In case you’ve ever wondered what a conference is like for an agent, here are a few notes from my personal perspective:
* I generally enjoy writers’ conferences because I love nothing more than, talking, eating and breathing “publishing” and there’s no better place to do that!
* The hardest part for me is staying “on” for hours on end, sometimes 14 hours with nothing more than a couple of five-minute breaks. By the end of the first day, my face already hurts from smiling and my throat hurts from talking.
* I love teaching workshops but sometimes I need a break from teaching. I’ve taught a lot of local workshops lately, and I taught six sessions at my last big writers conference in June, so I decided not to teach at ACFW. Turned out to be a good decision – I was busy enough.
* It can be mentally exhausting to have back-to-back pitch meetings for several hours a day, but it’s amazing how “present” I really am. I totally tune in to each writer, try hard to quickly grasp what they’re pitching me, and offer my response trying to be as helpful as possible. I love interacting with writers – it’s the reason I have this job.
* The hardest part about the pitch meetings is graciously ending the meeting in the cases where I don’t want to request a partial or proposal. It’s easier to end it by just saying, “Well, send me your sample chapters and I’ll take a look” but I never use that line as a cop out, I only say it when I sincerely want to see the manuscript. So it can be awkward to have to simply say, “Thank you for coming.” It’s like a verbal rejection letter, and I always feel bad! But I always try to give them something to grab on to, something positive and perhaps a direction to take.
* Generally it seems writers are getting more savvy, being more prepared with their pitches, one sheets, etc. Most know not to pitch in the bathroom. I’m enjoying conferences more since there seems to be a higher level of professionalism. You’re really reading agent blogs!
* Of course, sometimes people know all the “rules” but forget them in the excitement of the moment. Saturday I was in the middle of a 2-hour block of back-to-back pitch meetings, no time in between. Between meetings, I ran out to the hall to grab a glass of water and somebody started pitching me a long and detailed story. It was totally disconcerting… that’s what the appointments are for! I couldn’t find a gracious way out of it… I finally had to interrupt and say “I’ve really got to get back in, I have someone waiting who actually has an appointment to pitch me.” I felt bad immediately but then again, it wasn’t nice to try and pitch me during someone else’s appointment time.
* I always learn new things at conferences, mostly from “the buzz” and talking to editors and agents. You can be sure I’ll be blogging about some of the insights I had.
* I’m excited that I may end up with a couple of new clients from this conference, and I also began formulating a revised business plan for the next few months based on some new connections I made. You’ll hear about that eventually on the blog, too.
* I have two favorite parts of conferences. The first is seeing my publishing friends from all over the country. I’m blessed to have such neat relationships with people I admire, even though we rarely see each other. My industry friends, including authors, editors and other agents, are so energizing and affirming to me. I love catching up with them, learning from them, and talking business. I met a bunch of new publishing people this time, too, which I loved. I can hardly overstate how much my industry networking lifts me up and motivates me to get back to my desk and work!
* The other favorite part is getting to spend time with my clients, most of whom I rarely see in person. This time I met three of my clients for the very first time – so cool. I have to say, I’ve gathered the most amazing and FUN group of people! We had an agency dinner on Friday night (there were 20 of us), and on Saturday most of us tried to sit together at the awards banquet. It was a blast and I always feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such cool people with so much talent. (For my clients who weren’t there… you were missed, I promise. Catch you at another conference.)
I limit my conference attendance to two or three big ones a year, and I always to to ACFW because every single time, it has proven productive both personally and professionally. I highly recommend it to any Christian who is writing fiction (you don’t have to be writing Christian fiction). For all writers, I suggest you try to get to at least one conference each year or two, if you can. You’ll be amazed at the inspiration, motivation, practical learning, and new friends that will result.
Been to ACFW or another conference lately? What did you think?