Joelle Delbourgo – Literary Agent

Joel Fotinos – VP at Penguin Group

I was privileged to attend the New York City Publishing & Creativity conference for writers all day today in lower Manhattan. Moderated by Joel Fotinos, there were published authors who spoke about their experiences and successes as well as panels of editors and executives from TarcherPerigee candidly explaining what it takes to bring a book to market.

It’s unusual and inspiring for a conference to be held ‘in the bowels’ of the publishing industry surrounded by editors during a work day for the men and women who hosted us. About 100 attendees, mostly from the tri-state area, sat in rapt attention from 10am until we got to pitch our books to real live editors starting at 5pm.

“By the way,” we were told, “if you need to get online, the password is capote.” Literary chuckles filled the room.

Author Tama Kieves

Tama Kieves was the entertaining opening keynote. She reported her dozen year journey to publication with humor and grit. It takes a lot to win a contract with a major publishing house, and we got the tale of her remarkable journey.

The rest of the day helped us understand the life of a book from acquisition to publication, how to build your platform and better understand the marketplace, how to hone your pitch and the path to publishing.

Joelle Delbourgo, a literary agent, kicked off the morning discussion as her role is primary in getting an author’s book to market. I loved how honest and forthright she was. She gave us everything a writer needs to know how to pitch her. Her do’s and don’ts are on her website, but a lot of folks ignore what’s there in black and white. Easier said than done.

“It’s hard to get an agent’s attention,” she confessed. She is inundated with query letters. The more precisely the author can meet the submission guidelines, the better chance they have of getting read. “It’s a cruel process,” she warned. “You have to be dogged.”

Of course, the rewards are many.

I took pages of notes which I will spend time debriefing over the next few days including researching the Association of Authors’ Representatives, checking out authors in my category (memoir) and reading several of the books that were mentioned.

In addition to the wealth of material I heard today from the pros, we audience members had a brief time to break into small groups and share our 1-minute pitches with each other. At the end of the day, we got a speed-pitching opportunity to meet 1:1 with editors from the publishing house. I had the joy of speaking with Stephanie Bowen who was most encouraging.

I left the event practically skipping to the subway, filled with enthusiasm, a new task list and refreshed optimism for the glory of writing.

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