Tips on Writers Conferences

The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference was held last week, Thursday through Sunday, a wonderful event bringing together hundreds of writers, agents, and editors to talk about the publishing world today. This was the 57th conference of PNWA, and there was, as usual, something new: Power Pitches. Think of them as speed dating for connecting writers with agents or editors. The idea was that for three minutes, a writer could “pitch” her or his book idea to an agent or editor, who would use the final minute or so to give feedback and, with any luck, ask that some pages be sent subsequently for review. At the sound of the bell, the writer left the chair and was immediately replaced by another writer, making another three-minute pitch.

This went on in 90-minute blocks. It was grueling, but after the first four or five pitches, a writer usually had it down how to proceed, and had probably refined the pitch enough to say it without reading it from a notecard. The pitch – now streamlined and easy to say – can later be used in approaching other agents through email or letters.

Writers conferences provide an invaluable opportunity to talk face-to-face with people who have the expertise and potential to bring work to print. But a few general tips can help make best use of the time:

1. Research the conference ahead of time to make sure this is the right conference for your material. If no publisher or agent on the roster will work with spiritual material and that’s what you write, this is the wrong conference for you. Spend your money where it can do you the most good.

2. Assuming this is the right conference, research agents and editors ahead of time to make sure you know who will represent your specific kind of work. This is best done on their websites, but pay close attention when these individuals speak to conference attendees, because their interests can change or they may be seeking material on behalf of colleagues. The best thing is when you can relate your work to a specific writer the agent represents or title the editor published and explain how your work is similar.

3. If an agent or editor requests to see pages, make sure you send them, even if time transpires before you can get them ready to send.

4. Make sure that in every contact you have, the agent or editor will perceive you as easy to work with and completely professional. One thing this means is that you adhere precisely to guidelines given for sending in your material.

5. Keep reading current books in your arena, keep writing what you write, keep attending writer events, because it is all a large network, and your place is in there, waiting for you to claim it.


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