My Experience At My First Writer's Conference

Benefits of a Writer's Conference


Some may have noticed that I have not been posting a lot of hubs in the past year. The cute cupcakes and crafty things have fell by the wayside. It isn't because I haven't wanted to: I love hubbing. But about a year ago, I started writing my first novel. It may just be me, but I found it to be overwhelming in taking up time. I had to do a lot of studying right along with imagining to come up with a 97,000-word narrative. It's finished, just a touch more editing.

Attending a Writer's Conference


As a first-time novelist, of course, I read all the tips and tricks I could get my hands on. And attending a writer's conference was a strong suggestion. Being the southern hick that I am, I figured one would have to fly to New York, Los Angeles or some other such metropolis to attend one. But after investigating, I discovered that the Atlanta Writer's Club offers a writer's conference twice a year.

"That's doable," I thought. I could get there in an hour or so. And with the money I saved on airfare, I could stay in the hotel for the night and be on-site for the two-day event. So May 8-9, Mother's Day weekend, I set out to attend my first writer's conference. I hope through sharing my experience, I can offer give an insight to what it was like.

Kinds of Writer's Conferences


As far as I have seen, there are basically two different kinds of writer's conferences. There's the "speed dating" kind, sometimes called pitch slams like the popular pitchapalooza thing. This concept is a sort of American Idol type model where you have just a minute or so to throw your novel idea out to agents at the conference.

The other kind of writer's conference hooks you up with one or two pitches for 10 minutes. Additionally, manuscript and query letter edits from 10 to 15 minutes are offered. Mini- seminars and a couple of Q and A panels are thrown in, sometimes at an extra cost. You can also choose to eliminate some of the other components, like the pitch, for a reduced price.

There is an advantage to both kinds: with the speed-dating sort, you get less time (something like 90 seconds) but you get to pitch to a larger number of agents. The other way gives you just one pitch, usually, but you have more one-on-one time with them.

The writer's conference I attended for the first time was a sort of "mix and match" deal. I went all out and got the whole shebang for $400 dollars. I didn't think that was a bad deal. I had access to two Q and A panels and six mini-seminars, a query letter critique, one 10-minute pitch, and a 15-minute manuscript-synopsis critique. It didn't include the price of the room, but I did get a discount and spent the night in a really nice room for around $100 bucks. This room would probably be $300 dollars in NYC. But it was the "Big Peach" not the "Big Apple." For some reason, inflation seems to hit the south at a slower rate. And if anyone can explain that to me, you are an economic expert in my opinion.















The Query Critique

The query letter seemed to be the most troublesome for everyone at the conference. I heard more than one opinion that the novel was easier to write than the query letter. And we all know how important the almighty query is. It is ultimately the key that can lead to getting published.

There are three parts to the query letter: the introduction with a hook, , the story summary, and the bio. Writing four or five sentences to summarize your 347-page novel can drive you crazy. You must start with an "elevator pitch " or a story premise and then expand on that. I think the example that helped me most was something like A wealthy man falls in love with the hooker he hired for a business trip. (Pretty Woman)

In the introduction, you must tell the agent the title of your book, the genre, and the word count. You must do your research and only query agents that represent your genre and are taking on new clients. It helps if you can make a personal connection like "I enjoyed hearing you speak at ..., your article, blog or whatever. The second paragraph talks about your book, and the third is a brief bio.

I had read a couple of articles that if you weren't a published author, you didn't need to include a bio. An exception being if your job was related to the story, like maybe a crime thriller and you are a policeman or lawyer.

I'm a retired special education teacher, which has diddly squat to do with my tale. Since a query letter can only be a page long, I decided to leave it off and tell more about my story. But the two agents who critiqued my query letter insisted that I should say something about myself like freelance writer, blogger, etc. "And the middle paragraph is too heavy with subplot points," they said. "Stick with the main premise and what happens to the characters."

So it was back to the room and the drawing board to execute a new query letter to print out in the hotel's business center.

The Manuscript and Synopsis Critique

Upon signing up for the conference, I was to write a query letter to an assigned agent and submit it to the conference director along with a synopsis and the first few pages of my manuscript. The deal was that the synopsis be three to five pages long. This, along with the query letter and the first few pages of the story was to be no more than 21 pages.

I tried to whittle my synopsis down as much as I could, but ended up with five pages. That would limit my manuscript by two whole pages. The synopsis is too long, and I am still trying to cut it to 2-3 pages. Not an easy task. But of each of the three sessions, I got the most helpful feedback at the 15-minute long manuscript critique. I suspect she didn't even read the synopsis, and I can say I didn't blame her. She helped me decide to make my second chapter my first one and the first the second with tips on how to do so.

The Pitch

This is where things got confusing. I was all ready to discuss my story in a way that showed confidence and without sounding as if I had memorized the 90-second pitch, leaving room for her to say something like "that sounds interesting, tell me more."

But when I sat down outside the room assigned to me, my timekeeper asked for a copy of my query letter and took it in one minute before my 10-minute time slot began. Since the manuscript critique had started with my query letter, this would be query letter critique number three. And this agent said I need more details in that pesky second paragraph I had cut down.


Final Thoughts on my First Writer's Conference

I learned a good bit and made some good contacts. I can now send in a few queries and begin with something like "I enjoyed hearing you speak at the Atlanta Writer's conference last May" or something personalized like that.

All of them said I had a very good story premise which gives me a lot of confidence in sending my work out. The agent that critiqued my manuscript praised the way I wrote dialogue. I know this is one of the skills agents and editors look at first. I also made some contacts for local critique groups. Ninety percent of the writers I met were local people. The cost included a year's membership in the Atlanta Writer's Club, and they have monthly meetings, speakers, and activities.

I almost canceled this first conference, because the agents I really wanted to pitch to were already out of time slots. The one I ended up with actually didn't represent women's fiction, my genre. If you are considering attending a writer's conference, my advice is to sign up early so that you can pick the agents you want AFTER researching the agents/editors that will be there.

I'm glad I went though, because after I diffuse all the advice about how to write my query letter, hopefully it will be at its best for sending out to lots and lots of agents.

One of the agents who spoke likened the query letter to someone browsing in a book store. You begin by reading the summary on the back of the book jacket. If it sounds like something you might like, you read the first few sentences, then more, and then you make the decision as to whether or not to buy the book. Sound familiar?

Now I'm off to get unconfused and compose the best query letter I can. Then I'm going to relax and maybe make some cute cupcakes. I was thinking maybe some that look like ladybugs.



Pitching a Novel

More by this Author


Comments 82 comments

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great hub, Rebecca. I've attended my first local writer's conference a little over a month ago. Check out my writers conference hub, too. Queries is misspelled though. Voted up for useful and insightful!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

So cool! I'm so happy you were able to attend the conference. I'll bet you found it invaluable. Now you've got me hungry for the next one in Seattle. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Kristen. I will!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

That's good. Go for it! Thanks for commenting.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Thanks Rebecca. You're welcome. Billy, go for it!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Oh, how interesting, Rebecca, and exciting for you and your novel! I have wondered where you have been. I think I could make it to Atlanta too. Hmm, may check it out, but have to finish a novel first LOL.

Ladybug cupcakes sound perfect.

Up +++ tweeting, pinning and sharing

Love your photo there too.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Faith. You sweet girl! I've missed you too. I think the next ATL conference may be in October. It would be awesome to see you there!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Oh, yes, that would be awesome, Rebecca, but I have to have my novel finished, right? ...


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 18 months ago from The Beautiful South

So interesting and I wish you would give us a little hint of what your book is about! I got so put out with query letters I just gave up, glad you have grit to stick with it and wish you all the luck in the world! I know you have been having fun; I was never so fulfilled as the days I spent writing novels! I still have one unfinished I would like to finish more for fun than any other reason.

Up and sharing. (Did you mean 347-pages up there instead of words under Query Critique?)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yes, I did. Thanks, Jackie. Finish that novel!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

No, there were people there not finished. You can still pitch your idea. I did have to have a synopsis. Thanks, Faith.


Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 18 months ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Rebecca,

Like you I have been missing quite a bit here but for different reasons. Your article was so interesting to hear what actually goes on at a writers conference. It is exciting to hear you are writing a novel but I am sure your other works have been missed, you are very talented! Thanks again and look forward to hearing from you soon!!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

Great hub!

Your experiences at the writer's conference is quite enlightening. I had attended one few years back but not lately.

Glad to hear that you are writing a novel. Wish you all the best.

Thanks for this interesting and informative hub! Voted up!


PurvisBobbi44 profile image

PurvisBobbi44 18 months ago from Florida

Hi,

What a great experience for you to attend a writers conference. I am happy you are writing a novel and I wish you the best on being a published author.

I hope to hear more about your book on HubPages when it is published.

Bobbi Hunter


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 18 months ago

I had heard of several of these concepts such as the elevator pitch. It is interesting to see how they work together.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 18 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Good for you. I had such a bad experience with my only effort to get involved in a writers group (other then HP) that I've shied away from them even though I'm about to start my sixth book.

I suspect advice on writing the perfect query letter is like advice on writing the perfect resume. It entirely depends on the preference of the individual who is reading it. And how do you find that out - with a crystal ball? I'm going to check out this group though, thanks to your detailed hub. I'm just over the Chattahoochee from the "Big Peach"!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Susie. You are a sweetie.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, I am glad you found it informative!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks! I hope so. I am trying.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks for stopping by, poetryman.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It is kind of scary, Kathleen. The dues were included in the price of the conference. I haven't been to any meetings yet. I think there might be another conference in ATL in October. Go!


sallybea profile image

sallybea 18 months ago from Norfolk

rebeccamealey

Very interesting and well done on writing your book.

You have more courage than I have, don't think I would have found that easy.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks! It was nerve-rattling, but I want to try to get published really badly!


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 18 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Rebecca, I feel your pain. Same here. I hope to make it happen in the 2015-2016 timeframe.


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 18 months ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Reading this hub brought back some memories of the Wesleyan College writer's conference I attended back in 2012. Like you, I experienced a mix of emotions; they were both discouraging and encouraging. Looks like you beat me to the punch on writing about attending a writer's conference. I think all of us should all attend one given the opportunity. Cheers.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 18 months ago from Oklahoma

I really need to try the writers conferences available.

Very useful article.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I know just what you mean, Dohn. Thanks!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I'm glad I inspired you. Don't be afraid. Go for it!


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 18 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

I think if writing's what you do best and like it, keep doing it. I voted up.

Blessings to you.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 18 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This hub is both very useful and interesting, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck with your book.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks. I need those blessings, Rachel. I am glad you liked this, Alicia.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Oh, really, Rebecca, that is interesting! Hmm, well at least one can get advance feedback. Do you think it is even worth attending a conference when your novel is not finished or better to wait until a time closer to being finished or really done?

Thank you for your thoughts.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I think wait until you are "done". If you're like me, you will then go home and revise again for the hundredth time.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 18 months ago from southern USA

Yes, that is what I am thinking too, for one can't revise something that is not written LOL.

I appreciate you, Rebecca.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

You're an awesome writer, Faith


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 18 months ago

I feel as if one of these days that I should attend a writer's conference, in order to gain knowledge and different perspectives from other writers. Thanks for the hub. Best of wishes.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

It was helpful. Go! Thanks for commenting.


Anne Harrison profile image

Anne Harrison 18 months ago from Australia

An interesting hub. I found my first writer's conference vaguely depressing, so I'm glad you had a far more positive experience. Voted up


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Anne!


melissae1963 profile image

melissae1963 18 months ago from Tennessee, United States

Congratulations on getting it all done and enjoying your first conference.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, melissae!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

Congratulations on finishing that novel and thank you for sharing your insights and experience on the writers conference. I've never attended one.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

You are welcome! I hope you found this useful!


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 18 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

The whole thing sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but I suppose that's the way a lot of agents do things these days. Good luck with your novel. Great Hub. Voted up;.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Ha Ha. A little. But It was fun too.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 18 months ago from North Texas

I think this is a great article. Lots of people must be wondering what exactly happens at a writer's conference and whether or not it would be beneficial to attend. I think you cleared up a lot of people's questions. I actually didn't know what their purpose was myself, and so this article is very enlightening.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks! It was good just to be among a bunch of writers. I'm gonna go once a year!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 18 months ago from Germany

That is a very interesting conference. I hope I can go to a writers conference too. Thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck to your novel.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Thelma. I hope you do too!


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 18 months ago from Orlando Florida

I've gone to a few writers conference. I don't have a novel to pitch, but I enjoy the lectures about writing. I enjoy meeting the other attendees. I consider it my vacation. I just go to a local one held in Lake Mary Florida and hosted by the Florida Writer's Association. Voted up and I, U.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Ooooh. I will have to look into that one. That would make a nice trip.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 18 months ago from Orlando Florida

It's in October every year. You will find it on The Florida Writers Association website.


ezzly profile image

ezzly 18 months ago

Wonderfully written and useful, voted up and sharing on twitter, love the refernce to "speed dating" kind of writers :)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Oh, thanks for that share! And I am glad you found this useful!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 18 months ago from Orlando, FL

I followed your conference updates on FB, I'm glad you had a successful and entertaining time! Best of luck with your novel! :))


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 18 months ago from Oakley, CA

Sounds very interesting, and a good opportunity as well. I'm glad you were able to go; even a $50 fee with zero travel for a local event would be prohibitive on my budget.

It also sounds as if it was somewhat confusing; that you got some contradictory advice. That would mess with my head, big time. I already struggle with making decisions and second-guessing myself, without having others throwing in additional options that contradict each other. LOL

Thanks very much for sharing your experience. Voted up, interesting and useful. Best wishes for a successful publication..and who knows--bestseller? Fingers crossed for you.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 18 months ago from Oakley, CA

P.S. After watching the video, which I did not do prior to making my original comment, I know I could make her original 2-sentence intro into a single sentence without eliminating any of the information in what began as the second sentence. ;-)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, girlie, and I too have seen Sunshine Haiku. Proud of my HP Bud!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yeah, it was confusing, but I got a lot out of it. Oh, and thanks for the "fingers crossed."


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yeah, LOL. She's a young thing, but I thought she was cute, so I added her video.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 18 months ago from Orlando, FL

TY! I have been working on three books at once...my head is spinning, it was time to publish, I was a bit nervous but got over it. You will be great! :))


Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen Swan 18 months ago from County Durham

Hi Rebecca, Thank you for suggesting the Glass Castle; I am reading and loving it. As to writers conferences, thus far I have found them a bit daunting. My search method right now is a basic google search for "currently accepting manuscripts". Best of luck with a struggle - I've been through it.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 18 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Colleen. A great tip. I'm glad you are enjoying the Glass Castle.


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 17 months ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Some very useful advice and info here Rebecca. I'd be interested to learn just how you view your novel right now, whether or not you've altered it in any way?

Writing a novel is one thing, selling and pitching another!

Voted up and sharing as useful for would be novelists.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 17 months ago from sunny Florida

How very exciting this must be for YOU. I totally get why you have not been here...your hands obviously have been and remain quite full juggling the ins and outs of novel writing.

Someday.....

I have been to writer's conferences but only to find out what its all about.No novel has been produced by me yet. Someday....

Thanks for sharing this up close and personal look at your experience Please let us know when your novel will be published

Angels are headed your way bringing many blessings.

Voted up++++


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 16 months ago from California

Very interesting account! This year I also attended a Writers Conference for the first time, in San Diego. But my experience was very different because I was there to meet with my co-authors, enjoy some drinks with lunch and take some photos for the FB page. Now that I know the kinds of things that are offered, I want to go again and sign up for all the seminars, and just learn as much as I can! Thanks for sharing, and good luck with your novel :)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 16 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, kalinin!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 16 months ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I just emailed a neighbor of mine with a link to one hub I just read about editing. Will be sending this to him as well as he just wrote his first novel. Will share with HP readers as well. This sounds like there is a lot to learn about becoming a successful author and actually getting your work out there in public.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 16 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Peggy. I hope it helps, and you are right, it is a lot of work!


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 16 months ago from Peru, South America

I've always wanted to attend a writer's conference. How nice to get feedback on your query letter, too. Congratulations on finishing your first novel!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 15 months ago from California

I have never attended a writery's conference, but it sounds like this was helpful for you--please keep us in the loop in your process--very helpful!! And good luck!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 15 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Thanks, Audrey. I will.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 15 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Attending any of the monthly meetings? When I first saw your photo for this one, I thought you were a guest speaker because I know the quality of your work here on HP. The rest was a visit to your Mother's Day spent among folks who organize and run these things, but provided some insights and guidance on the process you are into. Good details, and well written as always.

Wishing you all the best success you so richly deserve, author.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 15 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

How sweet! I have enjoyed knowing you in this community and love your haikus!


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 15 months ago from london

Nice one, Rebecca.

I really like it. An invaluable experience for sure. All great stuff. I will go down the Path of Vanity Publishers next time, but it is quite cool trying to and getting work from traditional Publishers. Glad you realised that agents can differ in their views. Much Peace.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 11 months ago from England

Great hub Rebecca, I have never attended one before, but years ago I did belong to a writers club, we didn't learn much, but it was fun, one of these days I will get that book going, lol! have a wonderful Christmas!


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 10 months ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Thanks for this great article. Very informative.

I'm glad to learn from your experience.

Namaste


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 10 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I'm glad, Deborah. You're welcome!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 3 months ago from Western NC

You've written a novel!?!? How'd I miss that!? Is it up on Amazon?!

Aside from that, CONGRATULATIONS!

And..let's see. I've never been to a writer's conference. I should go sometime, haha.

I actually do like going to conferences, for the most part: you get so many ideas and meet like-minded people, so long as it's relevant, right? (In that I mean I went to a conference for "After school" stuff in the Spring and quite enjoyed it. :)


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 2 months ago from Georgia

First of all, congrats on finishing your novel. That takes tenacity, determination and hard work.

My first writer's conference was the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta. I found it to be extremely informative, with valuable how-to workshops and meet the author sessions along with opportunities to meet with agents if you signed up in time. There were also tons of free books available as authors distributed their new (and sometimes old) work.

Authors and would be authors were attending from all over the world. Most of them that I spoke with attended this conference every year. Unfortunately, the conference dates usually conflict with another conference I attend each year and I haven't been able to return.

I am going to look into the conference you attended and hope that one is scheduled for this fall.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Take care.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

Yes, I am actually on my second novel, Cyndi, but, no, I am not going to self-publish for a variety of reasons. And no, the first one has not made it....yet.Thanks for reading!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA Author

I'm glad you went to the RWA in Atlanta. I end up having romance in my novels, but funny thing is, they really don't qualify as romances!

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