Conference Tips?

Two months from today I will attend a very large writer’s conference in Portland, Oregon put on by the Willamette Writers. We’ve got a tight budget in the Corbett household, so I was only able to afford one day of the three day conference (and this was due to holding yard sales and saving the proceeds like a miser) and as a result I want to make sure I get my money’s worth by squeezing every last drop of learning I can from this experience.

So, now here is where I am looking for tips…

Have you been to a writer’s conference? Did you buy time to pitch agents or editors? If so, how did that go for you? If not, why? Do you have any tips for me?


10 thoughts on “Conference Tips?

  1. Well, as you know, I go to Sirens every year, but, strange as it may seem, I’ve never pitched to an agent. Actually, I’m not sure how many agents have been to Sirens. For me, going to a conference was a way to begin acclimating myself to being ‘out there’. I HAVE talked to editors and established authors, and when doing so, I was very open about the fact that while I realized I was facing opportunities to ‘sell’ myself, what I really wanted and thought was the most important thing, was learning how to interact with agents, editors, and authors.

    In my case, EVERY SINGLE ESTABLISHED PERSON I spoke to was incredibly kind and informative and helpful in the acclimation process. And, after speaking with many of them and getting comfortable with them, they would ask, ‘So, what sorts of projects are you working on in the query process?’ to which I would throw out a description. The person then looked at me, smiled, and said ‘Congratulations, you just pitched to me.’ and then they would elaborate on what was good about the pitch, what could be more concise, etc.

    My biggest tip for you is: Embrace your geeky bookiness! Trust me, conferences are the sort of place where when you have a momentary squee attack over a set up of books, people around you go ‘I know, right???’ instead of edging further away. Also, never be afraid to talk about your writing, what you’ve found challenging, what frightens you etc. ASK QUESTIONS. There really are no stupid questions, when you’re trying to learn. If you have (God forbid) a rough interaction with someone, don’t let it upset you. Remember, there are something like 7 billion people on the planet, so don’t let one moron hurt your feelings. There will be others who get excited about what you’re writing, who squee with you over book displays and whom you will still love to squee with years later 🙂

    • Artemis,

      I’m so relieved to hear that everyone you’ve met was nice, and helpful. I’ve read so many horror stories on blogs about when to talk to people, when not to, and how the agent you’re pitching will just sit there and stare at you whilst you pour your heart out!

      On a related note…I should probably stop looking online for such stories 🙂

      I’m loving the idea of being able to talk about books, and my writing, and not have the other person’s eyes glaze over from boredom or dart around the room looking for an escape from the blabbing fool before them.

      Thanks for your input!


  2. I’ve been to several conferences, most of them the Dreamin’ in Dallas ones put on by Dallas Area Romance Authors.

    I’ve never had to pay separately from registration to pitch to an agent or author.

    The beauty of meeting them is putting a face with a name. The pitch I gave recently for my book was with an editor who asked questions I’d never been asked before.

    Everyone should pitch some. It makes you go through the paces of being a writer. And who knows? Someone might ask. In most cases, they do. And most agents and editors can be reached thru a query letter. I’ve sold twenty something short stories just thru query alone.

    Just make sure the agent or editor is acquiring your genre. I’d even done my homework and an agent said she wasn’t acquiring my genre. What the heck???? I wasn’t happy about wasting my time and hers.
    Good luck!

    • Vicki,

      Congrats on the short story success!

      I did lots of research to select ones that represent my genre so I’m wondering about the agents saying they didn’t represent yours? Did they change genre focus after you registered? I can see why that would make a writer unhappy after spending all that time (and money!) prepping for the pitch.

      Thanks so much for sharing your great advice,


  3. Yikes … looks like you’ve got good advice going on there. I posted it on my RWA Women’s Fiction loop and will forward you responses … hopefully they will respond or come here … good luck 🙂

  4. Christi – Try looking around the conference and seeing how you can help someone else. For sure there will be other newbies there, perhaps more nervous than you. By helping them gain confidence, you often find it for yourself.
    As for pitching…a good pitch, a bad pitch, it’s only the writing that sells a book. Editors know that some very personal people can’t write for beans, while others may be socially inept but incredible storytellers. So deals are not done at conference. Do the best you can to get someone to say “send it to me”. If they don’t say “send it to me”, then send it to them anyway. The truth is, they probably won’t remember what they told you.
    Have some fun. This is time away from home and kids and responsibilities, so don’t waste it on being anxious or unhappy.
    And I truly hear you on the financial priorities. I wasn’t able to attend a conference until AFTER I’d sold my first book. Just remember this isn’t money you’re whooping off on designer shoes or a special souffle pan. This is an investment in your future.
    Good look. P

    • Pamela,

      What great advice to buddy up with someone just as nervous and overwhelmed as I’ll probably be!

      Also, I love the thought that even if I bundle the pitch and make a complete fool of myself, maybe I’ve still got a chance :).

      Thank you for your kind words,


  5. I’m a new writer and just attended my first writer’s conference, so of course I was nervous. (I’m also a terrible introvert). But I am SO happy that I did it. Everyone was very welcoming. I had fun and learned a lot from the great speakers. And even though I didn’t work up the nerve to approach any of the editors or agents (even though two were sitting at my table at dinner) the experience was definitely worth it. I plan to do it again next year, but go bigger!

    • Cindy,

      I noticed that you mentioned you sat next to an editor and an agent at dinner. That piqued my interest since I’m having breakfast and lunch there (dinner was out of the budget). How did you know who they were? Did they take pitches from people during the meal, or was it just mainly polite chatter about writing? Did anyone else pitch? If so, were the agent/editor receptive to hearing it or did they simply smile and nod their heads and change the topic?

      I’m liking the theme I’m hearing here about everyone being so nice at the conference. Gives me hope on making some great writing friends!

      Thanks for visiting,


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