Monday, October 25, 2010

The Conference Experience

Hundreds of writers, a plethora of agents, editors, and publishers, plus workshops on everything from your first page to marketing plans.  There's only one place you get all of this awesome stirred up together -- conferences!

Well, the conference started at 7am Saturday!  Oy.  So, we had a genre meet and greet which was super fun.  I didn't get to meet any YA writers, but I met a bunch of awesome MG writers.

The first session that morning was on engaging the YA reader (which wound up more geared to MG).  I missed about the first half of it though because I wound up with the very first pitch appointment that morning!  That was pretty darn lucky.  Well, I hated to miss a big chunk of the YA talk, but I was very happy to get to meet the agent before she had been stuck in that room all day long.

Now, the pitch was a source of much angst for me.  It's intimidating!  And as much helpful information as I found out there from agents and the like, I didn't find much from fellow writers.  So, I thought I'd include what happened in my pitch for you guys.  Take from it what you will, maybe it'll help someone not be so nervous about the process.

It wasn't until about two minutes before I walked in that I got nervous.  The nerves only lasted briefly though, I was fine once I got to talking with the agent.  This is how it went for the most part:

Agent:  So, what are you here for today?

Me:  I wrote a YA novel called Emerald's Keeper.

Agent:  Tell me about it.

Me:  In Emerald's Keeper the world is getting darker, light-consuming creatures feed on the pure of heart, and fourteen-year-old Mandy is the only one that can stop them, but she has to find the strength to let go.

Agent:  Oh, really?  What does she have to let go of?

And so it went!  She asked questions, I answered.  She asked about the main plot, themes, subplots and the like.  Once we were done she said she liked my premise very much and asked that I send some pages.  Just that easy!  There was even a little time left to chit chat on a more personal level.  You know, just asking, "How was your flight?" or whatever.

I can honestly say if I ever do another pitch, I won't be nervous.

Another great thing about conferences?  So, maybe I'm a little anti-social in person, I'm a writer, I think it's a pre-requisite.  lol  At lunch I found an empty table and pulled out my nook, thankful for a little time to rest my brain.  A few minutes later a lady came and sat beside me (who I assumed was another writer).  We chit chatted a bit and she asked what I write.  I told her, and asked what she did.

She was an agent.  Guess I should have studied the faculty list better!  But then we talked a little more and she slid me her card and asked that I send her my materials.  How freaking cool, right?!  A minute later an agent that reps screenwriters came and joined us and I got to be included in their shop talk.

I also got to attend a session on marketing.  It was pretty good, I learned what a press kit is, and what goes in it.  They also talked about blogging and being on twitter as important steps.  (check, check)  Something that worried me a bit though was that the lady teaching the class suggested putting a press kit together to hand agents you have pitch sessions with.  Eep!  Not sure that would be a very good idea.  I almost said so, but I didn't want to challenge her during her own session so I held my tongue.

I got the impression that a good portion of the people there were doing self publishing, so maybe having printed press kits would be a good idea in that situation.  I don't know, I'm not a marketing genius by any means.

The last session I went to was on narrative drive.  It was really interesting the way he took parts of three different books and showed us on a sentence-by-sentence basis how the writer moved the plot forward and kept the reader hooked.  He also said this that struck a chord with me: No matter what you write, these four words need to drive it: tell me a story.

So simple, yet so true.

That's really it!  I mean, other than my tire blowing out on the way home it was an excellent trip.  But I figure for all the good something bad had to balance it out.  ;)

There you have it, my friends!  If you get the chance to go to a conference, even a small local one, do it.  It's so worth it!


Susan said...


That's so awesome that two agents asked for pages -- go Holly! Mandy and Emerald's Keeper are making the rounds. Woot woot!

I love this: "Tell me a story." Sooooo true, and something people unwilling to change or improve their writing need to remember. If you want to get published, you need to tell the best story possible -- and that means improving your craft, revising, and realizing you're never "finished" learning.

Man, the conference sounds so awesome! I can't wait until I get to experience something as amazing.

:) :) :) I'm glad it went so well for you!

Pam Harris said...

Wow, it sounds like you had an amazing time! It's so cool that you got to eat lunch with agents. I've seen agents standing alone at conferences, but I've always been way too intimidated to approach them. :( I had my first 15 minute manuscript consultation with an agent this past weekend. I was so nervous, but she made me relax eventually. I have to keep reminding myself that agents are people, too. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you after you send off your materials! :)

KO said...

Yay-- how thrilling to hear about and very exciting to live vicariously through you!!!

Abby Stevens said...

Congratulations, Holly! That is amazing news! Best of luck with the pages! :D

And I'm not sure having press kits to hand an agent are the best idea, either... but you're right, probably not the best idea to point out in front of all the other attendees.

LTM said...

omg! That is so so supercool!!! Esp the part about the agent approaching you at lunch! And you sounded very prepared for your pitch--well done.

Which conference was it again? SCBWI?

I've been encouraged to go to a conference so many times... we'll see~

Erinn said...

YAY!!! WOOT!!!! Those are the best sort of experiences.

When I went I practiced the crap out of my pitch-- Alicia was there, she can tell you.

I totally agree, doing a conference is TOTALLY worth it.

Sarah Enni said...

Oooh that sounds like it was super successful for you! But you didn't tell us how your hot heels worked out! LOL

Glad you had a good time!

Claire Dawn said...

I'm glad it went so well with the agents!

You know this writing is always best summarised in simple ways. During a WD seminar, Mary Kole said the most important thing ina query is this: make me care. And I've been using that as a guiding light for all of my writing since.