A Fantastic Conference

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At the beginning of August of this year, I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in Manhattan. While I had attended writers’ conferences before, I had never experienced any on the scale of this one. It was a three day event, from Friday the 1st to Sunday the 3rd at the very upscale Roosevelt Hotel near Grand Central Terminal.

This beautiful hotel, while a luxurious environment, was far too expensive for me, so I stayed with my in-laws, whom I love as if they were my parents, on Staten Island and made the commute those three days. One nice detail of the daily trip was that I was able to travel by the Staten Island Ferry, and I love being on boats or ships of any kind! And as always seems to happen whenever I am in Manhattan, I am mistaken for a native. A gentleman from Iceland, who had three children with him, asked me for directions for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. I have been in Manhattan so often in the course of my life it seems like I have lived there.

The conference featured a multitude of sessions including talks by authors, agents, editors and a variety of panels covering a myriad of elements of the publishing business. I learned something about writing and the business of publishing in every session I attended. The culminating session gave much information which writers should know about the inside world of publishing.

I have been working for several years on a paranormal thriller Evil Lives After, and my main goal for the conference was to utilize the agent pitch session to my fullest advantage. The pitch slams, as they were called, were organized so that 200 or so writers in the space of one hour would have the opportunity to pitch his/her book to as many agents as could be seen but with only a total of 3 minutes per agent. In essence, it was like speed dating, but with literary agents. There were even time keepers and a bell to signal when to change and get in another line.

We had been advised to make a list of the agents who represented the kind of work we were writing. For example, it would have been futile to pitch a paranormal thriller to an agent who works exclusively with children’s books. The night before I compiled my list of the 5 most important agents for me and stood in line early—for an hour, which was a good choice because it was a line of about 200 people. I felt a little bit like when I was younger waiting for tickets to a show or concert.

During the pitch slam I did manage to see the agents I had planned on and had much greater success than I had expected. With only 90 seconds for the pitch and 90 seconds for the agent to ask questions about the work, the experience was heightened. Four of the five agents requested to see 25-50 pages of the book, and one requested the entire manuscript! Since then, I have been editing the manuscript intensely, tightening it and trying to get it into as good a shape as I can.

I hope to send it out this week or next. I will post about that.

As a final thought on the conference, I advise all writers to attend gatherings like this one. It was extraordinarily valuable and informative.

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3 thoughts on “A Fantastic Conference

  1. I really love the idea of ‘speed dating literary agents’. You wrote very well about your experience. My experiences with like events have been both good and bad: on the one hand, nobody enjoys a good yarn or makes better conversations in lines than writers. On the other hand there can be the ‘youtube party’ effect when too many gather in one place: feign interest in the speaker while convinced that all will be wowed by your work.
    That said, experience is thankfully subjective. I hope to get to a better and friendly class of literary meetup in the near future. Keep writing, can’t wait to read more!

    Charles

    Like

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