Monday, July 18, 2016
Crossposted from my Tumblr, where I got this anonymous question. I'm answering here and there because I see a lot of people misconstruing my path to publication, and either assuming things that are incorrect, or lying outright for whatever reason. It's especially annoying because I'm available on Tumblr to answer questions, but people would rather not simply ask.
The question...in question:
The question this anon is referring to:
“Hey Victoria! I saw you also went to USC and I’m curious if having Trojan connections helped you at all in the way of finding an agent for Red Queen? I just graduated and am about to start querying a YA fantasy, looking for any and all things that might grab someone’s attention!”
“Nah, the USC family has been great on the film side (I got a general meeting off a pilot I wrote senior year and that got my writing career rolling), but it doesn’t hurt either!”
I believe you are misunderstanding me on several levels.
1) The person asked about Trojan connections. They’re a fellow Trojan, part of what we call the Trojan Family or USC Mafia. It’s a very big network within Los Angeles and the film industry. I have not really met anyone in publishing from within the Trojan Family, but I can’t tell you how many film general meetings* I’ve walked into and known or known of someone from their USC connections.
2) I clearly stated the general meeting I got off a pilot I wrote at USC got my writing career rolling. That’s the meeting where I vaguely pitched RQ and was told to pursue it with no guarantees of anything.
3) “Bypassing all the gatekeeping/submissions rules other writers have to follow” - do you know how many people have different paths to publishing? You understand that you don’t have to query either, but you do have to find another way in, right? You don’t have to do things that way, but you have to find a way. Trust me, if I had known querying agents was so open (in film, it’s such a closed system), I would have looked into it much, much sooner. Agents just list their emails and what they’re looking for! That sounds crazy!
*General meeting: (since you don’t seem to understand what that is) extremely common thing, going on generals is known as the “couch-and-water-bottle-tour” where your reps set you up meeting with executives at different production companies and studios. You go in, chat for a half hour, they get a feel for you and whether or not they’d like to work with you on something. 9 times out of 10, these result in nothing. It’s part of the job, and the majority of my general meetings have been acquired to further the screenwriting/film side of my writing career.
I’m also going to say my publishing path, yet again, because it’s clearly outlined elsewhere, but people seem to have trouble making this connection:
-USC First Pitch, a speed-date situation where you pitch your film/tv projects to executives, managers, agents
-I submit my portfolio to about 20 different representatives or companies that requested it
-I get one general meeting request from Benderspink. This is where my USC “connections” end. I got a meeting through their pitchfest. From here on out, it is entirely on me and the skills I’ve picked up through four years of a fantastic BFA and two internships.
-At the Benderspink meeting, I pitch a tv show, a movie, and a vague idea of Red Queen. I said “I want to write the next big YA novel, here’s what I think it is.” I’ve explained in previous posts why I phrased it this way (summary: because pitching is a big picture game), because people have decided to hate me for voicing it.
-they said “sure, do it” and connected me with my first manager at Benderspink. I was not officially signed with them, but hip-pocketed, which has way less stability and no guarantee of representation.
-I realize if I want to pursue writing the Red Queen idea, I have to move home to do it. I have no money, no job, and no strong support system in LA. Luckily my parents were all for it.
-I finish the first draft of Red Queen. I sent it to my manager, who has just quit to write full time. I panic.
-I expect notes back from him. Maybe. He doesn’t owe me anything and could easily say, too bad, I’m done! Really I didn’t know what to expect. Instead he tells me he forwarded the draft to Pouya Shahbazian at New Leaf Literary, who he recently worked with while optioning the rights for another project. I do some research (Googling) and realize NL is awesome. I am terrified.
-Pouya reads the summary of Red Queen and forwards it to Suzie Townsend.
-Suzie reads Red Queen. She calls to chat with me and wants me to do a round of edits. I obviously agree.
-I submit my edited draft of Red Queen to Suzie.
-I sign with Suzie and New Leaf. We do another round of edits.
-At this point, I have cut about 40k words from the original draft of RQ.
-We go on submission with a draft of RQ.
-We sell to HarperTeen two weeks into submission.
Now to say “film connections” landed me my publishing agent. Absolutely I would not have hooked up with Suzie if my film manager hadn’t forwarded the draft. Absolutely. But that is how the industry works. There are authors who wouldn’t be working in film/tv if their agents hadn’t secured them a meeting. Our representatives get us jobs and create windows of opportunities. But we still have to be good enough to rise to the occasion. If my manuscript was garbage, Suzie would not have wasted her time. If I was bad at pitching, my film management wouldn’t have encouraged me to pursue writing. If I hadn’t written a good pilot my senior year, I would never have landed that management meeting. If I wasn’t a good, hungry, dedicated storyteller, I would not have been accepted to USC’s screenwriting program. That’s how it works.
I’ll leave you with some very wise advice from a professor of mine.
“Good luck is an opportunity you are prepared for. Bad luck is an opportunity you aren’t.”
I have had extremely good luck.
*what does DTE mean?*