Monday, May 20, 2013

Regel's do's and dont's for attending a writers' conference

I'll be attending a number of fantastic writers' conferences in the upcoming months (Backspace, Willamette, and NJ SCBWI). The potential to discover new talent is what gets me excited for writers' conferences, but, that said, I also slightly dread the uncomfortable exchanges that are bound to happen. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to give you some guidelines for how to successfully attend a writers' conference. Here goes!

DON'T read me your pitch. When I've said this before on panels, I can actually see the distress wash across the attendees' faces. I understand that reading is more comfortable to you, but look at it this way, if you're going to read me your pitch, then why do we even need to meet face-to-face? I know how to read (it's kind of a prerequisite for the job), so you might as well just email me your query. The whole point of going to a writers' conference is to have a conversation with an agent. I can tell you in about 30 seconds whether I'm interested in reading your material. (Is it a genre I represent? Check! Am I interested in the plot? Check!) When I sit down across from an author I want to see that they can intelligently engage me in a discussion about their work. Because if I do read and love their work, I need to know that they will be able to talk about their book to potential editors, booksellers, and readers. 

DO come with questions. Once you've pitched the project there are only two things for me to do: 1) Ask for materials, and 2) Tell you it's not right for me. Once that's out of the way, what can we talk about? I've flown all these miles to meet you, so you might as well walk away with some knowledge! Use this time to your advantage.

DON'T expect me to take materials from you. First of all, no one wants to lug around heavy pages. Second of all, these days, almost everyone (including me) reads on a reading device.

DON'T pitch me at inappropriate times. What's an inappropriate time, you ask? ANY TIME THAT IS NOT DESIGNATED FOR PITCHING. Every conference offers their attendees the opportunity to sit down and pitch an agent for a specific amount of time. That is really the only time you should be pitching an agent, EXCEPT...

DO be prepared to pitch at any time. We could be meeting casually over lunch and when I ask YOU, "So, what's your book about?" you should be prepared to talk about it. Otherwise you're missing an opportunity.

DO remember that we WANT to say yes. We want to discover the next big thing. And we hope that it's you! That's the whole reason why we attend writers' conferences. So try to keep a positive attitude and don't take it personally if we turn you down.  Remember that we're all here because we love writers and books, but this is still a business.

I hope to see you at a writers' conference soon!

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