If you're not interested in getting published and/or you are offended by the word douchebag, you should probably stop reading right about here.
Can we talk writers conferences? For anyone trying to find an agent or editor to connect with their work, I just cannot stress how important conferences are. Though the educational sessions are great, I consider paying for a conference to be more about paying for access to editors and agents. Because once you have been to a conference and met an agent or editor you like, you can send your work to them with “XX conference request” written on the envelope, which generally guarantees it will be read a) by that person, not by the assistant who manages the slush-pile and b) in a timely manner. At the rate slush is read, this can literally shave years off the process. Saying no to a nameless, faceless manuscript is much easier than saying no to the manuscript of someone you met and liked.
My grizzled face shows how many of these things I've been to. May I share some tips I’ve learned?
Think in marketing terms. If you are having a manuscript critique, do not bring your problem section so you can get advice on how to fix it, even if that is what the session is advertised as! For example, there’s one workshop I’ve been to where you read aloud in small groups with an editor or agent there for advice. The brochure encourages you to bring a section you feel needs work. I looked at that and though hell no! I brought the absolute best 20 pages of my manuscript and landed the agent I had been stalking. Really, if you are marketing yourself and your work to someone you have limited time with, why bring your worst stuff? Is that how you want to be remembered?
Enter the writing contest. There are several great conferences that do not require you to register for the conference in order to enter the writing contest. I enter as many as possible and then register for the conferences where I have placed or won. Because I am pathologically shy when it comes to tooting my own horn, wearing a badge that says “contest winner” is a great way to have editors and agents approach you.
Be fun and interesting. Talk about everything but your book. This is a refreshing change from the crush of people pressing their self-published fantasy novels on editors and agents. If you can have a light, fun conversation about something else, I’ve found they always end up asking about your book.
Choose workshops over conferences. If you have an editor or agent in mind and see that they will be at a workshop and at a conference, always choose the workshop. Working closely with an editor or agent in a workshop setting is a perfect way to really forge a relationship and to show the person that you are eager and coachable. Of course, then you have to be both eager and coachable! If they request changes, be sure you have made every single change they mentioned before you go to the follow-up session. I’ve seen writers try to argue their point, obviously thinking that they will look smarter to the agent or editor if they push back, but it just makes the writer look like a total douchebag. Push back all you want once you’ve signed a contract, but until then indulge every whim of the agent or editor.
To me, conferences fit in the “gotta spend money to make money” category. But next April, remember that conferences and their associated travel are tax deductible (and boy, have I taken advantage of that fact!). If you’re thinking about going to a conference or workshop, there’s a clunky but comprehensive website of writers conferences called Shaw Guides that allows you to search by month, state, genre, etc. Check it out!
What do you say about conferences? Love them? Hate them? Have to pop beta blockers like me to endure them? More important, will anyone admit to being that douchebag at a conference?
3 weeks ago