Blog, Querying, Writing

Attending Literary Festivals and Conferences

June of this year, I was lucky enough to attend the Lighthouse Literary Festival in Denver, CO. It was in invaluable in educating me about querying, writing, and publication. I paid the hefty price of $300 for two weeks of business seminars and a twenty-minute meeting with the amazing literary agent Kristin Nelson. Here’s a link to her ever helpful blog.

The above picture features, Ms. Nelson’s criticisms of my work:

Lucky for me, a lot of the issues had to do with my sample pages and that I did not understand my genre. Ms. Nelson was kind enough to recommend some comparable titles and it was only after her suggestions that I received requests for more materials. Lucky for me, Ms. Nelson allowed me to resubmit to her after I made revisions about three weeks later.

This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to attend literary festivals and conferences. In this day and age, they might be the only ways to get personal and immediate feedback from an agent. In addition, it forms a personal connection.

I will go more in-depth on the topic of sample pages in a later blog.

If you want to be a professional writer there is nothing I recommend more than attending a literary festival or conference. Yes, they can be pricey, but you are investing in your dreams and future. What could be better? And as a bonus, you get to hang out with other writers 🙂

At the literary festival, I was fortunate enough to personally meet five literary agents. One agent, I did not like at all, but all the others were amazing. Out of the five, I submitted to three of them and received a full manuscript request from one of them. Ms. Nelson was the only literary agent who I had a meeting with and though she did not ask for more material at the time, her guidance was invaluable.

A twenty-minute literary agent meeting is by no means the industry standard. In most cases, I believe you have 5-10 minutes to pitch an agent. In my case, I had sent my query to Ms. Nelson about two weeks in advance with 10 pages of my manuscript. By the time I met with her she had read everything and wrote a page of notes for me (thanks, Ms. Nelson :)).

When you’re in a situation like this, I believe the best route to take is to listen, ask questions, and absorb whatever advice you can. Very quickly you can tell if an agent is interested in your work. If they’re not, don’t waste your time pitching, but learn how to make your pitch better.

Questions I recommend asking:

What did you like?

What didn’t you like?

Is it marketable?

What made you stop reading?

What sparked your interest?

What market could my work fit into?

Mainly, however, listen to what they have to say.

On to how I met the other agents: 

After seminars and discussions, you may sometimes have time to talk with the panelists. If you have a chance do so. Allow an agent to place a name to a face. What I found best in interactions was to first to discuss something I liked in their panel. Do not fake it, but truly find something you liked. Personally, I wouldn’t immediately go up to an agent and begin to pitch your book. I find that rather rude. Start and open friendly conversation, first. Then if they’re not other people in line or they don’t look in a hurry, ask them what genres they represent. If they represent your genre you may tell them you’ll submit or they’ll ask you to submit, as was my case. Agent-author relationships don’t only come down to a great piece of writing, but if they actually want to work with you.

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