Honorary Heartlette – Elaine Spencer, Part III

December 6, 2007 at 11:39 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, Elaine Spencer, Honorary Heartlette, writing | 7 Comments

Hello everyone! Thanks so much for all of your awesome comments. To any of you that posted questions I will try to answer them on the corresponding thread within the next few days.

Over the last couple of posts I have chatted about the things we can never hear too many times and the things that we know that are sometimes easy to forget. That leaves me with a list of things that I never knew the full extent of until this year. The things I want to list off today are things that I suspected or I had a general feeling about, but were reinforced 100% in my mind this year. These are things that I will never underestimate and never re-neg on, regardless of the circumstances. Sounds intense huh? Don’t worry, its not, I just wanted to try to pump up the dramatic effect. J It’s another late night, bear with me!

The first thing is the icky one that I just want to get out of the way. It’s depressing and unfortunate but the cold hard truth. The rejection never ends. Regardless of where you are in your career, or what chair you are sitting in, rejection is a fact of this business. I am not saying this to be a downer, not at all, but I think it’s important for people to realize the facts up front. I have found that there are a lot of authors that are disillusioned and eventually disappointed when they learn that simply having an agent doesn’t guarantee a path paved with golden yeses.

Here’s the thing about this little devilish fact. We are all in this together. You face rejection, we face rejection. Just because we are on the other side of the fence doesn’t mean that we have all the easy routes either. Ask any agent. For every book they sell there is going to be a certain number that they couldn’t place. For every editor that they get to look at a project there is going to be another that says “this isn’t my cup of tea”. For every new client they sign on, there is going to be client that perhaps chose to go another route. For every successful book that we represent, there is one that we passed up that just hit a list. Again, these are just the facts. This business is in many cases a bit of a gamble, you win some, you lose some.

The reason that I am pointing this out is not to be discouraging, but it’s so you can understand that we the agents are not insensitive beasts. We all know the painful sting of disappointment, and we have all have shared the same feelings of confusion, hurt, anger, self-doubt etc. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Remember that. Only the strong survive in this business so it’s best to toughen up your skin early on, because the road doesn’t get any easier after the first “yes” you find.

Ok. Big Sigh. Glad I got that one off of my chest. I had been dreading it all week but I knew I had to get it on the list somewhere.

This next one isn’t nearly as deep, but people ask me about it frequently. Since I participate in a pretty heavy circuit I figured I would throw my two cents in for those of you that might be on the fence. In my opinion, conferences are invaluable tools. I have been a traveling machine this year. I have been across the country and back. I have met folks from Denver, DC, Surrey Canada, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Dallas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, you name it, the list goes on. The thing that amazes me is that at each of these destinations, regardless of their differences, I have found a group of motivated and talented authors that are all as excited about this business as I am. The workshops, key-note speeches, and networking opportunities are 9 times out of 10 impeccable. These resources are invaluable come Monday morning when you find yourself back in front of your computer.

Your job as an author can be a very isolating one. The majority of the time it is just you vs the computer. Conferences are your chance to break that cycle. Get out there and chat and learn from other folks that know EXACTLY what it is to be in your shoes. Brainstorm, cultivate ideas, listen to other people chat about their inspiration and motivation. Share your processes and your tricks of the trade. I can guarantee at every conference you go to you will pick up at least one piece of information that will make a difference in your writing.

I know that when I talk to people about my job outside of the industry it’s often the case where they just don’t get it. I’m not an author, but I know it has to be the same thing for you. You tell someone you are an author and they say “I’ve always wanted to write a book, I just haven’t found the time”. Right, because that’s all that’s between them and becoming next month’s Featured Selection. Conferences are your opportunity to be understood. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the person you sit next to at lunch won’t think you are nuts if you shout “that’s it” over your over-cooked chicken sandwich.

Conferences are also pretty much guaranteed to re-energize and boost you out of any type of funk you may be in. They are key in reinstating in your mind all the great things about this business.

And notice I didn’t even touch on the hard-core stuff you get from conferences. Workshops from the pros, advice from the experts, answers from the insiders, and a chance to rub elbows with the best in the business. There’s the camaraderie, the chance to get away for the weekend, unlimited room service, a bed all to yourself, and all the free books you could ever ask for. Come on kids, if you were thinking about passing up your local conference this year, please rethink it. Oh, and did I mention, I am going to be at what I believe to be most of your home chapter’s conference this year! (No, that wasn’t all a shameless plug, that just dawned on me moments ago –)

Moving on. Now listen up, this is CRUCIAL must have info in the business. Ok, I’m kidding. I haven’t really had the chance to rant and rave up to this point so I thought I would give it a go here. I hate airports. Really. If I could build a run-way on top of my house, I would. I wouldn’t even care if there were planes taking off and landing hourly from said launch pad. I’m serious. You want to know what to buy me for Christmas? A helicopter. Please.

I have had travel year from hell. And what really stinks, I bet it’s no worse than anyone else’s was. I have dealt with the typical. Missed flights, delayed flights, lost luggage, lost reservations, long lines, overbooked, overpriced, yada, yada, yada. The thing that makes this so terrible, I know this is just the way of it, and you know what that means? I’m only in for more of the same next year. I know how much I dread it, and there isn’t a single thing that I can do to avoid it. Sigh. On a side note here, so perhaps you can actually gain something from this point. Looking for a story idea? Look no further than your local airport. SERIOUSLY. The place is overflowing with bestsellers waiting to happen.

And finally. I’m going to try to wrap my list up. I think this next point is one that is a culmination of many of the things that I have talked about. To me it’s the number one thing we all need to hear, remember and know undoubtedly; you can never have too many friends in this business.

I’m not afraid to say that I am still a bit of a rookie compared to many of you that are reading this blog. With each month that passes I am continuously amazed by the friends and allies that I have made in a fairly short period of time. Not only that, but I have found that these relationships are fundamental to almost my every move.

Going back to what I was saying Tuesday about the little things, Always slow down and take a moment to say hello to those folks that are around you in this business, you never know when it might spark a friendship that will last a lifetime.

The whole reason I am here blogging is a fine example of this. Your very lovely Purple-Heart’er Jessica was the travel liaison for last year’s NEC conference, which I didn’t even attend. Over the months we chatted while coordinating another TKA agent’s travel. During that time we developed a wonderful little friendship in our email exchanges. Now, low and behold I have a friend in New England who I haven’t met who I can talk about my two favorite things with, Books AND football. Seriously, how cool is that? Point being, you just never know. That’s just one reason friends in the business are awesome, they make what is known as your “work” fun.

More on the value of friends, they will be the best promoters you have ever met. When talking about book promotion Gena Showalter instantly pops into my mind. Now as many of you know (and if you don’t, go pick up any of her books and see for yourself) Gena is an incredibly talented writer, in the top of her class if you ask me. Something that makes Gena even more spectacular however is she is the BEST book promoter I have ever met. She sells her friends books like you wouldn’t believe. She buys multiple copies of many of her friends’ books just so she can send them to other people and hook a reader. Seriously, when she is pushing a book you would think she were the sole recipient of 100% of the profits. But she just loves her friends THAT much and wants to help others success.

And speaking of authors selling each others books, let’s tweak this in a slightly different direction. How about the value of endorsement quotes?! You never know when you will find yourself sitting next to the person whose name will help sell thousands of copies of your book.

Then there is the very obvious value to be had in sharing your struggles and triumphs, learning from others mistakes and helping them sideswipe theirs, sharing tips and shortcuts etc etc. etc. I am lucky to call many fellow agents friends. These peers help me going. They help me see past a bad day, they share their previous experiences, they pass on helpful news. They are invaluable to me. They sit and talk and understand and listen like no one else can. Some days they help me see that I’m not crazy, it’s just another day at the job.   

So there you have it, my list for 2007. I think I’ve done talked myself out. Thanks again for having me this week. It’s been my pleasure. I hope to meet many of you in the upcoming years. And if you see me out and about, remember, don’t be afraid to come up and say hello. 



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  1. Elaine, thank you for your frank yet very upbeat posts this week! I enjoyed each one, and I will be pleased to meet you in person one of these days!


  2. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts this week! Thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!

    Wishing you Miles of Smiles 🙂

    Adelle Laudan

  3. Elaine,
    It has been such a fabulous week on the blog. Thank you for sharing so much of your time and expertise with us. We have been so honored to have you join us!

  4. Elaine, I can’t begin to tell you how much your posts have helped me this week. Or really, at any time, because they are so pertinent to the “now” of writing.

    The rejections, the friends, the “life” that is writing. You put it very well.

    Thanks for spending your week here. I’ve really enjoyed your advice and posts. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  5. Thanks for the posts, Elaine. They were very informative. I’m proud to announce that I’m… still intimidated by you agent folk, but it’s not as much as it was, at least? 😀

    Seriously, though, thanks for doing this for us all. I hope your holidays are happy and your future flight plans are not so…flighty. (Bad joke, I know. *sigh*)

  6. Elaine, thanks for your insightful posts here this week at Purple Hearts. I really enjoyed reading your posts and have had a lot to think about because of them. Airports are fabulous places for people watching, but the rest of it is the makings for an utter nightmare. I don’t envy you your travel schedule. Thanks again!

  7. Elaine- Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom and experience with us this week. I’ve enjoyed each of your entries and will keep the information front and center on this journey.

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