Our Thoughts


August 10, 2015

Common Questions Answered About Writing Conferences

Conferences are wonderful events for writers. They are a great place to learn more about the industry, meet other creatives, and also connect with literary agents.

As some of you know, along with editing for different publishing houses, coaching individual authors, and working on my own writing, I'm also a literary agent with Capital Talent Agency in D.C. So I've experienced writing conferences from all sides.

Below are the most common questions I'm asked by my clients around conferences and the answers I give.

Should I Attend Conferences?

As I mentioned in the opening sentence, I do think conferences are great, but I also believe they aren't necessarily super for everyone.

You want to go to a conference if:
- You want to learn more about the industry
- You want to meet other writers
- You want to pitch a literary agent
- You believe in your work
- You are fine knowing there will always be people there who know more than you
- You see what could potentially be obstacles as motivation to continue
- You have no expectations

You don't want to go to a conference if:
- You are always going to conferences instead of writing
- Seeing what others are doing fills you with fear instead of motivation
- You don't see what benefit it could give you
- You feel that it will mentally set you back in your work

What Should I Wear?

The best thing to do is be yourself. If wearing nice jeans and a blouse is what makes you feel comfortable than do that. You want to wear what makes you feel confident, relaxed, and completely authentic.

Should I Sign Up To Pitch An Agent?

I really believe that this is one of the best reasons to attend conferences. Why? Because you actually get face time with an agent. Instead of becoming one of many e-mails in their inbox, there you are, right in front of them getting their opinion on your work.

That being said, to pitch an agent you really need to know what your book is about. You have only three-five minutes, which means knowing how to concisely frame the work is extremely important. My suggestion is to bring your query letter with you. This way, you can read it if you need to. To me, it's less about how you pitch and more about the story you're pitching.

Although some agents are fine with the material not yet being ready to send, I really believe it's good If you are pitching a novel that it's ready to hand over along with a synopsis and if you have a non-fiction book the proposal is also ready.

What Do I Need To Bring?

No matter if you are pitching an agent or not definitely bring a notebook and business cards. You'll be learning a lot so you'll want to take notes and you'll be meeting a lot of people so cards are always good. If you are pitching I would bring your query letter and a ten page sample in case the agent wants to take a peek at the work.

Which Agents Should I Pitch?

From the list of agents who will be there I would go to their websites and look up what they represent. Become familiar with what they're looking for and the kinds of books they are seeking. Some of the agents may have posted on The Manuscript Wishlist site, which can be a nice way to target your pitches. Point here is that if an agent doesn't represent what you write about or that's not where their interest is, well, then there's no point to pitch them at all.

What Questions Might An Agent Ask Me?

Besides your name, where you're from, and things of that nature the agent may ask the following questions:
- Do you have a social media presence?
- Do you blog?
- Have you written books before, published before?
- Are you actively writing now?
- Is this your typical genre?
- Are you working on any other titles?
- Why is this timely? What's different about this work than other books written around the same topic?

Most authors are very scared of pitching to agents. There's a lot of fear around the process. But know that agents want to find you as much as you want to find them.

We are always rooting for your book to be the golden ticket. If you line up with an agent who you know would be interested in your book the chances of them requesting material is high. Then it's up to the writing to speak for you.

Would love to know some other questions you have around the topic. Add them below and I'll make sure to answer them!


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