Besides returning home with a sickness that knocks you flat for three days (ugh), conferences are awesome.
Attending writing conferences gives you the chance to take workshops from diverse industry experts. You learn about plotting, description, characterization, pacing, and voice in-depth. You hear query letter how-to, promo techniques, and much more.
You can have your query or first pages critiqued by peers and editors. You gain experience talking about your work in a casual setting. You network — that’s how I got this job.
You are surrounded by people who get you.
But the most underestimated benefit is pitching in person. Conferences give you face time with agents and editors. You get to know them, hear insider secrets, and most of all pitch your book.
- If you get a request for pages, ask where to send them. Email address, attached or embedded, synopsis too?
- If you don’t, you ask why not and learn what you can do better.
Authors are frequently scared of this idea: pitching an agent? Remembering what my book is about while standing before a goddess? Crafting understandable sentences? Receiving a rejection in person where I can’t mope over chocolate cake and a bottle of wine?
I get it. Scary. It terrified me the first time, too. But agents are human, and they know how hard it is. It’s often easier to start chatting about something else. Once you’re at ease, ask if you can pitch.
Have a one- or two-sentence logline prepared and memorized. Short and snappy.
When the Empire kills his family, Luke begins training as a Jedi so he can stop Darth Vader from killing thousands more. – Star Wars IV
Blue Sargent sees the ghost of a boy who isn’t dead yet, but he will die within the next year. It’s not a big deal until she meets the boy’s web of friends and falls in love with the group…and him. – THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Steifvater
Simply answer the question, “What is your book about?”
How would you answer that to a friend? Pitch a loved one, see what questions they ask, and get comfortable discussing the plot. You’re selling your book, but you’re also talking about something you love. Let that enthusiasm loose.
This is what conferences are good for. The first time I pitched, I was nervous as hell. But it went far better than expected, and that agent is now my boss.
Since then I’ve pitched every agent I meet. Some fall flat: that’s okay. They’re not the agent for me. My comfort with pitching will help me find the right one.
That’s the real good of conferences: getting comfortable in your own skin.