Workarounds–Up Close and Personal

Wendy Lawton

Blogger:  Wendy Lawton

Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office

Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.

Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.

Workaround: Meet the agent in person. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Agents attend writer’s conferences to meet new writers. The good conferences give us plenty of time to connect with writers. Mount Hermon is one of my favorites. In addition to the appointments we schedule, we share nine or ten meals with writers. Those relationships forged around a table of eight are the basis for many a professional relationship.

Other writer’s conferences have a system of fifteen-minute appointments you can set with an agent or editor. These are not as relaxed, but it’s still face time. Sometimes it takes a number of different face-to-face meetings until your target agent decides he can’t live without you, but there is something about that real-time connecting that overshadows the traditional methods.

Caveat: Don’t try to arrange a face-to-face outside of a conference. In this day of stalkers and the few angry writers, not to mention a schedule that barely allows time for professional meetings,  no agent is going to schedule face time with a stranger. Conferences are where we are relaxed and available.

You can find conferences listed in the back of the Christian Writer’s Market Guide and online by Googling “Writing Conferences.” Or ask fellow writers.

And as we talk about conferences today, I can’t help but think of all our friends heading for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Indianapolis. At Books & Such we’re busting our buttons with all the clients we have up for awards:

Genesis Awards

  • Michelle Ule
  • Lori Benton

Carol Awards

  • Jill Eileen Smith– Debut Author Category
  • Liz Johnson– Debut Author Category
  • Christina Berry– Long Contemporary Category
  • Laura Frantz– Long Historical Romance Category
  • Kathleen Y’Barbo– Long Historical Romance Category
  • Ann Gabhart– Long Historical Romance Category
  • Virginia “Ginny” Smith– Short Contemporary Suspense Category (2 books)
  • DiAnn Mills– Suspense Category
  • Julie Carobini–Women’s Fiction Category
  • Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay– Women’s Fiction Category

Isn’t that exciting? But now it’s your turn: How have conferences moved your writing career forward?

9 Responses

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  1. Wendy says:

    So cool you are busting your buttons for your writers in celebration!

    This will be my first time at ACFW. Maybe I’ll meet some of the fine folks you listed above.

    Have a great weekend.
    ~ Wendy

  2. Lynn Dean says:

    When my husband challenged me to get serious about my long-held dream to write fiction, the ACFW conference was six weeks and a two-hour drive away, so I signed up.

    I could not have taken a better first step. At times I felt like I’d wrapped my lips around a fire hydrant, but I came away well-watered. In three days I:
    -Received the equivalent of Fiction 101
    -Made numerous new friends with common passions
    -Met my first mentor
    -Encountered a Books & Such agent and learned about this excellent and instructive blog
    -Met an editor who encouraged me to write three chapters and send them

    That conference not only moved my writing career forward, it catapulted me. 🙂

  3. Sue Harrison says:

    All the writers conferences I have attended have fed my enthusiasm and forged connections with wonderful encouragers.

  4. It’s good to learn that writing is still a people business and going to a writer’s conference is where you’ll meet some extraordinary folks.

    As for agents & editors. Don’t worry. They won’t bite. (Except when eating their meals).

    Mount Hermon is such an annointed place in my mind, and is where I built relationships I believe will last a lifetime.

  5. Put on my big-girl heels and went to my first SCBWI conference last year. So amazing. As a result, joined a talented critique group and sent out a manuscript. Highly recommend! Though, flats are a better shoe choice. 🙂

  6. janetgrant says:

    Samantha, so your point is to attend a conference well-heeled? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Actually, that tidbit is worth it’s weight in gold. Be sure to dress appropriately for the conference you attend,and just know, regardless which conference it is, that you’re likely to walk long distances–sometimes in mammoth hotels.

  7. Rick Barry says:

    Wendy, thanks too for mentioning that sometimes it takes several meetings before the author/agent relationship can click. I’m afraid that some of our newer writers head to their first appointment with thumping hearts and the fear that this 15 minutes will make or break their writing careers. That’s silly, of course. Better to relax, trust God to forge the relationship IF it will be good for both parties, and then simply to enjoy talking about your manuscript. Even if you learn that the agent isn’t interested in that story, enjoy a chance to glean some advice from a pro in the industry!

  8. Attending writers conferences has been critical in moving my career forward.
    I first attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference 5 years ago with a briefcase full of proposals and dreams of bidding wars over my brilliant work…Ha!
    I left the conference with lots of good advice for developing my writing skills, and suggestions to initially focus on magazine markets.
    I continued to attend the FCWC each year, my portfolio of published magazine articles steadily increasing. I also have 20 short stories published in anthologies – including 14 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
    Finally, in 2009, I pitched a book proposal for a devotional that was well-received by several editors, and also pitched a proposal for a children’s book series – also well-received by an editor.
    Fast-forward to today: my first book releases Oct. 1 with Revell, and the first 2 books in the children’s series release in January with Standard Publishing.
    And this next year I’ll be teaching 2 workshops on how to write for anthologies!
    Woo-hoo for writers conferences!

  9. in 1980 God put his foot in the middle of my back and said “go.” thanks to my mother’s offer to pay my way, and a county clerks permission to skip jury duty, I attended a four day writers conference at Warner Pacific College in Portland OR. Talk about an eye opening four days, but I came away from that knowing even more surely that I wanted to write horse books for girls. I am absolutely convinced conferences are the best training we can get and THE place to meet editors and agents and other writers who can become mentors. Each conference has its own personality and way of doing things, so attending various conferences is a good thing. Invest in yourself and your career.