Why Do Agents Attend Writers Conferences?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

I just bought my plane tickets for my trip up to Seattle for the Northwest Christian Writers’ Renewal Conference in April! I’m excited to get to be a part of their conference this year. I went to this conference for the first time the year before last and enjoyed it.

Obviously, agents go to writers’ conferences to meet potential clients, but are there reasons beyond the obvious, too? YES!

Here are a few of the other reasons I like to attend writers conferences:

1) I attend conferences to help authors learn about publishing and what agents do. I usually teach one or two workshop,s and I’m available for appointments–not only for pitches, but also to help answer questions that authors might have.

2) I always enjoy gathering with fellow bibliophiles and worshiping God with other Christians. The worship time at many Christian conferences is a highlight for me. And worshiping surrounded by people who love books is a small slice of heaven.

3) I take time during conferences to talk with the editors who are also there on faculty. It’s a great time for us to connect face-to-face to discuss projects that are in the works, find out what the editors are looking to acquire, and discuss projects that I have to pitch that might be of interest.

4) I like to take the time at conferences to connect with my clients who are also at the conference. At larger conferences where there are many clients gathered, we’ll host a get-together for all of our agency clients to meet and mingle. I try to fit in one-on-one time with each client, too.

What are some reasons you like to attend writers’ conferences?

What conference are you attending next?

54 Responses

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  1. I’m hoping to attend ACFW in St. Louis next year, as my first.

    When I was an academic I loved speaking at conferences – I generally had at least three talks scheduled. Public speaking is one of the true, unfettered joys of life.

    It’s too early in my career to even think about speaking at a writers’ conference, but I can dream.

  2. I’ve never been to a conference but would love to.

    Have the role of editors changed? Is it hard to acquire an editor these days? Are they particular about the projects they work on? (I know nothing about this … grin.)

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Shelli, if you can swing it, I recommend ACFW. Just imagine all the great people you long to meet, and then more. Excellent classes and fellowship. Totally perfect for networking and building relationships.

      • Yes, that’s why I want to go. Just joined the membership. Wish there was one in Texas! I want to think there was recently … but I didn’t know anything about it at that time. I’m going to get there though … would love to meet you!

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Acquisitions editors are all looking for different things for their publishing houses. Great writing and a strong platform go a long way to help sell a book.

      I am not sure if I can pinpoint a way that the editor roles have changed as of late.

      It is hard to get an editor or agent–even if your writing is very good–just due to the number of people writing and the few slots available for books that can be released each year.

  3. Jill Kemerer says:

    Sounds like a wonderful conference, and you can’t beat the location! I love conferences. I always learn a lot and make new friends. What’s not to like about that? Have fun!

  4. Last year’s ACFW was my very first writer’s conference. It worked out sorta flamingly awesome for me.
    Not what you might think.

    The night before I left for Indy, I laid my hands on all my one sheets and business cards and sample chapters and gave it all to Jesus. Everything. Then I opened Facebook and saw a message from our daughter.

    Our beloved prodigal, of 5 years, asked to come home.
    Home. Not just crash on a couch, but come back to start over. To find sanctuary from years of bad choices. To have her daddy stand in the gap with the unruly ex-boyfriend.


    Do you know what it’s like to walk to the proverbial gate every day, and wait? Wait for a glimpse of her? To beg, BEG, God for mercy. For protection over her?

    No sooner than I gave all my writing, all my efforts, ALL my plans, HE turned around and gave me the desire of my heart.

    Not my writing.

    My daughter.

    I will never forget telling people that whatever happened at ACFW was fine with me, because our prodigal was at the gate, finally. Anything else was just icing.


    Then He gave me the blessing of Mary Keeley, offering representation.

  5. I have attended a couple smaller conferences and two ACFW’s. I love the atmosphere, the vibrancy at conferences.

    I love connecting with other writers and learning from those teaching the workshops. The last two key note speakers (Michael Hyatt and Robin Jones Gunn) were also pretty incredible for me. It’s fun to meet people I interact with online and to hear their voices, get to know them better.

    The main conference I’ll attend this year will be ACFW. I’m looking forward to it!

  6. Those are great reasons, Rachel! I’ve attended ACFW twice. I mostly went to network and to pitch to editors. I plan to attend ACFW this year, and this time, as a Bookie! 🙂 I’m also attending a smaller writing retreat next week that will be intense but so good. The purpose of this one is to really dig into my book and learn, learn, learn!

  7. Yay! I’ll see you there Rachel. My sister-in-law and I go to this conference together every year. It’s not just a time of learning and hoping for our writing. It’s girl time. We buy new clothes and drink coffee and laugh and possibly cry together as we get rejected at pitch sessions…again. But did I mention the new clothes? Makes up for all the rejections. Good good times. Since my avatar might confuse you, I’ll be looking less like a large slobbery dog in a tiara and more like a short blond in a new hat. So glad that those on the other end of publishing love conferences too, this is always a highlight of our year.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Be sure to find me and say, “hi”! I have no idea what I’ll be wearing, but I won’t be pregnant this year like I was the last time I was there. 🙂 Maybe I’ll get some new clothes before heading there too. Sounds like a great idea.

      I believe we spoke last time I was up at the conference, right? During lunch? Your name seems very familiar–from the blog, yes, but I do believe we met.

      • Yep,
        We did meet. I pitched to you and my sister-in-law came to observe and tell me what I did wrong later. We talked about babies a lot as you were expecting. So excited to see you there again this year.

  8. I hope to attend Mount Hermon this year. Attending the last two years really opened my eyes to the realities of the publishing world, and gave me the opportunity to meet some talented, and compassionate people.

  9. Sarah Sundin says:

    Why do I love conferences? Let me count the ways…

    1) Top-notch learning!
    2) Getting to know agents & editors as people, plus hearing what they’re really looking for.
    3) Meeting writers who are ahead of you on the publishing path and learning from them.
    4) Meeting writers at the same point of the pathway as you – for friendship, crit groups, support.
    5) Mentoring or encouraging those who are just coming onto the pathway (I love this part!)
    6) Hanging out with people who GET you!
    7) Opportunities for professional-level critiques and/or submissions straight to editors/agents.

    I’m a huge fan of the Mount Hermon Writers Conference (all of the above – plus redwoods!), ACFW, and smaller local conferences. I owe my entire career to Mount Hermon! I attended for five years, learning, submitting, receiving crits & rejections – and support and encouragement. My contract with Revell resulted from a submission at Mount Hermon. Then I immediately contacted Books & Such, because all those years getting to know the agents at Mount Hermon had put this agency at the absolute top of my list.

    So yes, conferences are worth every penny! Save and go!

    • Building on #5 on Sarah’s list, I have to say she’s a fantastic mentor. She’s encouraged me countless times and soothingly talked me off a few anxious ledges. One thing I love about Christian writing conferences is seeing authors generously helping each other along the way. I went to a secular conference once and found it to be a little more cut-throat and competitive.

      • Judy Gann says:

        Jumping in with Karen and Amanda. I first met Sarah in the Career Track at Mount Hermon. Little did I know I’d have the blessing of being in a critique group with her a few years later when I started writing fiction. Her critiques and words of encouragement spur me on. What a gift.

        God’s used Mount Hermon along each step of my writing journey. Reconnected with my non-fiction editor and met my agent in person there, long before she became an agent.

        One of the greatest values of a writers conference is networking with other writers. Some of my dearest writing friends are writers I met at conferences.

        My favorite conference networking experience took place in the shuttle to Mount Hermon in 1999. Tricia Goyer (long before she was THE Tricia Goyer 🙂 ) sat next to me. She became a friend and, although young enough to be my daughter, a mentor, whose advice and guidance I treasure to this day.

        Rachel, I’m afraid I’ll be out of town when you’re in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in three years, I’ll be going ‘home’ to the Mount Hermon Conference. Can’t wait to see what God has planned for me this year.


    • Amanda Dykes says:

      I’m going to pop on and echo Karen’s sentiments. Sarah was one of the very first people to greet me my first time at Mount Hermon. She shared her warmth and wisdom so freely, her heart for people is such an example to me. Shortly thereafter, I met Karen in my mentoring/critique group, and was so blessed by her friendship and insight. Such joyous encounters, like these, make me grateful for conferences. 🙂

      • Rachel Kent says:

        🙂 I love Mount Hermon and I met many of my clients there.

        Janet and Wendy should be at Mount Hermon this year.

    • Sarah Sundin says:

      Karen, Judy, Amanda – you’re making me blush!!! (Which isn’t hard to do.) All three of you have become such dear blessings in my life – I treasure your friendships.

  10. I LOVE going to writers conferences! If I could afford it, I’d spend all my time going to conferences, and I’d probably never get any writing done. 😉

  11. I have to agree with you about the worship part. I have not yet gone to a non-Christian writers conference and at present don’t have plans to. Not because I think there is anything wrong with them. Just because if I’m going to spend the money on a conference, it’s most efficient to do it with a conference that gives me the Holy Spirit piece too. Not to mention, the music inspires me.

  12. I have to confess, I’m turning into a conference junkie! It’s a treat to go someplace where there are other people like me… you know the type. On my very first trip to Mount Hermon, I met Rachel–who eventually became my agent (hooray!). Much like Sarah Sundin said above, I owe almost everything I know about publishing to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I met my editor at the Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) Summer Conference. Sometimes it can be a little easier to get to get to know an editor/agent at a regional conference.

    I’m looking forward to Mount Hermon in April, and OCW in August. I haven’t decided about ACFW this year. I’ve enjoyed it the past three years, but scheduling-wise, it’s very close to a writer’s retreat I’m hoping to attend. 🙂

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I hope you are able to make it to that writers retreat! 🙂

      And I’d be a conference junkie again if I could manage to be away so much. For now, I have to limit myself until my family can do without me more often.

  13. Christine Dorman says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for sharing why you go to conferences. I hope that the conference in April is a wonderful experience for you.

    I haven’t been to a conference yet. It is on my to-do list for this year.

    Are you planning to go to any other conferences this year?

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I am only going to the one conference and to a writers retreat for clients. Because I have a young family I can’t be away as much right now.

      I’ll get back into the conference groove as soon as I can. I used to do 3 or 4 a year.

      • Christine Dorman says:

        You’re priorities are in the right place. God bless you!

      • Sarah Sundin says:

        Amen to what Christine said 🙂 When I cut back on my pharmacy hours after my oldest son was born – and took some flak about it – I told people, “Any number of people can be a good pharmacist. Only I can be Stephen’s mommy.” Treasure these mommy years!

  14. All good reasons, Rachel. I go to learn, and hang out with fellow bibilophles and writers. Haven’t decided which, but I want to attend a conference later this year.

  15. Huh? And I thought it was for the free food, the adoring fans and the free pens.

  16. Sherry Kyle says:

    Great topic, Rachel. God has given me so many gifts through attending writers conferences. I’m blessed to live only twenty minutes from Mount Hermon so that is one conference I will never miss! Besides meeting wonderful writing friends (waving at Sarah, Karen, Judy), he brought a wonderful writing mentor into my life. I also met my wonderful agents (Etta Wilson and Rachel Kent) at Mount Hermon as well as my editor from Abingdon Press. Like Sarah, I owe my whole writing career to Mount Hermon. If you’re on the fence whether you should come this year, please sign up! The worship alone is worth every penny.

  17. I think I’ll be attending that conference too, Rachel!

    I attend all of the Oregon Christian Writer’s conferences (I’m their media coordinator!) and I also love the Faith and Culture Writers Conference we have here in Portland.

    Hope I can catch up with you in Seattle! 🙂