Festival of Books – “Agent Voices”

This photo isn’t of the panel. It’s of another panel we found on google. We were told not to take photos and we we’re trying to not get thrown out.

Panelists at “Agent’s Voices” this year were George Borchardt, Sandra Dijkstra, Bonnie Nadell and Betsy Amster (who by this point KNOWS we’re stalking her). Kim Dower AKA Kim from LA was the moderator.

The first question was about the state of the publishing industry with the internet and other distractions. It was mentioned that today there’s a lot of noise in the industry and it’s ‘very crowded’. Noting that hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, Nadell said,”It’s not that hard to get a book published – it’s hard to get attention.”

When asked how the panelists find clients all of them admitted it was mainly through referrals. But unsolicited query letters were not discouraged. Amster said that she absolutely goes through the slush pile. “Enough to keep it interesting,” she said.

Another trick disclosed was what we call in Hollywood ‘buzz’. Writing for magazines and newspapers and (ahem) blogs can start it. “Publish things that have agents coming after you,” Dijkstra told the standing room only crowd.

We think it’s worth mentioning that this is yet another arena where a popular sex tape could benefit you. But don’t call us…we’ll call you.

As we reported before Peggy Seltzer‘s name was brought up again. As was James Frey‘s. Dower asked the panel,”Will you even consider memoirs anymore?”

All of them nodded yes. Then Dijkstra said,”Truth? What is truth? We have a government that’s a complete lie!” Which drew applause.

The Q&A session as expected saw a flood of people rushing to the two microphones.

One man, a self-described new novelist said,”I have gotten rejection letters from half of you panelists.” The crowd laughed and we heard one of the agents ask if he carried a gun. He then said he sent out 20 query letters and all of them were rejected. “Oh that’s nothing!” A panelist said. “Surely you can try the other two.”

Then Amster (who we found out through google – wants you to google her – which felt a little like a scavenger hunt and we’re ready for the next clue!) responded to a question by saying that a lot of information can be found on publishersmarketplace.com. The crowd then gave itself away when suddenly 150 pens wriggled simultaneously.