Dearest Miss Snark,
I fear that I already know the answer to this question, but I am compelled to ask, nonetheless...
I have a successful "day job" career, but I'm trying to pursue my dream of writing a novel. I therefore recently signed up to attend my first writers' conference (a costly affair). I will have two one-on-one sessions with well-known agents. So far the writing is going well, and I hope to have a polished, final copy in about six months. Here's the catch: the conference is in one month.
I know, I know... I normally would not even dream of prematurely attempting to launch an unfinished work of fiction. I know that it should be finished, polished, put away, re-polished, etc., ad nauseum. The only reason that I am even thinking about dashing my chances prematurely with these two highly-coveted agents is because a) I am writing in a genre that is considered "hot" right now (and all things hot burn out quickly, as we well know), and b) my prominence in my "day job" gives me an excellent platform (it is directly related to the genre) that I believe any P.R.-minded agent or editor would drool over.
Am I a complete nitwit to even consider pitching an unfinished work, given the above?
Feel free to waste my time at a conference, I really don't care. I have to sit there all day anyway and one more guy with an unfinished novel is one easy answer: no. That said, we can sit there and drink gin.
No matter how enticing or hot or yummy, I can't sell an unfinished novel from a first time novelist. Maybe someone else can, but I'd get laughed off the phone by most of the editors I deal with.
They know, like I do, that the final 20% of the novel is harder to write than the preceding 80%. They know too that a first draft (which is what you're talking about when you first write THE END) is hardly ever something you should show anyone except your dog. That means you're a year from being really done, if you ever finish at all.
You've spent a lot of money hoping the rules don't apply to you. Even if you GET lucky and these agents ARE interested, they're buying for 2009 right now so anything you think of as hot NOW is something we were selling two years ago.
There are lots of reasons to attend a conference other than meeting agents. Take full advantage of them but do NOT expect agents are going to be falling all over a hot idea with an unfinished novel.