Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

To Do/ To Bring When Attending Writing Conferences

Things are a bit crazy around here as I’ve bit the bullet and signed up for a writing class with mega-agent Don Maass on the 24th of this month.

Don is considered a top-tier agent, and he represents quite a few fantasy writers I love to read, so I’m pretty stoked about him teaching local enough (4-hour drive) to attend his seminar.

It’s a day-and-a-half workshop, to which I’m required to bring my completed manuscript. (No problem, as all my faithful readers will know that I’ve got one ready to send off to agents and have planned to do so this year.)

But I’m a bit angsty since three weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to get ready for the seminar, which is attached to the Write Stuff Conference hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

Luckily, I’m prepared. I have a routine I follow when I’m off to a conference. I’ve actually presented this material to writer’s groups, so if it sounds like I’m lecturing…it’s because I am. 🙂

Here’s what I recommend:

Before the Conference

  1. Think about your expectations. What do you want to get out of it? Knowing your expectations helps you plan what you’ll do while you’re there. Do you want to meet other local writers? Do you want to pitch your novel to an agent? Or do you want to learn about craft, careers and the industry? You don’t have to choose, you can do it all…but scheduling of panels may prohibit this. So, prioritize your goals and plan accordingly.
  2. Get an advanced copy of the conference schedule and look over your desired sessions.
    Highlight and number where you want to be, the time and the room numbers, or copy this information to your planner. This will save you time at the conference, allowing you to network, join impromptu sessions and, maybe, get some writing in, too.
  3. Will you be able to pitch your book to agents and editors? Do you want to do so? If so, research the available candidates. Will there be someone present who represents the genre you write? Prepare a pitch according to that agent’s specifics.
  4. Hit the social networks to see if any of your online acquaintances will be going, too. Tweet, blog and post to boards and arrange a meet-up.
  5. If you’re going somewhere non-local: research the area: what restaurants are available? Are there any local landmarks or monuments you could visit? What about hiking, skiing, or other sportly adventures? (You could make this trip all about the conference, but hey, if you’re going somewhere new, you might as well learn a little about the area. Consider it research for your next book.)
  6. Check your writing “gear.” Make sure everything you need is in the bag you’ll take along: laptops and cables, a thumbdrive, your favorite notebooks and pencils, gum, mints, etc. (Check even if you’re meticulous about putting everything in it’s place–you never know.) If you’re attending any writing sessions, add a thesaurus and/or dictionary and your current work-in-progress. If you’re meeting up with fellow writers, you could also take a finished work you could use in an impromptu writing session.
  7. Formulate a list of questions you’d like answered. These could be related to the panels you want to attend, about presenters at the conference, about writing craft, about pitching your book, publishing in general (or specific), about, well…anything. Write them down and carry them with you so that you won’t forget to ask.

What Should You Bring?

  1. Your printed list of questions.
  2. Any research material you accumulated about the conference or the location.
  3. Business cards.
  4. Something to take notes with: your laptop, a notebook and pen, etc. (I always carry both: there will be times when a laptop will be inconvenient.)
  5. If you’re pitching, bring whatever the agent or editor prefers (and in the style they prefer it in): your query letter, a synopsis, the first five pages of your novel, etc. It’s doubtful you’ll need your entire novel printed out: no agent is going to want to lug an entire manuscript (times 100, or how many writers he meets) back to his office. If an agent is interested, he’ll give you his card and tell you to mail it.)
  6. Bring any giveaway table items that you can leave in designated areas: (book marks, flyers, brochures for writing-related services or your local writers group, etc).
  7. Any personal items you can’t live without for a few days or which will make your hotel room your home away from home: MP3 Player, cell phone, teddy bear, photo of your spouse, etc.)

Next time: What to do at the conference.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

On Finding an Agent

Christina over at MiG Writers posted an excellent article yesterday about searching for an Agent. She calls it searching for your “Agent Mate.”


In a nutshell, Christine advises creating a chart of prospective agents, researching all about them by reading blogs, twittering, and attending conferences to meet and learn about them.

Her chart looks like this:

Agent Agency Books Repped Tidbits Date Subbed What was sent Response Comments

The chart process immediately appealed to my inner geek, especially because it’s dual purpose: it lines up the research and then acts as a contact record. (It also aligns nicely with the submission tracking chart I keep for all the stories and articles I send out. I can see myself adding this gem to my own Excel spreadsheet…)

I think Christina is right on the money when it comes to doing your research. But how do you find out the names of prospective agents?

Google is your friend…and there are tons of conferences you could go to find names, as suggested in Chritina’s article. But there are a number of Web resources containing most (if not all) the basic information you need. They provide the detailed information in a very short time–much faster, I think- than other sources.

I’d start with: allows you to search by genre or keyword, and provides detailed information about agents which match your query, including:

– what the agent is looking for
– often, what the agent is *not* looking for
– authors and books the agent represents
– upcoming sales of the agent
– much more also links to hundreds of agent’s and publisher’s blogs, as well as the blogs of a veritable who’s who in the publishing industry. You can’t go wrong by checking it out. is another place to search for agents. I don’t think the search or the results are as good as AgentQuery, but it has the added value of “how to find agent” articles in your face as you search.

The Association of Author’s Representatives. This is the definitive location for agent information. In order to join, agents must meet specific criteria. The advanced search is cumbersome, but once set up, can be saved for future use. Also contains information about what agents do.

Once you find the names of prospective agents, set up your spreadsheet and begin your research: read his or her blog, follow the agent (or the agency) on twitter.

I think Christina’s chart is excellent, but I’d modify it a bit…because, well, once I start a chart, I can’t help but collect as much information as I’m able. Here’s what mine would look like…

Agent Agency Books Repped Author Repped Rights Sold? Notes What Appeals to Me About This Agent?

A, B or C List? The D List Date Info Was Collected Date Subbed What was sent Response Comments

What I’ve changed:

Added: Author Repped. This is important to me as I get to know authors in the field. The author becomes an additional source of information about the agent’s style and method.

Added: Rights Sold? Has the agent sold foreign rights? Movie rights? Each of these kind of deals requires a level of knowledge or expertise. Obtaining an agent with this kind of track record could be good for your own career.

Changed: Tidbits to Notes.
Just a personal preference. Serves the same purpose.

Added: What Appeals to Me About This Agent? After you follow an agent’s blog or twitter post’s for a while, you’ll begin to know them a little better: their style, their proclivities, etc. Once armed with what you know about him or her…why do you desire their representation? What makes this agent stand out? Write it down here.

Added: A, B or C List? This is a means to categorize where this agent might fall into the hierarchy of your desired representation. It’s likely there are a lot of agents who meet the criteria you need. Based on what you know from your research, choose a first, second and third tier of agents to attempt representation with. This makes your search more focused, and possibly, more successful in getting the exact agent you want.

Added: The D List. A list of agents you’re never going to contact. Make a note in this column if you’ve learned something about an agent that turns you off: perhaps your styles don’t jive (you like email, he likes snail mail). You’ve done the research, you don’t want to delete the info.

Added: Date Information Collected. Information ages. What you’ve learned today may not be the case tomorrow. Add some date information so you know how timely your data is.

What’s Next?
Create your query package and send it to the “A” list. Find an agent? Great! If not, move on to your B list, then C, if necessary. You could also try D…but I’m willing to bet that between searching through A, B, and C, there may be some new agents representing authors. Do another search and start again.