of their lives, you're off to a good start." - Kent D. Wolf
  • In opening pages, I look for gorgeous writing, great use of metaphor, voice, and a kind of playfulness that makes me feel complicit in the story." - Kent D. Wolf
  • "I don't want to know the background of the story, but I do want to feel anchored in the protagonist." - Jennie Dunham
  • "You don't get a second chance. In my openings, I wanted there to be an echo of what the rest of the story might look like." - Jack Kaulfus
The Importance of Journals and Magazines 
  • "If the first three pages haven't won the reader over, it's probably not going to happen." - Rebecca Markovits
  • "I like a story that makes me feel I'm in good hands, that's both familiar and surprising." - Marya Spence

Character and Voice: They Have That Je Ne Sais Quois or Nah 
  • "I don't have to love the character. I just have to be compelled by them and understand their actions in the context of their lives." - Sara Goodman
Genre Close-Up: Nonfiction and Memoir Proposals 
  • "In the query, I just want to know who you are, what you're writing, and I want the letter to reflect the voice and writing I'm going to see in your proposal." - Kristin van Ogtrop
  • "Don't comp Wild or Eat, Pray, Love. We get those every day." - Kristin van Ogtrop
  • ... "For example, if you're writing a grief memoir, you don't have to comp five other grief memoirs. You can speak to other aspects in your comps: voice, humor, tone. Don't feel like you have to find straight comparisons." - Cindy Uh
  • "In the beginning, put the manuscript aside and write the overview. If you can't tell me what the book is about in that page, then it will be really hard for you to get the rest of the proposal together." - Cindy Uh
Before You Sign: Questions to Ask an Agent 
  • "A two-books contract deal is not right for every new writer." - Melissa Edwards
  • "Before I sign someone, I want to know if the writer agrees with my edits, and I want to know if you work with co-edits. Will you be willing to make changes?" - Reiko Davis
Connecting Character and Setting in Compelling Fictional Worlds 
  • "Draw maps. It's about knowing the space that your characters inhabit." - Edward Carey
  • "Write the book. Then, do the research." - Edward Carey
  • "Remember who the book is for and write to them." - DongWon Song
Anatomy of a Deal: Two Literary Novels 
  • "Even if you get turned down by the big five, it's not the end." - Jason Pinter
Genre Close-Up: Kid Lit 
  • "Publishing and education are the vanguards against darkness. This is the resistance." - Tricia Lawrence
  • Middle grade ends at about 12 and YA is getting older and older. I think there's a space for books geared toward 13-14 year olds that's being overlooked now and will be big soon." - Saba Sulaiman
  • "Just write 'you' on the page." - Jason Gallaher
  • "I'm looking for an unexpected edge to the storytelling that makes me excited in a way I haven't been before. If you're telling your truth in your story, I can sense that passion." - Saba Sulaiman
  • "I'm writing a novel about two middle schools girls finding out they like each other. My publishing house is 1000 percent behind me and is not trying to make any changes to it or excuses for it. This is not how it would have been 10-15 years ago. As far as LGBT representation, where we are today is light years ahead of where we were yesterday." K.A. Holt
Writing the Quiet Moments Between Plot Points 
  • "There are no shortcuts." - Samantha M. Clark
How Agents Work for Their Clients 
  • "The agent tells the author what isn't working, not what to do, because it limits the ability of the author to be creative." - Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts
Building Your Platform as a Nonfiction Writer 
  • "Social media is a conduit, not the basis for platform." - Colleen Devine Ellis
  • "Social media is a chicken versus egg concept; you will eventually wind up on social media." Kristin van Ogtrop
Anatomy of a Deal: Two Suspense Novels 
  • "My job is to be the bad guy for you. Let us handle anything that is uncomfortable." - Jessica Errera (on being an agent)
Genre Close-Up: Science Fiction/Fantasy 
  • "In science fiction and fantasy, it's about asking questions and proposing the answer." - DongWon Song
  • "It's not just about world building. It's about consistency." - Barbara Ann Wright
Finding Your Book's Best Ending 
  • "At the end, it's about serving your reading and not yourself. The ending has to be earned." - Marya Spence
Revving Up Your Plot's Enging 

  • "Look for moments after which nothing would be the same." - Owen Egerton

Thrills and Challenges of the Debut Book 

  • "Think about the best and worst things that can happen; your author life will likely happen somewhere in the middle." - Robert Ashcroft

Why I Represented and Bought These Books 

  • "I do read the slush pile." - Michael Barron

Discovering Your Book's Voice, Tone, and Style

  • "Style is simply a concern with the way things are said. Style can be substantive." - Mark Dery

Genre Close-Up: Memoir

  • "I read memoirs exactly like I read a novel." - Rayhané Sanders

Self-Promotion for Authors: Self, Indie, and Big-House Published

  • "Pitch to the audience that would want to read your book." - Cindy Uh

Revision: Is It Done Or Are You Just Exhausted?

  • Revision is done "when you are no longer sending notes of revision to yourself." - Leila Sales
  • ... "when it sounds great by reading out loud, recording, then listening to it." - Chaitali Sen
  • ..."when I"ve involved trusted feedback and there are no/few recommended revisions." - Jessica Wilbanks
  • ..."when it comes to the point you are thinking more about your next book." - Tom Hart

Inside a Publishing House: How Decisions Are Made

  • "Love is where it all starts. You read a book and you love it. You see an opportunity." - Monique Patterson

Genre Close-Up: Mystery/Thriller

  • "I consider all suspense a competition between me and the author." Lauren E. Abramo
Opening Session with Monique Patterson
  • "Best advice I can give is to always be professional. Call your agent or call me before the publicist. Communication is key. I've had times when authors think they have to handle things on their own and I didn't know about it. I cant take care of what I know about." - Monique Patterson
  • "We love to find new voices. It's challenging. All of us feel like it's such a rush to launch someone. We love that. It just requires passion and planning and vision and the willingness to be flexible." - Monique Patterson
Keynote Luncheon with Naomi Shihab Nye
  • "We each have a poetry channel in our brains that wants to be turned by us. It's the channel of hope and revelry. It holds all the things we need to keep going in order to survive." - Naomi Shihab Nye



Creating a YA Character to Fall in Love With
  • "Don't expect to be perfect the first time, second, third, fourth, fifth--it's all revision." - Tricia Lawrence
Traditional Publishing by the Numbers: The Financial Side of Books
  • "Always (professionally) ask for a bigger advance. The worst they can say is no. Politely asking for more money is not a bad thing to do." - Paul Stevens
Building a Powerful Narrative Presence in Your Memoir
  • "Part of your job as an author is to represent yourself on the page." - Jessica Wilbanks
The Seven Deadly First Page Sins
  • "You can't be your own editor, just as you can't be your own dentist. But you can brush your teeth." - Tex Thompson.
It's a Mystery: Writing and Publishing Crime Fiction
  • "A mystery is what my daughter just put in her mouth. A thriller is getting to her before she swallows it." - Jason Pinter
Digital Marketing for Writers
  • "Email marketing is not dead. It is one of the critical assets to use. Empower your readers to advocate for you." - Nichole Williamson
Publishing Is a Marathon: Building Endurance as an Author Business
  • "Defining what's successful to you takes away the power for others to define it for you." - Britta Jensen
Genre Defintiions That Are Useful to Authors
  • "Ideas don't exist in isolation...Authors write with an aesthetic structure in mind." - Eugene Fischer