CrimeFest 2012 Part II – Pitch-An-Agent

This is the second post of my experience at CrimeFest; Part I is here.

So Pitch-An-Agent was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to CrimeFest this year. The writer part of me, as opposed to the crime fiction reader getting the chance for ten minutes each with three literary agents to ‘pitch’ my book. Ahead of the meetings I was asked to submit a one thousand five hundred word synopsis, and the first three thousand words of the book I was pitching. In my case ‘Killer Bytes’.

The best way I can describe how I felt prior to going into the room was akin to waiting for a job interview. It’s been seven years since I last had a formal job interview, but you never forget those nerves. Once in the room though it was nothing like a job interview, in fact it was a very positive experience, with constructive feedback from all three agents. Questions about me, my book and my plans. I’d deliberately not gone into that room with any preconceptions, at least other than a healthy set of nerves! I wasn’t expecting to come out with promises of representation, I was hoping to come away inspired to write more. I got exactly that.

From the three interviews, I received honest and constructive feedback. Perhaps the harshest was that novellas are not commercially viable (unless you’re already a big name author or prepared to solely self-publish). Now Killer Bytes has been selling okay, but if I’m looking for a commercial publishing contract, Killer Bytes won’t be the book that does it, at least not in its current format. I received lots of other comments, tips and ideas, all of which I’m intending to take on board and act upon.

One of the agents would like to read the whole manuscript; another would like to read the whole thing, if I can bring it up to a full length novel; the final agent gave me some incredible feedback, but ‘Bytes’ just wasn’t her thing.

Now there was a lot of detail in what I was told, which I am not going to go into as it would take a lot of time, and would probably be pretty boring to anyone other than me. I have however reached a decision as to what I am going to do with Killer Bytes.

Simply put, I am going to stop my work on the sequel to Killer Bytes, and go back to my original manuscript. I’m going to see if I can bring it up to a full length novel, which will be about another fifty-thousand words. There are some ideas that I dropped from the original, plus some of the tips that I received at CrimeFest; it’s probably also going to need a sub-plot. I’m not sure where this will get to, I’ll see.

I’m also going to be withdrawing Killer Bytes from sale. At least until I see where I’ve gotten to with revisions and further development. If I can bring it up to full-length, I will give anyone who has already bought the novella a free copy of the full length version. It will also probably change titles; that was another piece of feedback.

I haven’t felt more inspired with Killer Bytes, than perhaps the day I originally clicked the publish button on-line in January, so I think this is the right thing to do. I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but I have to give it a go. Wil Jackson and Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Price deserve it.

CrimeFest 2012 Part I

Yesterday I was in Bristol for CrimeFest 2012. I’ve wanted to attend CrimeFest for a few years but have never quite gotten around to it before. This year, I had the added incentive of pitching Killer Bytes to literary agents, as well as encouragement from several internet acquaintances, so I’d booked my tickets back in January, and the day had finally arrived.

I’ve decided to split this post into two, as what happened at Pitch-an-agent, has had quite a profound influence on what I’ve decided to do next with Killer Bytes, so I’ll cover that in a separate post, later. This post I’m going to try to cover the panels, social side of what happened and anything else I can think of.

My day started early, I’d only chosen to have a one-day pass; I couldn’t really stretch to the whole weekend, and the hotel accommodation. Next time, I might stay longer, but Bristol is a bit too far to multi-commute several times in a weekend, so staying over somewhere is going to be a must. Also given the number of books I bought in one-day, some serious luggage will be required if I attend the whole weekend! I decided to drive, to give myself more flexibility over travel arrangements, and I’m glad I did, but the difference in cost and time between driving and the train was marginal.

With the panels starting at nine, and a two hour drive to get there, I made it just in time, sneaking in the back of the first panel of the day – idiosyncratic protagonists. A very entertaining panel with the likes of authors Declan Burke, Alex Walters, Anne Zouroudi, Martin Walker and Michael Stanley. As a result of listening to these authors speak this led to my first purchases of the day!

Next up was a feature interview with Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series. By now I needed a caffeine fix too, having missed out on my usual dose with the early start. Fortunately there was a small coffee bar outside the next location, so I joined the queue. Much to my surprise so did the special guest for the next event, who was gracious in letting me buy him a coffee too (he later signed one of my books accordingly – see below). Anyway we both went into the auditorium, he took his place on the dais and me in the audience, of course.

Now for those who don’t know anything about Lee Child and Jack Reacher, I need to explain a little before I say what happened next. As a character, Jack Reacher is a larger than life hero, he has a tremendous following, and he is described in the books as a very large man, both in height and build; physically strong, fast, sharp of mind, and with a strong moral compass. The first movie of the series has been made and should be released in the near future. In the lead role is Tom Cruise, who shall we say is not known for his height. This has caused quite a furore amongst the Reacher fans, there’s even a Facebook page, “Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher“.

Not surprisingly then the first question Lee Child was asked; “Tom Cruise?”

Personally I’m prepared to give Cruise the benefit of the doubt, the height thing is not there, but I think he can carry it off in all the other aspects. Lee Child’s own comment was that:

“For the First five minutes of the movie you’re gonna think ‘What the f***’, and then you’ll forget about it.”

So we’ll see.

Lee Child has a cameo in the film, he said where, but I think I’m going to keep that to myself, so if you’re already a fan, you’ll have to watch the film.

I queued to get a book signed by Lee Child, so I missed most of the next panel. He’s a popular guy, but takes time with everyone, which is fantastic.

Next was P D James. She’s in her nineties, still writing, still doing panels. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it, and the queue to get her to sign books was phenomenal, and she signed every one. I’m not a huge P D James fan myself, but she is inspiring in what she has done with her career.

Pitch-an-agent was next for me, but as I’ve said, I will post separately about that. After my slot, I had enough time to catch Sue Grafton being interviewed. Again another inspiration. Currently at the letter V in her alphabet series.

The penultimate panel was with authors Paul Doherty and Philip Kerr, and amazing insight into what you can draw from historical archives and facts and turn into a fictional narrative. Fascinating stuff, and I only wish I’d taken more notes, but I was listening so closely I managed to take hardly any.

The last panel of the day, and the keynote for Saturday was the launch of the novel of The Killing. The extremely popular television series, has been turned into a novel by author David Hewson, and the official launch was a CrimeFest. Now I ‘know’ David from twitter, and his blog, so I was really looking forward to this. Surprise guest was Soren Sveistrup who wrote the original tv series, and was there to be interviewed and take questions from the audience. I have to say that while I was waiting outside and talking to fellow delegates, there seemed to be an apprehension about the novel, everyone loved the tv series, but they weren’t quite sure about the book. From what I’ve read of it so far, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed, but as a fan of David Hewson’s other books I have to say, that this is completely different in approach and style.

This was the last panel of the day, but my day in Bristol ended with a drink on the hotel terrace with David Hewson, who was very generous with his time (thank you David), and our topics ranged from writing (quite rightly) to gardening. I also had the pleasure to meet other authors in person, including Steve Mosby, and the actor, and narrator of audio books Saul Reichlin.

I had an amazing, and very full day. I will definitely be going back to CrimeFest another year, and who knows what will happen. My post for pitch-an-agent will follow soon.