Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Conventions and Conferences

Over on Deep Genre, there was a discussion in the comments section on how to meet science-fiction agents at conventions and conferences. I thought the following quotes would be useful to anyone looking for an agent.

Carol Berg wrote:

Writers’ conferences (like Pikes Peak, Surrey, Colorado Gold et al) are very different from conventions (World Science Fiction, World Fantasy, WesterCon, ArmadilloCon etc.) You are correct that writers’ conferences have only a few editors and agents, so if your sole interest is to "pitch" your finished book, you want to look for conferences hosting people who represent or publish your preferred genre. There may be only one or two, but most editors who are there know the fantasy/sf editors at their houses. Good conferences try to cover the genres by getting pros who represent many kinds of works. Sometimes they do better than others. Anyway, writers conferences also provide workshops to help improve your writing, agent and editor panels to help you learn about the business, and networking with other writers. Yes, agents and editors get tired from the pitches, but they are there to discover new writers. Yes, they want to hear what kind of person you are, but if you pitch them something they haven’t heard before and demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm, (or even babble foolishly as I did) you can get them interested. In any case they will likely request your pages and read your work - which is the object of the pitch.

Science fiction conventions are held everywhere across the country. At the largest conventions like World Fantasy and World Science Fiction (which includes fantasy programming), you will see lots of agents and editors. But there is no formal venue for meeting them (like WC pitch or read-and-critique sessions). You meet them through networking, offering to buy a cup of coffee or a drink, or getting into the same parties. At regional and local conventions (like Westercon, MileHiCon, Archon, and the like) you might have an opportunity to meet agents and editors and might not. Writing programming at sf conventions usually consists of panel discussions rather than workshops. These are sometimes about writing, sometimes about fantasy or sf tropes, sometimes about the litererature. Quality can vary widely, depending on the qualifications and background of panelists.

Writers conferences tend to be more expensive, as they usually compensate their faculty. Conventions are all-volunteer events to keep their costs down. World SF (this year in Denver) and World Fantasy (this year in Calgary) are more expensive than regional conventions.

For me, the format of the conference provided opportunities to meet the right people without the pressure of a "social" situation. And it allowed me to bypass queries. If you have a manuscript you believe is ready to market, look seriously at opportunities to meet the pros in person. (And yes, EVERYone is nervous.)

David Louis Edelman wrote:

I imagine the perfect interaction with an agent/editor would go something
like this.

You attend a panel that the agent/editor is on. You listen attentively and, after the panel, approach the agent/editor and ask a pertinent follow-up question or two. Nothing too pushy. "Hi. I was really interested in what you said about x. What do you think about y?" After a couple of minutes, you say, "Thanks. I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I’m ____, by the way. I’m writing a fantasy novel about [something very short, pithy and intriguing], and I’d like to send you a sample and a proposal." Chances are the agent/editor will say something pleasant and noncommittal like "Sure, send it and I’ll take a look at it." At that point you smile, shake their hand, say thank you, and walk away. Don’t push.

A week later, you send them your proposal letter, the first few chapters, and a standard cover letter that begins with, "It was very nice meeting you after the panel about Yiddish Vampires at BlahBlahCon last weekend. As discussed, here’s my novel about [something very short, pithy and intriguing.]"

Obviously you adjust this scenario depending on the circumstances. And it’s not going to work every time. But if your short, pithy and intriguing ynopsis is intriguing, that’s about all you’ll need to get someone to take a look. Of course, it’s probably going to have to pass through the 22-year-old intern first, but them’s the breaks.

Short, non-pushy interactions in person. Maybe a few polite comments on their blog, if one exists. You’re not looking to be their best buddy. You’re just looking to tickle their mind and remind them that, oh yeah, this was that nice, earnest guy/gal that I met at BlahBlahCon. If your book is good, the writing will do the rest. If it’s not good enough, well, hopefully at least you’ve got someone you can send your next book to.

No comments: