Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tell Me About It!

I just attended my final pitch event of the year, and between conferences and one-day local events, I’ve met hundreds of writers (and heard hundreds of pitches) in 2010. From this side of the desk, I can tell you that it’s a harrowing experience to sort out the pitches I heard and the flood of requested submissions that fills my inbox in the days and weeks following a conference. (And if you’re still waiting to hear from me, rest assured that you will. I’m bailing my way out!)

Sometimes, that submission that I was anxiously awaiting turns out to be exactly what the writer pitched and exactly what I’m looking for. Most often, what I receive is quite different from what I was expecting, and this can be a disappointment or a pleasant surprise.

If there’s one thing that I could share – which I’ve repeated to the numerous writers I’ve met this year – it’s that pitching your book and writing your book are two very different skills. Some writers embrace this and approach the pitch with energy and optimism. Others feel that it’s a form of torture, which we sadistic publishing industry folk enjoy putting them through. Whether you view it as fun or evil, you should think of it as necessary.

While I would never sign a client on a pitch alone, being able to pitch your work is vital for several reasons. For one, it shows that you can sell your book – to agents, to publishers, and most importantly, to readers. In the current publishing climate, where much of the publicity and promotion falls to the writer, it’s important to know that a client can promote their own book, whether it’s in front of a crowd at a book signing, in an informal chat with friends, or in a tweet to your followers. For another, being able to talk about your work successfully shows that you know your book. You’ve finished the manuscript or proposal, and you’ve done your research on the market to find out where and how it fits into the big picture.

Regardless of whether you plan to attend a conference or pitch event, you should still learn to talk about your writing. What I recommend: Start by writing a one-page synopsis (F) or overview for a proposal (NF); then write a query letter; then a paragraph; then a three- or four-sentence blurb. You should have multiple versions of the pitch for your book because you never know when you might have a ten-minute face-to-face meeting or a 30-second opportunity at the lunch buffet. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to take advantage of those magic words: “So, tell me about your book…”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Reading...

This summer has been a busy one for Kimberley Cameron & Associates, as you can see from our last blog, by Amy Burkhardt. I'm off to the Book Passage Travel and Food Conference today - besides attending conferences, we are reading, reading, reading as you are sending us lots of good material. We are confident that the book publishing industry will continue to prosper, as reading devices develop in new ways to make books more accessible. New deals are being made everyday, as you can read on Publisher's Marketplace, and we are confident that we will be selling your work for many, many years to come. We thank you for your patience, for your polite and professional emails, and hope everyday to find that voice that astonishes us. Keep it coming!



Thursday, April 22, 2010

Presenters and Pitchfests and Panels, Oh my!

Those of you following me on Twitter (@AmyKCA…bear with me, I’m a newbie to the Twittersphere) may already know, but I’m packing my bags for Albuquerque this weekend to attend a writers conference co-sponsored by Southwest Writers and UNM Continuing Education. I’ve also recently returned from Houston, where I attended the Houston Writers Guild Conference, and I’m just getting warmed up…

From now through October, I’ll be spending my weekends in places as far afield as Orlando (Florida Writers Association Conference) and as close to home as Corte Madera (Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference). I’ll be appearing at one or more conferences each month from April through October, and my fellow agents at Kimberley Cameron & Associates will be doing the same. Why do we do it?

Yes, conferences can be overwhelming for agents. Picture yourself walking into a room of 100+ people, almost all of whom want five minutes of your time, and you can probably understand how that “AGENT” name tag feels like a target on your chest! It’s also true that we sometimes huddle together and scurry down the halls between sessions, fearing that if we break from the pack we may never be heard from again. And sure, it’s difficult to think straight after we’ve spent hours of back-to-back ten-minute appointments tracking all manner of plot twists and turns – from the unexpected to the totally bizarre.

But I have to admit that I find conferences to be a welcome change of pace in what can be a very quiet job. Now that we communicate with clients and editors mostly through email, a busy day at the office can be a silent one, and the opportunity to meet potential clients face-to-face and to talk about writing is downright refreshing. Unlike email, conferences are a great way to connect with writers and have a dialogue about their work. It’s also a great place to meet other agents and editors and to hear what kinds of books they are working on or looking for. (We also do that on whirlwind trips to New York… Kimberley and April just wrapped one up last week!)

If you’re planning to attend a conference sometime soon, here are some do’s and don’ts about approaching agents:

Do be brave and introduce yourself. We don’t bite.

Don’t be nervous. We’re just people…who want to talk about your book.

Do pitch us your book. That’s what we’re there for, and we expect it!

Don’t apologize for doing so. No need to open with, “I’m sorry, you must be so tired of hearing this…” We signed up to come to the conference, and (again) we expect it.

Do ask questions about the industry, the process, what we look for in a client, etc.. That’s what you’re there for!

Don’t assume that there is only one right answer. Agents often have different opinions, methods, and advice.

Do be polite and respectful. A potential client’s demeanor can determine whether I want to work with him or her...and whether I want to present them to an editor or send them off on a book tour.

Don’t follow us into the bathroom to pitch/ask questions. The bathroom is a safe zone. (I’ve never personally experienced this, but I know agents who have!)

Do be professional. We are professionals, and you should be too!

So, if you want to meet us, come to one of the following conferences in 2010. Either Kimberley, April, or I will be there. And we’ll be ready to talk about your book.

Fisherman’s Wharf Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)

Backspace Writers Conference (New York City)

Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference (Homer, AK)

Whidbey Island Writers Conference (Whidbey Island, WA)

Aspen Summer Words (Aspen, CO)

Antioch Writers’ Workshop (Yellow Springs, OH)

Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference (Corte Madera, CA)

Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference (Seattle, WA)

Mendocino Coast Writers Conference (Fort Bragg, CA)

Willamette Writers Conference (Portland, OR)

Book Passage Travel, Food, & Photography Conference (Corte Madera, CA)

Killer Nashville (Nashville, TN)

East of Eden Writers Conference (Salinas, CA)

Bouchercon By the Bay (San Francisco, CA)

SEAK Fiction Writing for Physicians Conference (Hyannis, MA)

Florida Writers Association Conference (Lake Mary, FL)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The many changes that are occurring in our industry such as the Kindle, iPad and the struggles regarding electronic rights reminds me to adjust and adapt – it’s both thrilling and frightening at the same time. There will ALWAYS be a need for content, in whatever form books may take, and the literary agent will still be the steadfast defender of the written word. I’ve said before that this is a noble profession. We largely do not get paid for the work and hours we labor, and the marketplace is more selective than ever, so we have to be utterly convinced that the books we choose to represent will be ones others will want to read. A respected agent I know, Loretta Barrett, says it best: “They can tell me no, but they can’t tell me I’m wrong.”

The redesigning of the book should not threaten us – refining how we read as technology moves forward provides limitless creative opportunities to transmit knowledge and information, both for pleasure and education. Flexibility is the key to transformation. I welcome this new season, knowing that I am always open to new ideas. Please send us your best work, and don’t be discouraged by rejection – the books we represent are rejected, too. It’s part of the process. Believe in yourself and your writing, and may 2010 be your very best year yet. I’m looking forward to Paris in the spring! More anon,


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Changes in the New Year

Happy New Year to All!

On New Year's Eve I watched the ball drop in Times Square from an entirely new perspective. No, I wasn’t courageous enough to brave the crowds and the cold and actually go to Times Square, but I counted down the seconds to 2010 in a New York apartment, surrounded by new friends. Through a cloudy winter sky, I saw hints of fireworks going off over Central Park and I realized that this was my city, that I was happy here, and that here was now home.

I remembered that at this time last year, I was spending a quiet New Year’s Eve at my parents’ home in Wisconsin, filled with excitement and anxiety about my upcoming move to New York. I had packed up the last six years of my life in SF before the holidays, and after the New Year I would hit the road again, striking out for the Big Apple.

It was exactly one year ago today that I arrived in New York. I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped that I would make friends. I hoped that I would expand my business. I hoped that I wouldn’t be considered a social pariah for wearing my beloved hiking boots and Patagonia parka on 5th Avenue.

Well, 2 out of 3. Turns out that when armed with a small medicine cabinet’s worth of blister prevention materials, I’m quite capable of walking long distances in heels. Who knew?

Looking back on the past year, I am astonished at how my life has changed. I have loved living in Manhattan, exploring the city, increasing my contacts and building new friendships, so many of which are with people I have met in publishing, people who I did not yet know this time last year.

I am especially grateful to my colleagues at Kimberley Cameron & Associates for having encouraged and supported me. Kimberley, April and Amy are three of the loveliest, most talented women I know. When I proposed opening a satellite office a few thousand miles away, they listened, considered, and told me we’d find a way to make it work. Their openness and their faith in me enabled me to take this chance, for which I will always be thankful.

The ringing in of the New Year seems a natural time to usher in change. And once again I find myself anticipating a new chapter. As of January, 4th, I will be joining the Jean V. Naggar Agency. As I continue to put down roots in NYC, I look forward to being a part of such a well-respected New York agency. However, it is with sadness that I part with Kimberley Cameron & Associates. It has been a wonderful six years with the company, and I look forward to watching it continue to grow and flourish.

I wish everyone good health, success, and creativity in 2010. And of course, happy writing!