N ot all writers conferences are created equal. Some can take place in your local library, others may happen in luxury function rooms warrnambool have to offer. As a faculty member, I’ve appeared at events where authors were treated respectfully and came away with valuable information.
But I’ve also seen chaos, confusion, no-show speakers, and disgruntled attendees, to wit: “The speaker went on and on about how terrific she was and then autographed her new book. I didn’t learn a thing.” or “The agent fell asleep during my pitch.” and “My $1600 registration and hotel fee just went down the drain.”
So, while I recommend attending writers conferences for most aspiring authors, here’s my advice on choosing the best one to fit your needs:
- If you’re interested primarily in the craft of writing, focus on the conferences that have well-deserved reputations for attracting serious faculty authors who are dedicated to teaching. Check out Sewanee, Breadloaf, Taos and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
- Most writers conferences are about how to get published and feature literary agents and editors who present with a special perspective about what they’re looking for. The point is to meet and pitch them with your work. The feedback can be sobering, inspiring, and practical.
- Study the roster of writers, agents, and editors on the faculty. Are they successful, top-level, book publishing veterans or possibly wannabe semi-pros looking for a free lunch? Also check ahead with the conference to be sure the faculty members you most want to see are confirmed to appear.
- Network with other writers who have attended the conference you’re considering. Did their experience and take-away value live up to expectations?
- Be sure the conference isn’t just a “destination” for dilettantes and amateurs, organized like a gala fund raiser. A nice vacation, but otherwise a waste of time. It happens.
Alan Rinzler says
I agree that there are no positive benefits in pursuing an agent or editor who is insensitive about responding in a timely manner to your submissions. My advice: Forget them and move on. I’ll bet other readers of your comment might think three out of six is actually a pretty good percentage. Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, the organizers of the San Francisco Writers Conference and agents themselves, would probably be as indignant as you are, however, and might appreciate hearing about your experience.
Also keep in mind that the book biz is a small world and those no-shows may pop up again with a whole new attitude if you turn a different corner in your pursuit of publication. So why burn bridges when yesterday’s snub may turn into tomorrow’s eager interest.
I want to express my gratitude for your prompt response to my submittal following the SF Writers Conference. I had six agents/publishers/editors express an interest during the event, but only three responded at all to my submissions. Not even a formal rejection, nor return of the SASE with contents. One of the culprits was a respected New York Agent with a book of her own. I’ve already followed up with a separate letter of inquiry–all quite polite and proper.
How do you suggest I proceed? I don’t want to enter into any kind of diversion from my goal of getting published, but this kind of inconsideration does infuriate me. I’d like, at least to notify the organizers of this betrayal of the conference’s good name, but don’t relish getting into a pissing match with no apparent positive benefits in it for me.