1. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    Agent Hunt - pitching at a conference

    Discussion in 'Agent Discussion' started by BayView, Jul 13, 2017.

    I don't know anyone who got an agent by pitching at a conference, but I know there are some WF members who think this is a good way to go. And if you're going to a conference anyway, I can see how pitching to an agent in person might be kinda fun! So, for what it's worth, I found this article interesting...

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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Thanks for posting that. I think she hit several points that were extremely worthwhile. She makes it quite clear that VERY few people actually gain an agent from a pitch at a conference. However, unlike online submissions via query letter, the pitch conference gives the writer a chance to get valuable personal feedback from an agent. That can prove extremely helpful in the long run. Especially if the writer adopts a businesslike attitude, is prepared to work with an agent to make necessary changes to their work and has a realistic expectation of what 'success' will mean.

    I think if you go to a pitch conference to learn about the industry, rather than with an expectation of your own work getting picked up via a pitch, that's probably the best attitude to take. You'll come out a winner, even if your actual pitch isn't successful.

    She was right to warn that a verbal request to send an MS does not necessarily indicate the level of interest from the agent that authors hope it does. That's the part of the pitch conference deal that doesn't seem quite kosher to me.

    If an agent asks for a submission because they are truly interested—and would have done the same if they'd received the pitch in a query letter instead—that's great.

    However, if they're doing it simply because the conference organisers expect them to ask for a number of submissions—which helps to sell the concept of pitch conferences—then that gets a writer's hopes up for nothing. I don't know if that's how all pitch conferences run, but Friedman hints that this does happen. She says that sometimes agents ask for a submission just to be 'polite.' And the writer goes away elated, thinking, 'Hey, I've cracked it. They're interested in me!' That's kind of sad, really—considering the writer has paid quite a large sum of money in hopes of jumping the queue.

    When I looked into pitch conferences some time ago, with a view to maybe attending one myself, I was taken aback at how expensive they are. Given Friedman's own assessment, that the pitch conference success rate is roughly equivalent to the success rate via normal submissions, you have to think about why agents choose to participate in these. After all, they could just be sitting in their offices fielding query letters, with just as much chance of finding the right client.

    So why put themselves through the hassle of face-to-face pitches? Because they get paid to be at the conference, that's why. It's a source of income for them. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and I'm sure many of them hope they'll find a good client fit. (As long as they are actually able to take on new clients.) But to pretend to be interested in a newbie's work simply because that's part of their job at conference? I don't think that's quite fair, if that's what happens.

    Having said that, I think it would be a lot of fun to attend a conference. Spending time with other writers and learning about the business is always worth while. Maybe that's the real value of pitch conferences. Go in expecting to land an agent, and you're likely to be disappointed. If you go in expecting to learn about the business and get feedback on your work, even if nothing else results from the contacts you make you'll have a good experience.
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  3. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

    Aug 12, 2011
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    Just to expand on what Jannert said I've been to a writer's conference where you could pitch your work to an agent and it was pretty fun. I didn't pitch myself--at that time I'd only just finished my first ever book and I didn't intend on publishing it--but I got to chat to the agents and some newly published authors too. It was informative and I got a sense of what agents are looking for. They were also very keen to explain that they weren't ruthless but actually lovers of books and that's why they're in the job they do, but of course they have to be tough because the market's tough. Like all things with writing, it's all another string to your bow, but not necessarily the end result. I'd say go in with questions and soak up as much as you can but Jannert's right that very few people will succeed in submitting anything at these conferences.
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  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Jul 7, 2016
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    I had a chance to pitch an agent and an editor when I took a writing class in NYC several years ago. I think this face-to-face pitching thing was still pretty new. It was kind of scary and kind of fun. The agent had no interest in me or my work, but the editor (from one of the big publishers) did. We continued to correspond for several months. I sent in chapters, got feedback, sent in rewrites. It didn't work out for me, but I do believe the editor had genuine interest. I don't think this editor would have even responded any sort of pitch from me any other way. It definitely gives you a shot at something, maybe. I would do it again if I happen to be someplace where it's offered. However, I'm more interested in writing conferences like Tin House and Bread Loaf. You can make connections at those kind of conferences too. I just think it's done a little differently.
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