When I first started writing, I used to think none of these things was necessary. The only thing I wanted to do was write my manuscript, edit, and then send it off to agents.
Yeah, I was so naive.
I recently attended my third writing conference and I will honestly say every time I go to one of theses events it adds an entirely new level to my writing craft.
I won’t go on about all the little writing nuggets I learned from amazing agent, Michael Larsen of Larsen Pomada. Or what a mind-blowing opening address Gordon Warnock of Andrea Hurst Literary gave about the changing landscape of publishing (one aside – he did say that this is the best time to be a writer due to the amazing number of publishing avenues available!)
What I do want to speak about is the need to network, work on your craft, and the most important aspect of this business (in my humble opinion) the AGENT PITCH.
Nothing is more frightening, or if you’re like me, exhilarating, then getting in front of an agent to present your work. I’ve done this twice now. Once at a pitch conference in New York (nail-biting to say the least), and then at this recent conference.
Now you may ask why is the agent pitch important? Why can’t I just write the query and send it off?
There is nothing inherently wrong with this – except for one thing – you don’t receive instantaneous feedback.
As you pitch your book, you watch how the agent reacts in real time.
Do they lean forward after your hook?
Do they grasp their hands and smile as you delve deeper into your plot?
Or do their eyes go vacant after your second line?
But most important, when you’re done, you don’t get a form rejection. Most agents will tell you if they’re intrigued or if your story falls flat. They’ll either ask for pages or tell you where your pitch needs tightening.
And what I think is most important; they delve into your story. In both my pitches the agents asked questions about the heart of the character.
What does he/she really want?
How far are they willing to go to get it?
What is their support network? Both agents told me they are tired of seeing YA stories where there are no friends, family etc. mentioned – this is not real life and it won’t sell.
The agents help you see where your plot is failing and where you can make your pitch stronger. Again, something you won’t get from sending an email query or getting a form rejection.
Now, I know many people don’t have the time or money to attend conferences – especially since they can be very expensive! But as a writer, I would insist that the feedback can be life-changing. So I encourage you to try to find a local conference, perhaps one within driving distance, and is only a day – these tend to be less expensive. And of course, make sure they have an opportunity to talk and/or interact with an agent. Their insight will be invaluable and maybe, just maybe, you’ll come away with a request for pages!!! That might make the fee (and the drive) well worth it!
What about you? Do you think conferences and networking are valuable? Have you ever pitched to an agent and gotten salient feedback? If so, I’d love to hear from you!