The Continual Search
"What are you looking for these days?" Repeatedly writers asked me this question (or some form of it) during the Mount Hermon conference.
I've got a pretty simple answer which some may think is glib but it has an element of truth in it. I say, "I'm looking for the good stuff."
Usually a sharp writer will follow up and ask, "What is good?"
I'm prepared with, "I'll know it when I see it."
I'm not evading the question but there is no one-size-fits-all response to these questions. The response will be different for each editor and each literary agent at the conference. It's important for you to know that each of us are actively looking for the right project. We will have to endure all sorts of the wrong pitches to find that gem or two in the pile of pitches. Whether the pitch is for a novel or nonfiction book, the writing is important and the idea is important. Each work together in the process. If the writing is bad, then maybe the idea is stellar and I can hook this person with the experience and idea to a writer who can carry out the project. This process may be different from the goals of the writer but are they open to new ways of working? If so, then there is hope. If not, then you press on to the next person with the next idea. At a writer's conference, there are loads of ideas and pitches.
Part of the challenge of the conference is the follow-up. Will the writer carry through and follow-up with my encouragement to send the project? Some will do it and others will not get it done. Still others will select some other path such as working directly with the publisher or they will select a different agent. There are no easy answers but the search is continual.