Why agents go to conferences is not a mystery. They think, perhaps with good reason, they’re going to discover the next John Grisham, a prolific but hitherto undiscovered writer who has struck a vein without noticing that what is flowing out is lifeblood. I wonder, if one could ever know, what the stats are. How many eventual bestselling authors are discovered at conferences versus those who are “discovered” through steadfast efforts at publication in small magazines or through driven submissions to slush piles? No one seems to calculate such odds.
I do think that one stands a better chance of being “discovered” by new, hungry agents who hope to find and promote the next John Grisham than by those who already have quasi-John-Grishams in their “stables” (sorry to offend any agents happening by with my barnyard metaphor). That is what happened to me. J and L had both been editors at major publishing houses. They had decided their future lay in agenting rather than editing, and from the little I really know of what editors even at major houses get paid and what they go through, I suspect they were right. So they came to the conference I had recently begun attending, and there they “discovered” me and my seven-hundred-page manuscript.
L told me later, “When I saw you, I thought, ‘This girl has something to do with horses.'” I do not reveal this as a very good strategem to getting published: looking like you have something to do with horses. Or maybe it is. I have lost the ability to tell what might be the deciding factor. Oddly, I remember the dress I was wearing. It was powder blue and flowing, a bit longer than the dresses and “hot pants” I wore a decade earlier when I was writing the novel. I was a blonde then. I looked like I had something to do with horses. This sold. They asked me to send them the ms.