Writers Conferences

Dear Miss Snark,

I understand the different types of writer's conferences. I have been to some wonderful conferences and have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful authors such as James Houston and Dorothy Allison. I have been keeping my eye open for conferences which feature agent interviews but whenever I think I have found one, when I start researching the agents that will actually be there, I find that they specialize in Science Fiction, they aren't listed in Writer's Market, or (horrors!) they are not from New York. What's a girl to do?

Well, let's find out.
Any suggestions?

PS Geography should not be a basis for choosing an agent. Some of the best agents making deals today live in the non-212, poor dears.


Chumplet said...

Google the Surrey Writer's Conference in British Columbia. The list of agents, writers and editors are from a variety of genres. They hail from the U.S. and Canada. I'm sure you'll recognize many of the agents.

I only wish I wasn't at the other end of the country and penniless.

Michele said...

If any agents that interest you have a blog, check for mention of conferences. I've seen agents mention conferences they'll attend.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I sometimes googled the name of the agent who interested me and the word 'conference'. That will often ferret out smaller conferences.

flannerycat said...

You might like www.shawguides.com, an online listing of all writers' conferences, searchable by location or month, with links to their websites. Shawguides lists everything, including the dreck, so read with a wary eye.

I know there are agents milling around at Bread Loaf, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Tin House Writers Conference. All are excellent. You might see if they offer meetings. (Well, SVCW may not, but it's intimate, and the agents run some of the workshops and listen for buzz.)

ORION said...

I learned a lot from all the agents I met at the conferences and retreats I attended. Most gave wonderful feedback and even asked for partials, however, the agent I signed with was not one of them. I never met her. I knew her by reputation, agentquery.com, what her clients said, the books she represented, and publishers marketplace. When she signed me I was thrilled. I still haven't met her.
That's OK.
Look at agents at conferences as a way of networking and learning.
Not being listed in Writers market is not necessarily a bad thing - look the agent up in publishers marketplace and see the kind of deals they make or google them to see what books they represent. The agents I talked to were invaluable and indirectly led to my agent.
I adore Dorothy - she's great - and a wonderful teacher. You are lucky to have worked with her. That is really why you go to conferences - not for agents- IMHO

heidi said...

Not every agent lists in the WM. The WM is out of date the day it's printed.

The best way to find out about an agent is to get on the ol' eGrapevine and check out their reputation. Preditors and Editors generally have the lowdown, and asking about on a few select websites, newsgroups and mailing lists will give you some goss.

Also, see if you can get your hands on a client list. It shouldn't be too hard to find a way of contacting some of the clients on that list (as google is your friend), and find out what they say.

In this age of the Internet, an agent doesn't have to live in Noo Yawk in order to be a good agent. (Kristin Nelson comes to mind.) So maybe these guys don't schmooze down at the local Starbucks, but they schmooze online. And they're not afraid to travel.

As for the skiffy thing... well, ya gots ta takes ya knocks sometimes.

SamB said...

I've been to Squaw Valley, there are no agent meetings. Yes, they teach. I understand a couple of exceptional manuscripts each year are sent to them before the conference. It is an expensive week -$800conference + $800 shared housing, plus transportation for those not living at Lake Tahoe like I do.

I've used shawguides and wear myself out googling the agents mentioned, but will continue to do so.

Dorothy Allison was the best workshop leader I've ever had.

Anonymous said...

I'm cynical, just to get that out of the way.

It seems to me that these conferences are pure money making enterprises.

Is there anybody out there who actually got their money's worth? Did a conference lead to your book selling?

I think they prey on amateur writers hoping to make their big break by stumbling across an agent who, for some reason, out of the thousands of other writers, falls in loves with you, sells your book and you wind up on the best seller list.

Sumac said...

The San Diego State University writers conference is a good one. I've been to it twice as an editor. It's the only conference I've been to where I've actually found authors and subsequently published them.

Many different genres are represented, including romance, YA, sci-fi, mystery, literary, etc. and tons of agents go (more agents than editors, but you can get appointments with both). Plus it's in San Diego in January. What more can you ask for?

Also, when looking for conferences to attend, go the conference website. They often have short bios of the participating agents and editors, including the kinds of books they're interested in. Then find a conference where there are several agents and editors who represent/publish what you write.

kc dyer said...

Dear Miss Snark,
Just next week we will be launching into the annual Surrey International Writers Conference, held in Surrey, British Columbia. Aside from the sorry absence of George Clooney (if we could only get the man to write a book!) the conference is a stellar opportunity to meet writers, agents and editors of a pedigree even the Esteemed Killer Yap would envy. Your devoted readers can check out www.siwc.ca to learn more.

ORION said...

For Anonymous/cynical...
This is a perception (I think) which many writers bring to conferences.
Conferences and retreats are not for everyone. Would I have been represented had I not gone the first year? No. Not because I found an agent but because I networked and found experienced and newly published authors willing to mentor me and show me how to write a query letter, how to research agents, and how to improve my writing. I would eventually have figured all this out but it would have taken years of struggle or falling victim to a scammer. It shortened the learning curve considerably.
To be successful, conferences and retreats HAVE to make money and yes, one of the ways they do this is by editor and agent consults, however, if you use this to learn and get feedback and to understand the industry you are (in my opinion) ahead of the game.

Katrina Stonoff said...

For $35, you get 15 minutes with the agent of your choice, and they've got top knotch agents. In the past, they've had Jenny Bent, Jennifer Jackson, Anne Hawking, etc.

Best of all is their Friday afternoon Firesides: three hours in a private home with a limited number of writers and at least three professionals with brains you get to pick.

Beth said...

I second the suggestion for the Surrey International Writers Conference. They bring in agents and editors who handle all sorts of fiction and non-fiction. And they don't charge for interviews.

The Surrey conference is also one of the best writers conferences in North America, and financially a bargain. One of the things I like best about it is the friendly, informal atmosphere that encourages the mingling of attendees, guest authors, agents, and editors.

And I've made some very useful contacts there. So it's well worth the money.

nice anonymous said...

I found the Sewanee Writers Conference extremely helpful. That's been the gift that I gave to myself (albeit partly subsidized by a conference scholarship) which keeps on giving, year after year, through the nice people whom I met there. Mostly, I was there to take advantage of the workshops and the readings. But the agents were very, very visible & pleasant. Maybe because I didn't trouble them much, not having anything worth showing to an agent at the time. Whenever I was seated next to an agent at the various social conference gatherings, we just talked about books that we loved.

Katrina Stonoff said...

Hmm. I obviously don't know how to do links on Blogger.

I was posting above to the Whidbey Island Writers Conference (http://www.writeonwhidbey.org/Conference/)

Linda Adams said...

Research the organization sponsoring the conference and find out what they're focus is. For the one I belong to, they recruit the agents from client members, so we tend to get a high number of agents specificially interested in non-fiction. That's also why you're seeing agents who aren't in the Writer's Market--because they're using clients to recruit.

However, there should always be a few agents there who will take whatever genre you're pitching. All you really need is one or two because most conferences only allow one or two agents per person.

If the conference is local, VOLUNTEER to help run the pitch sessions (especially useful if you're at a stage where you're researching the agents, but the book isn't quite ready). That way, you can watch how they work, and you never know what might happen (I gave an agent a ride to the bus station).

Gerb said...

For the original poster: I have to chime in with my recommendation for the Surrey Writers' Conference. I've attended conferences all over - Maui, NY, LA, even Bologna, and the atmosphere of the Surrey Conference is one of the most relaxed, professional and enjoyable of all.

For the anonymous cynic: whether you get your money's worth depends very much on what you are expecting to get out of a conference. Almost all of them will offer craft classes that will enlighten or reinforce what you already know. Many (such as Surrey) offer opportunities to meet with editors and agents. But the real value of writers' conferences, as far as I'm concerned, is the opportunity to NETWORK with others who share a common goal and interest. (Ask Bob Mayer and Jennie Crusie how important networking is. :) ) Will they enrich your writing career? Perhaps. Will they enrich your life? Absolutely.

For example, I've had the pleasure of hanging out with both Beth and KC Dyer, who have commented on this post, at Surrey. (Beth is a phenominal writer who has been Nebula nominated. Yes, THE Nebula. KC Dyer is the author of the fantastic YA Eagle Glen trilogy.) I've enjoyed the association with and have learned much from both these women, and from many more I've met at conferences and now count as friends.

Though I did not meet my editor or agent at a conference, I know people who have. I will say I've gotten to know several E&As from these events and have benefited from the association.

I count writers' conferences among the best investments I've made in both time and money as a writer.

I'll, um, step down from my soapbox now...

SamB said...

Thanks to all posters. I've been researching your suggestions and hope to attend one with an eye to the agents attending soon.

Then again, when looking at the website of one of Whidbey's agents, I found one that is NOT coming, that just may be my #1 choice so far. The more you work at it, the luckier you get.

Ursula Maxwell said...

Surrey International Writers' Conference again sold out last weekend. Another resounding success for this 14 year-old conference. Dates for 2007 have been posted at www.SiWC.ca

JeSais said...

late to the party, but I would highly recommend Univ. of New Mexico's Taos Writers conference. Perhaps not so much from a sell your book perspective, but the quality of the workshops is incredible, and all in all a literarily stimulating week.