Just got back from my first writer's conference here in NYC. Created and sponsored by the Backspace http://www.bksp.org/, an amazing online writer's community I was lucky enough to find a couple of months back, it was a great baptismal into the world of writer conferences. In addition to meeting some fellow writers, the conference drew a wealth of high-profile agents for their many panels, seminars, and workshops. Though I'm not sure how long Backspace has been up and running, it's been long enough to grab some great endorsements from these agents, who not only join in on the conferences, but often times join in the online forum discussions, as well as participating in online chat sessions. Simply a great place for a writer to be because of the support and honesty and generosity of all that participate in the site (from administrators to members).
Okay, now that I've tooted Backspace's horn (which I'll most likely do often on this blog), let's get to the conference itself. In this post I'll talk about day one with the other two days to follow. The first day was the most anticipated for me as it was their "Agent/Author" day, where we writers got to sit in a room with the agents and read them our queries (our pitch letters for our books) in the morning session and then the first two pages of our books in the afternoon session. From what I hear, many of these writer's conferences have "pitch session" set-ups, which can be daunting for author and agent alike, sort of a speed-dating set up where the author moves from agent to agent with only a short amount of time to "pitch" them their book. Well, Backspace devised a much more "friendly" and helpful version of this set-up by deeming it a workshop where the agents are there to critique the queries and the initial pages rather than just say "yes" or "no": much more helpful for all involved. What this set-up allowed was for the writers to get professional feedback and for the agents to help teach us how to create a proper query letter which will hopefully save them the task of having to slog through poorly written letters later on. Win-Win, I tell ya!!
Well, I've been querying since February 5, 2009, to date I have sent 48 letters out, gotten 18 rejections, 5 requests for partials (the first 50 pages) and 1 request for the full manuscript. Not horrible reaction but certainly not the instant recognition I was sure I would get (we writers are rather delusional for the most part, hence why we write). Therefore, I went into this first day of the conference will little confidence in my query letter, which I've revised more times than I can count in the past 4 months. Well, much to my surprise, I got an amazing response from the agents! From the morning session, 3 of the 6 agents who heard my query requested me to send them my work (2 partials and 1 full). Needless to say, I was over the moon. My query isn't bad at all, in fact, it's rather well written and constructed! Who knew?
A big sigh of relief and on to the second part of the day: the reading of the first 2 pages of the manuscript. Now, I've been writing and revising this manuscript literally for years, but quite a bit in the past 6 months. Actually, just a week ago I completely switched chapters 1 and 2, so the tweaking and all out revising has been going on up until the day before the conference. Again, the response was tremendous! Not only did all the agents say that the writing was very good and beautiful, 3 of the 6 agents (completely different agents from the morning session, by the way) also requested me to send them my work! So 6 out of 12 agents requested more material! Amazing response. More than I could have hoped for. I am beyond ecstatic, though I know it's just stepping stones, it's still amazing. A complete success for me and well worth the money I ponied up, which wasn't too cheap.
The next two days were the panels and seminars, which I'll leave for the next two posts. Until then, I'll be seeing you on cloud 9.