Thursday, October 14, 2010

Slushing Through : Conferences

The Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke put on her big girl golashes and slushed through a regional conference. She's back, sharing the highs and lows with you.

Earlier this month I headed to my favorite writers conference - Emerald City in Bellevue, Washington. Every year the Greater Seattle chapter puts together a great collection of speakers, workshops, editors and agents. Plus kareoke.

Some came to socialize with their fellow authors, attend classes...some came just to try the signature the Bodice Ripper cocktail. Barbara Vey, Cherry Adair, Alyssa Day & Brenda Novak gave very inspiring speaches and there were enough raffle baskets to tempt anyone.

I came to give a workshop (The Mommies Guide to Writing Around Your Children) and to meet with the agents and editors. The evening before our pitch appointments, the industry professionals did a Q & A panel. One of the most interesting questions was about the slush pile.

None of the editors publish category romance, and only one of the agents represents it. But across the board ell the editors said they read agented material first, and usually respond within two weeks. They consider requests they make at conference a higher form of slush...made me think of agent submissions as snowballs - ready to be thrown back - and requested material as heavy, melting snow...and slush as just that.

We all know that, but it was still hard to hear. And made the chance to pitch even more important. Everyone had the option of 3 pitch appointments, where we give the basics of our story in under a minute and hope it sounds as great as we think. But, there were openings for every editor and agent, for an extra appointment all you have to do is ask. The same goes with changing appointments. I was originally assigned an agent who emphatically said she never r eps category. So, I switched to someone who did :) The people who organize these conferences are writers too, they want you to succeed. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.

Pitching is nerve wracking. There you are, at a table surrounded by eight strangers and an editor who could either make or ruin your day. What makes up a pitch is different for everyone. Some work it down to two long sentences. For me, that's a stress in itself! Plus, I find the editor/agent has too many questions still about the story. So, I tend to use a paragraph, very similar to what I'd use in a query.

One thing to keep in mind - these people are just people. Those around the table are more interested in their own pitch than whether you stutter in yours. The editor hates that she makes you nervous. She wants what you want - to read a great story.

Conferences give writers a great advantage, but they are expensive. Giving workshops can help with costs, as can finding one close to home so you don't have to fly (and can maybe even carpool to save gas costs). Having a roomate is a good idea since there is so much to do, you really only use the room to be sure to ask if your roomates snore!

If your favorite editor or dream agent will be taking appointments at a conference, and you have a completed project to pitch to them, it just might be worth the expense. But, if you're still working on your first book, spend that time and effort finishing the project.

Jenna Bayley-Burke is a best selling author recently featured on Good Morning America. Kinda. Compromising Positions made the best seller list for Kindle for a few weeks, and GMA did their daily top ten list of Kindle bestselling ebooks and Compromising Positions made the list. But doesn't it sound better the first way? Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog.


  1. I wish I could have been at the Emerald City Conference! I live in SE USA so I went to another amazing regional conference held in Atlanta by the GRWA. I find your take on the editor/agent info regarding the requested submissions at conferences as denser snow quite refreshing. I personally pitch, query and enter contests as a way to send as many snowballs (arrows) out into the world and hope that one will stick.

    Great post!

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