Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Canadian Author's Association, West Coast Branch - Sam Hiyate

I love the Canadian Authors Association.  Each month a collection of writers gather to hear about the craft.  It’s a guild really.  Craftsmen and craftswomen participating in the ancient rites and ritual.  Tonight President Margot (grand wizard/authoress) introduced Past Pres, Robert Mackay who read an excerpt from his riveting submarine thriller, Terror on the Alert.  I couldn’t personally put the book down when I read it. He left the audience hanging  but I know the spoiler. It was all I could do not to shout out the next incredible moment in a story I so loved.
Then Sam Hiyate, Literary Agent took the stage.  He was Clint Eastwood in Lone Rider.  You could hear the music in the background.  His voice held a touch of Sam Steed as he told story after story.  I’d wanted to skip the evening, go home early, watch tv, sleep. I’d spent the exhausting day in a methadone clinic selling life without needles.  Yet here was this amazing story teller.  He’s an agent but really he’s a very special kind of  story teller. He sells the tales of writers to publishers.  He’s the pitch.
How would you like to make money doing what you love?
He explained just how he’d made this happen over and over again for one writer after another.
And I loved the story.  I bought the story. The man mesmerized me.  He was that good.  Really.
But then he is Sam Hiyate.  
“I like to think of my relationship with writers as a marriage and their books are our babies….It’s all about relationship….pick an agent you want a long term relationship with.”   And all the boys and girls unborn children cried in unison “pick me! pick me!"
He’s meeting next week with writers to review individually a sample of their work. He says it costs $75.  That’s the price of admission.  It excludes the uncommitted.
He teaches a writing workshop too. “I call it a workshop but everyone that attends calls it therapy.  Writers crying week after week.”
“You have to think of writing as taking your reader on a emotional journey. It’s got to make them feel something.”
He employs 5 editors at his agency.  Like agents they get paid down stream when the author does.  "I get a 15% for my work.”   He likes it when he get a book accepted by an editor in Canada then sell it in the UK  and US  then to 20 countries. after that.  “I know the editor’s personally. I know what they like.  They know me. "
He explained just how he did it.  We all leaned forward.   There was a hint of sandalwood, pine and just a touch of sulfur electrifying the air.  "Ah….so that's the alchemy the publisher wants".  "Who would have thought?"   "Interesting."  "Very interesting"
Harry Potter was rejected by 20 publishers.  The Hobbit was liked by just one.
"Mmmmm. I see now.  That’s what a literary agent does."
The editors don’t buy the books. It’s more what the salesman say.  The publisher more often than not doesn’t get to read since he’s caught up in politics  trying to get what's  best the company as a whole. He trusts the editors and salesman to work together. The salesman know what's already been sold.
It was over too soon.  The questions from the audience wouldn’t stop.  The meeting moved into the foyer.  
Stepping out into the rain I looked back to see one writer snip a locket of hair from the back of Hiyate’s head.  Another had distracted him with bright eyed brilliance.  Writers helping writers in the CAA tradition.
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