Louise Fury, Sandy Lu, Marisa Corvisiero and myself (lperkinsagency.com) will be all be attending the Writer's Digest Pitch Slam (http://www.writersdigestconference.com/) tomorrow afternoon at the Sheraton where mostly unpublished writers will descend upon us hoping to find the agent of their dreams.
And many of them will, it just won't be what they expect.
I say this because, of course, I've been attending writer's conferences for years.
I go because I think of it as a way of giving back. It is rarely a way for me to take on new writers directly.
Let me tell you three stories of writers who I helped get published by going to writers conferences. Only one of them do I represent now.
Lisa Delman and I met at the Maui Writers' Conference. We kept on running into each other in the hallways and in restaurants and the pool, just about everywhere we turned. But she wrote nonfiction self-help books, and that's not really my thing, so I encouraged her to find an agent who thrilled at that. We ended up on the same plane home, and really bonded (we were the same age and playing the dating game), so we became "writing friends." During the course of a vacation conversation (I was visiting the town where she lived and we decided to hang out), she told me this moving story about the letters she had written to her mother when she thought she was dying, and I said to her, "that's your book!" DEAR MOM, I Always Wanted You to Know (Perigee http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Mom-Always-Wanted-Know/dp/0399530797- ) was born there, and I did represent it. It just wasn't the book she was pitching then, and it took 5 years from that Maui conference to publication.
Jeremy Wagner plopped himself in from of me at a BEA pitch slam only two years ago. He was the hardest working unpublished writer I'd met in long time. He had a decade of conferences he'd attended and editors he'd consulted with, and he told me he was so happy he'd finally gotten my attention, because I was the horror babe. And he was right. I had once been the horror babe, but I was now launching Ravenous Romance and not actively taking on new clients (but had just hired 4 new agents who were taking on new clients), so he thought he was screwed. But I told him I would be his guardian agent, and give him advice whenever he needed it. He needed it a lot. And I gave it - a lot. I bought a short story from him for an anthology I was editing for Ravenous Romance in HUNGRY FOR YOU LOVE (St. Martin's Press http://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Your-Love-Anthology-Romance/dp/0312650795/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295686247&sr=1-1-spell), our Zombie romance anthology, which eventually made it to book stores, so I gave him his publishing start. But he also got an agent, and just sold his first novel, THE ARMAGEDDON CHORD (http://www.jeremy-wagner.com/books.html), to an epublisher, which is the right move for a new horror writer right now.
I met Trinity Blacio at Lori Foster's fabulous readers and writers conference in Ohio. It's an intimate gathering of about 200 readers and writers in Cincinnati, the home of Grater's Ice Cream, Skyline Chili and Montgomery Ribs. I had just launched Ravenous Romance and was looking to get a feel for what readers wanted, and Trinity introduced herself. I had bought one of her stories for our THREESOMES anthology (http://www.ravenousromance.com/lesbian/threesomes-an-anthology.php?keyword=blacio) She told me about a werewolf world she had been writing about for the last 7 years. Listening to her, I knew she had a world as complicated as Anne Rice's vampires. I bought the book, and her RUNNING IN FEAR (http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/running-in-fear-abandoned.php?keyword=blacio) series is one of our best-sellers.
So the moral of these stories is that a writer shouldn't go to a writers' conference thinking that they will get their dream agent or book deal. Listen, learn, mingle, keep in touch with everyone. You might make a friend or a contact that will change your life, but let the experience be your guide.