I had a great time at the 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City last weekend. Once I signed up to go in May I revised an insane amount to clip my novel by a third and make it readable. I advise any ambitious writer with a completed manuscript to go to a conference where you pitch to agents.
Lilith is in my writing group at the Peninsula library in Rockaway Beach, and she went to the conference with me. I was glad to have someone to hang out with and practice my pitch. And I also helped her with her pitch. Both of us got ‘cards’ at the Pitch Slam and the green light to submit to agents. I’m rooting for both of us to get published.
Chuck Sambuchino is an editor at Writer’s Digest and was the host of this conference. On Friday afternoon he gave advice for the pitch slam. The pitch slam lasted an hour with 50 agents seated by the walls in alphabetical order. Participants pitched individually to agents for a total of three minutes. So a pitch lasted ninety seconds or less, and the agents then responded. Needless to say, people had questions. Mr. Sambuchino answered in an entertaining yet informative way.
Mr. Sambuchino answered questions throughout the weekend. His expertise confirms to me that Writer’s Digest is a good publication. On the ferry back to Rockaway Friday night Lilith and I practiced our pitch. We practiced again on the subway ride Saturday morning. Lilith’s pitch slam was before mine, and she looked happy when she came out. I was nervous. The next time I’ll sign up for an earlier session.
Once my pitch slam started the line filed into the room. An agent on my list only had one person in line and I’m glad I didn’t wait long for the first pitch. I calculated four people in line equaled twelve minutes, which is a good portion of an hour. I felt eight agents fit my novel, and I ended up talking to six. Out of the six, I got five cards. The one rejection said her agency no longer took dystopian. I moved on. Two of the agents that passed me cards let me go through my whole pitch without interrupting, and afterwards appeared genuine in their interest. The other three asked clarifying questions. The experience was worth going through. I know the agents are legit because they were vetted by Writer’s Digest.
Harlan Coben gave an amazing keynote on Saturday. This is paraphrased and not exact, but he said something like. If you have a talent outside of writing, something you are really good at, consider not writing. And All writers can’t do anything else, they’re disorganized and idiots. After my ten dollar Stella draft to celebrate my pitch slam I was very entertained. Kimberla Lawson Roby gave an inspiring closing keynote on Sunday. In 1995 in her mid-thirties she wanted to publish and was rejected fourteen times. Her husband took a loan on his 401k, and self-published her book. She sold her books through churches and urban communities well enough that she got a publishing contract quickly after. I wanted to ask her if doing this may be more difficult in 2014 compared to 1995, but there were enough questions for her to answer.
Nina Amir lectured and sat on a few panels I saw. She is a blogging expert. I learned I’ve been using wordpress.com when all along I should use wordpress.org. Yes, having two wordpresses on the Internet is confusing, but I’m questioning my librarian skills using the wrong one for so long. Nina Amir in her lecture pointed out that optimism is needed to succeed in the writing game. I’ve heard so many disgruntled people say getting published is impossible, and I think pessimism hinders ambition. I’ve already had that thought, but Nina Amir clarified the concept for me.
On Monday night I submitted to all five agents. I’d like to thank Fran, a member of our writing group at Peninsula library. She edited my novel for typos and punctuation making it a better read. She also edited my synopsis I needed to submit on short notice. She has become a writing mentor to Lilith and I. She is awesome.
I thought I submitted everything right but I forgot to put the word ‘Query’ in the subject line. The vast majority of agents that allow email submissions prefer ‘Query’ in the subject line. Goes to show getting everything right is tough. Now I’m not sure if I should resubmit correctly right away or wait some time.
I felt accepted talking to other aspiring writers, agents, and people in the field this weekend. My friend Lilith commented on the variety of backgrounds people had at the conference. Writers are weird, and that’s a good thing. Thanks Writer’s Digest!