This past weekend was a big step in my career as a writer–I attended my first writers’ conference! It was the Henderson Writers’ Group conference in Las Vegas; the crowd was small (limited to 150 people), the classes offered were a mix of business and craft, and the faculty was interspersed with interesting individuals. It was a good first conference, in my now slightly more qualified opinion; since it was relatively small, it was not too overwhelming, yet it still offered the opportunity to make some influential connections with agents!
I will start with the pros of the conference. The first and foremost bonus is getting to pitch to agents. Yes, it’s scary, and intimidating–but do it! When I arrived at the conference I didn’t know that formal pitches were an option, but quickly found myself signed up to pitch to two agents and two small press editors. Did I panic slightly? Of course. But I simply reminded myself that I know my book and am confident in my book, and it went just fine. In fact, all of the agents and editors requested either partial or full manuscript after my pitch! I had a good experience, but that is not solely why I advise authors to take the plunge and pitch at conference–you should do it because chances are relatively limited for you to run into agents during breaks and such. Before I attended the conference, I had read the opposite advice which told me it’s better to try and casually run into agents and spark conversation. However, after having been to the conference, I have to say that is leaving a lot to chance. If there is a chance to get your name down for a (no matter how small) amount of time to talk to an agent or publisher about your book–do it!
The next pro for me was that I met a potentially great friend/colleague; we met at the breakfast section of the day, and ended up being in the same class sessions, so we got a lot of chances to get to know one another and talk about each others’ books. Now we plan to email regularly and exchange critiques and editing advice. This isn’t to say that I just met one person and stuck to only talking to them all day–I talked to a lot of different people, and that in itself was a pro. Meeting fellow writers is always interesting.
Now, the cons. First and foremost, I was already knowledgeable on most of the information presented in the classes. Most of this information is accessible on great websites such as AgentQuery and Writers Digest. Due to my extensive research on querying and agents after I finished my novel, I had stumbled across most of, if not all, the information presented in the class sessions (I stuck to mostly the business/querying type of presentations, so I can’t speak as much to the craft sessions). Thus, for me the conference was a learning event, but not in the sense of the structured classes.
The second con I will list is the inaccessibility of the agents that were present at the conference. The only time I saw an agent outside of the pitch session room was when they were teaching their classes. This made it difficult to interact with them (which was most likely by design, at least in the case of one particular agent!), so had I stuck to my original plan which was to organically strike up conversation, I would have been sorely disappointed. Like I said above, the pitch sessions saved my weekend from being disappointing!
Now that I have attended my first conference, I have been getting asked whether or not I will attend another one. The answer is “probably.” I think I will be more selective in the conferences that I attend; I want them to be a bit more high profile. Now that I know more about agencies and agents I may want to target, I can look out for conferences they may be attending. I will be looking to see what kind of pitch opportunities will be available. There are a couple high profile events that I will consider–namely, the New York Pitch Conference and the San Francisco Writers Conference. However, right now, I am switching gears and will be exclusively focusing on my first round of querying agents; I sent out my first materials requested email today to an agent who requested a synopsis and partial, so I am very excited about that (excited, but also fully prepared to wait for a response or simply never get one). Aside from querying, I will, of course be diving back into my work on Inductance; I think getting back in the flow of writing might be a little tricky after my mini-vacation, but I am excited to ebb back into the story!