I just did a one hour workshop for the ACFW Richmond Chapter and a full day workshop for the Round Rock (Austin) ACFW Chapter. The one in Richmond we did via Skype, which was a first for me. It worked pretty well although the video was a little one sided. I could see them but they never did get the video of me.
The one in Round Rock was a whole lot of one presenter, but they were very interactive with a lot of good questions and input and the time went by very quickly. I did a segment on "how to develop a writer's personna" that was just the thing for a few of them. And of course, one on "Surviving your way to publication"
Then I went with "Editor and Agent pet peeves" that went over well. Those who attend conferences see programs on preparing a proposal and on doing the things they need to do to interest a editor or agent, but seldom do you see one on things to avoid. We had fun with that one.
Both groups really got into the Q and A session, particularly after I said "If you don't Q, I won't A." I even used some of the Richmond Questions at the Round Rock workshop to help prime the pump. Interesting that the number one pet peeve and the first question by both groups ended up being the same thing. The question was "what is the most common mistake you see in proposals?" The number one pet peeve answered it as most editors and agents listed that as "not looking up submission guidelines before submitting in order to send what the editor wants to see the way they want to see it."
Both groups were interested in how you get the right agent and not just anyone. Snagging an agent at all can be a challenge, but I told them it was a lot like dating. I suggested they talk to existing clients, to ask questions and to look to see what they are selling. But above all it is a personality matchup. Different gents have different strengths and an agent that is perfect for someone may not be right for someone else. And it can have a lot to do with finding one that loves your work and feels strongly about getting it into print.
I was asked which was more fulfilling, writing or helping other writers become published? Actually I don't get to write much anymore and I often miss it, but when I started doing this I made the decision that I would have greater impact getting a substantial number of books out for a number of writers than I could have getting a couple out in a year myself.
I was asked, "you have a good reputation for getting first time authors published, what's your secret?" There's no secret, I have a heart for new authors and work with a lot of them. I don't take projects unless I can see in advance that there is a clear path for it. Not that I ever guarantee I can sell a project but I know some editors that I can take it to up front or I don't tie it up. Also I'm willing to take projects wherever they need to go to get the writer started. Not every writer is ready for a major publisher although that would be the writer's preference . . . and mine as well.
"What's your most frequent reason for turning down a prospective client?" It isn't a fit for the markets that I'm working in or it is just not a caliber that it is ready to submit. The writing is the most important part, but often the proposal or even the cover letter tells us that fit is not there even before we get down to the writing. Mostly it has to be a project that really hits a chord with me.
Like I say, good groups and good questions.