Author Hamilton Beazley’s 2011 Agent Conference Experience
Hamilton Beazley, WLT member, attended the 2011 Agents Conference and YA Track, and left with an agent. Hamilton received his B.A. in psychology from Yale University and his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from The George Washington University. He has worked in the energy sector, for non-profits, and as a college professor. He is the author of seven non-fiction books. His first YA novel has been sold to Disney-Hyperion and will be published under the name, “H. Scott Beazley.” Hamilton is definitely a WLT success story, and we are so glad that he shared his story with Scribe. Be on the lookout for his upcoming YA novel in 2013!
Writers’ League of Texas – Can you tell us a bit about your experience at the WLT Agents Conference? How did you get in touch with Laurie McLean?
Hamilton Beazley – I loved last year’s WLT YA Conference. It was exciting, informative, and, of course, it resulted in my getting an agent. I pitched Laurie during one of the events, and she asked me to send her the first 30 pages of my novel. Because WLT’s 2011 YA Conference was the first in the country, Laurie sponsored a contest for the “best first page of an unpublished YA novel.” The prize: she would read the entire manuscript. A few days later, she emailed me that I had won the contest, so I sent her the completed manuscript, which she read as promised. Laurie subsequently sold the novel to Disney-Hyperion for publication as a hardback in the fall or winter of 2013 with the paperback coming out 12-15 months later.
WLT – What happened after the conference? Did you already have a completed manuscript, or were you still working on the novel?
HSB – I had a completed manuscript for the conference, which I sent to Laurie at her request. She liked it and called me. I had completed most of a second novel by then because it had taken me so long to get a literary agent. I pitched that novel in our phone conversation. She liked the idea of the second one, too. Then I pitched a third that I planned to write. She agreed to represent me. Until I had a completed manuscript, I didn’t approach any agents. They can’t sell an incomplete or un-polished manuscripts, and they don’t have time to waste on them. Hence, the need for patience on the part of a writer.
WLT – What’s your YA novel about?
HSB – My novel is a coming-of-age story about two sixteen-year old boys who meet in their psychiatrists’ waiting room and become friends. Through their friendship, they work out the issues that brought them into therapy. The story is set in contemporary Houston among the very oil rich.
WLT – What was the most challenging thing about writing this novel? What is your advice for people in the process of finishing a manuscript?
HSB – My greatest challenge is always understanding this: that writing is about re-writing, and that I have to give the manuscript the time it needs. I compose on the computer and edit in longhand, and I edit over and over and over. I also turn to a small group of people with real editing ability to provide the perspective on my work that I’ve lost. They aren’t necessarily novelists—they’re good editors. They understand novels, plots, and characters and what makes a story work. I don’t think my book would have been published without the feedback of these friends, but I had to learn to listen to them and take the ego hit when something didn’t work. Another challenging aspect of writing my novel made much easier by the Internet was all the research I had to do to be sure that every single fact was accurate.
Oscar Wilde wrote that “books are never finished; they are merely abandoned.” To some degree, that’s true. But it’s imperative that you make the manuscript as good as you possibly can. You have one shot with a potential agent or editor. It has to be your best.
WLT – Any advice for how people can best utilize their time at the 2012 WLT Agents Conference?
HSB – Don’t be shy about approaching agents, but have your pitch down and know your book and characters. The agents are at the conference to find new writers, so they want to hear from you. The key is to find someone with whom you think you’ll click and your story will click. That’s crucial. I was fortunate in connecting with Laurie, and I’m very grateful to have her as my agent. I had a New York literary agent for my non-fiction, so I’ve had some experience with them. In choosing an agent, I look for someone who clicks with me, who really likes my work, has a savvy business sense, loves what she (or he) is doing, and has experience in selling manuscripts. That’s Laurie in spades.
My other suggestion would be to learn as much as possible at the conference about the craft of writing and the state of publishing, which is in flux. Also, because one agent doesn’t like your work doesn’t mean it isn’t good. One of my non-fiction books was turned down by every major publisher in its field except one, and it became a best-seller for that house.
Though the Conference was just last week, Hamilton’s advice is still pertinent. Revision, patience and persistence. Congratulations, Hamilton!