re: Can You Really Land an Agent at a Conference?

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Dear Editor…

At most writers’ conferences, there’s at least one editor and one agent who review first pages and queries and share critiques, so I’m curious: What is the percentage of published writers who were “discovered” at a conference? Thanks for even an estimate.

Sincerely,

Kate

Dear Kate…

I’m not a prestidigitator by nature, so I can’t pull any numbers out of my hat for you, but I can tell you this: At the La Jolla Writers Conference this past weekend, I clapped along with several hundred attendees when an agent and author who’d met at last year’s conference announced that they’d sold the writer’s debut novel to a top publisher, to pub Spring ‘11. It happens.

Happy writing!

The Editor

8 Comments

  1. Fascinating! I love those Cinderella-type stories. Our SCBWI regional adviser always cautions us against getting our writerly hopes up, however, saying that it is usually NOT the way it happens. But we still get a thrill when it really happens to someone–and we still hope when we have our critique meetings. (Yeah, like, we can win the lottery, too! LOL)
    At the very least, the meetings give invaluable advice on how to revise a novel and make it stronger so that we will get repped or published by someone else. Invaluable!

  2. Good question. Good and hopeful answer. There are many good reasons to go to writers’ conferences. However, I would never go with even a remote expectation of getting discovered.

  3. I wouldn’t attend a conference with the expectation of finding your agent. I think that is rare. You should attend a conference to learn more about your industry and to make new friends.

  4. Indeed, cases like this one are the exception and not the norm. So while it’s okay to walk into a critique with a bit of hope tucked in your back pocket, let your highest “expectation” be that you’ll get useful feedback for revision.

  5. I love these stories, too, and I love to make connections of many kinds at writers’ conferences ~ as well as the challenge and commitment of presenting the very best work I can.

  6. I think it’s great to talk to agents at a conference because it gives you a good “in” on your query letter to them. You can write the agent that you met them at the conference, repeat something interesting they said, and make yourself stand out from the rest of the cold queries.

  7. Actually, we have had several writers from the La Jolla Writers Conference find agents and publishers, and this year six people I already know of were asked to submit more to several agents. It does happen. But you have to arrive at a conference with great work.

  8. And you meet people and make contacts that may help down the road. Maybe not your current book, but the next or the next. Plus, it’s great to feel part of a community, whether your book is sold or not. Sometimes that “lift” from a conference is what you need to finish your own work.

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