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childeroland
04-25-2009, 03:15 AM
Sorry if this is the wrong forum. To anyone who's attended a writer's conference to meet agents -- what was the experience like? Positive, negative? How educational? Thanks.

GJB
04-25-2009, 03:47 AM
Have attended many.

And...my agent does even now, though she found me the old-fashioned way (query, partial, full, offer).

Carefully picked, they are very helpful for what to do, what not to do, how well your first pages sing or do not sing.

Sometimes they can land an agent, but the odds of that--in pure arithmetic terms--are very, very low.

They allow kindred spirits to mix and swap stories, literally too. Writing is very lonely.

They can motivate, can show directions not considered before, can allow you and others to measure your writing against others and against what's out there.

PM me if you're considering any on the West Coast. I've been to many out here. g.

Gillhoughly
04-25-2009, 06:30 AM
They can be mind-boggling expensive. Some romance conventions are REALLY expensive. The tab includes certain meals and parties, but just getting in the door can run to 3 figures + your hotel & travel. I blew about 2000.00 at one some years back, and though it was fun, I never made back that investment in booksales.

However, I learned a ton about writing going to far less expensive science fiction conventions. There are many more of those across the country than writing conferences.

Genre doesn't matter; writing is writing, and the rules are the same.

Most fan run S/F cons have plenty of writing tracks in their programming, and the writers there are more than pleased to share their experiences.

The last one I attended had about 50 writers, five of whom are NYTimes bestsellers, several editors (including myself) wandering about, and at least two publishers. This was a relatively small convention with 400-500 attendees. Ticket price for the weekend? 35.00.

childeroland
04-25-2009, 07:34 AM
GJB: My job keeps me stuck in the East Coast for the moment, I'm afraid. But out of curiosity -- what criteria do you use to pick the good ones?

Gillhoughy, how does one go about finding one of those s/f cons?

spike
04-25-2009, 07:56 AM
I go to local writers conferences. Most cost around $150-$300 depending upon how long they are.

Most have been excellent. I always learn something and meeting other writers is great.

The pitch sessions are fun, however, I haven't gotten an agent to rep any of my work. You should go with specific questions, because 10 minutes is way too long to pitch a book.

Two that I always attend are the Write Stuff in Allentown, PA (that was last month) and the Philadelphia Writers Conference in June.

In the name of full disclosure, I belong to the writers group that sponsors the Write Stuff con, and usually work on the committee, so I'm prejudiced for that one.

Gillhoughly
04-25-2009, 08:24 AM
Gillhoughy, how does one go about finding one of those s/f cons?

Google is a fan's best friend! :D

Wiki-list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_science_fiction_conventions).

It's a short list. Often you can put in the name of a large city near you + science fiction.

Greg Wilson
04-25-2009, 08:26 AM
However, I learned a ton about writing going to far less expensive science fiction conventions. There are many more of those across the country than writing conferences.

Genre doesn't matter; writing is writing, and the rules are the same.

Most fan run S/F cons have plenty of writing tracks in their programming, and the writers there are more than pleased to share their experiences.

The last one I attended had about 50 writers, five of whom are NYTimes bestsellers, several editors (including myself) wandering about, and at least two publishers. This was a relatively small convention with 400-500 attendees. Ticket price for the weekend? 35.00.

Totally agree. I've read at a number of conferences (which allowed the already cheap price to be waived, by the way), and if you pick them carefully you'll run into a number of incredible authors, editors and publishers. Even non-writing conferences can be helpful if they're large enough: I'm going to be on a number of writing panels at GenCon, probably the largest gaming-oriented convention in the world, but there are so many people who attend the convention that writing panel attendance is always excellent. I met the editor who ended up buying my first book there three years ago; this year, I'm lucky enough to be on panels with authors like Pat Rothfuss. At other conferences, I've met people like James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, David Anthony Durham, Robert Sawyer, Neil Gaiman...you get the idea. Writing conferences, meanwhile, are absolutely ridiculous in terms of the prices they charge. $500 for one weekend?!

So yeah, Gill's absolutely right. These fantasy/sci-fi conferences are gold if chosen properly. My personal list of favorites:

International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (Orlando)
Ad Astra (Toronto)
Readercon (Boston)
GenCon (Indianapolis)
WorldCon (Location varies)
World Fantasy Convention (Location varies)

Greg

Eldritch
04-25-2009, 04:50 PM
I've attended two Florida SCBWI conferences, and they were awesome. I met Arthur Levine at the Miami conference in January. Yes, Arthur Levine, J.K. Rowling's American editor.

Gillhoughly
04-25-2009, 07:41 PM
Small local S/F cons also possess plenty of literary gold.

At one with less than 400 attendees I made a book deal with one of the publisher guests. We shook hands over it right at the panel discussion table.

At another I got to watch Bob Asprin negotiate a contract with his publisher in front of a packed panel room so we could see how it's done.

Asprin also spoke about writers and their taxes, lessons I still use 20 years later.

I've lunched with Elizabeth Moon, C.J. Cherryh, Lois Bujold, S.M. Sterling, Jim Butcher, Mike Resnick, Neil Gaiman (he's HAWT), and made Terry Pratchett laugh (in a good way), dodged many a word blast from Harlan Ellison, and did my first signing with Stephen Donaldson (who I didn't like, btw, as he was rude to the neo writer) and played balloon volley ball with Phil Foligo.

Of course I was published by then, but prior to that I still got into the same parties. S.F. fandom is pretty laid back. If you bought a ticket, you can hang out just about anywhere.

The pros are VERY accessible and willing to chat about the craft and the industry. Just don't intercept them if they're eating, heading for the washroom, or helping with their kids. (I will never forget Roger Zelazny squiring his toddler around a con. She wore a Yoda hat, complete with ears.)

One invasion S.F. cons are welcoming is not from Mars, but Venus. Paranormal romance writers are slowly discovering a ton of S.F. fans willing to cross the aisle to read their books. Book dealers are stocking their titles in the dealer's room.

We had several wide-eyed recruits from romance at the last con here, most being astonished that they got a free pass in, and no one had to dress up. T-shirts, jeans, and comfortable shoes, yay!

The only suits I saw were on the guys in the steampunk groups. I rather liked the view!

Try googling for a con in your area. There's dozens going on any given weekend. Get your feet wet.

Make sure it is a con with plenty of writer guests.

A gaming con won't have what you're looking for, and a Creation Con is all about getting autographs from actors.

Look up the writers, make sure they are pros. Some con coms are getting wise to writers with Publish America, small e-houses, and subsidy presses who claim they're pros now.

I posted about one of them here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51707).

Beverage alert.

Karen Duvall
04-25-2009, 07:49 PM
When choosing a conference, look at what it offers as a whole. Aside from the agents & editors, who else will be there? What workshops are being offered? Does it accurately address your genre?

If I had the money for air fare, I would be attending the Crested Butte Writers conference in Crested Butte, Colorado, this summer. It's a teeny tiny conference, but this year Donald Maass will be there. I've attended his workshops in the past and they're killer.

I usually attend the Colorado Gold conference (http://www.rmfw.org) in September every year. It's multi-genre, fiction only, and they usually have a fantastic line-up of agents & editors. Money's tighter than usual, though, so this might be the first time in 16 years that I won't get to go.

Perks
04-25-2009, 08:01 PM
I've been to two and I'm presenting at Killer Nashville (http://www.killernashville.com/) in August.

I think conferences, if you can arrange to go, can be a wonderful experience. It won't work miracles on your craft, but it can be a shot in the arm to your motivation. Both times, I've come home with new contacts and new ideas.

I don't believe there's much you can learn at a conference that you can't learn through research, both about your subject matter and the industry in general. And, of course, there's never a substitute for reading, writing, and submitting your work to earn your stripes.

But, interaction with experts and other writers, I've found, is very invigorating. You come away hopeful and refreshed, with a headful of ways to work your passion. It's a good thing.

Eldritch
04-25-2009, 08:13 PM
I've lunched with Elizabeth Moon, C.J. Cherryh, Lois Bujold, S.M. Sterling, Jim Butcher, Mike Resnick, Neil Gaiman (he's HAWT)...

I would so very much like to lunch with Neil Gaiman.

Greg Wilson
04-25-2009, 09:21 PM
Make sure it is a con with plenty of writer guests.

A gaming con won't have what you're looking for, and a Creation Con is all about getting autographs from actors.


Yep, with the exception of Gen Con, which as I mentioned is so huge that there are lots of writers, editors, publishers and (of course) readers in attendance. But yeah, TrekkoRPGCon isn't likely to have much for writers. :)



Look up the writers, make sure they are pros.
Some con coms are getting wise to writers with Publish America, small e-houses, and subsidy presses who claim they're pros now.

I posted about one of them here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51707).

Beverage alert.I haven't run into that problem yet, though I haven't really done the local con thing. There have been a few conferences that had panels which discussed trends in speculative fiction; I was on one recently in Toronto (Ad Astra) in which Kathryn Cramer, editor of the Year's Best Fantasy anthologies, and a couple of editors from e-presses were speaking about where the speculative fiction publishing field was going. No one would have accused any of those people, even the e-press ones, of not being pros. But having Publish America authors pretend to be Very Special Guests, like the ones you mention in your post, Gill...now that's all kinds of crazy. :)

Greg

Toothpaste
04-25-2009, 09:50 PM
I'll second the Ad Astra recommendation. This year was my third year and totally awesome, got to meet some great people and reconnect with old friends. For anyone with time on their hands I wrote extensively about the experience here (http://ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com/2009/04/ad-astra-2009.html) complete with pictures. And I mean extensively.

Conferences are great to create a network and support system with authors. While yes anything at a conference you can learn somewhere else, it's still really great getting out of your little cocoon and meeting new people. Also it's tons of fun.

payitforward
04-25-2009, 10:08 PM
Hey Gang, I've actually asked one of the mods to see if we can have an entire subject on cons and writing conferences--it would be great to see who among us is going where and meet up face to face :)

I've gone to about 5 conferences in the past year, all worthwhile. You meet other authors who will blog about you, beta read and write book quotes--it's great.

Now, question: anyone going to WorldCon this year? I'm debating about whether it's worth the money.

Cheers,
Nancy

Toothpaste
04-25-2009, 10:12 PM
Now, question: anyone going to WorldCon this year? I'm debating about whether it's worth the money.


Sigh I was so going to go, but I got cast in a play for that month. Kind of heartbreaking as it's really close to where I live and the lineup looks awesome!

Totally go! I hear it's an amazing experience!

Polenth
04-25-2009, 11:34 PM
Cons look like they could be fun, but I'm doubtful about whether I'd get much out of going alone. I'm one of those people that others don't notice, even if I'm jumping up and down in front of them with a sign saying "Hi". It helps to be with someone who isn't quite so invisible. It gives people time to notice I'm real (without resorting to the sign).

SJAB
04-25-2009, 11:37 PM
What Gillhoughly has said is great advice.

I have attended SF and F Cons in the UK for a number of years. It has been a great eye opener to the world of publishing. I met my agent at one, long before he became my agent, if that makes sense.

donroc
04-25-2009, 11:52 PM
I am looking forward to attending my first Historical Novel Society Conference in Schaumberg, IL, June 12-14, which is relatively expensive when one adds travel and hotel accomodations to the conference fee, but not nearly as expensive as the weeklong SBWC.

waylander
04-26-2009, 12:05 AM
For the UK writers on AW can I draw your attention to Eastercon 2010
http://www.odyssey2010.org/ at Heathrow

best UK con for agents/publishers/prowriters

and there will be a writing workshop

payitforward
04-26-2009, 03:37 AM
Toothpaste, thanks for encouraging me to attend WorldCon. I signed up for couchsurfers today--if I can find a place to stay--I'm so going to go (it seems priceline will be kind to me with airfare).

Greg, you've gone to the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts? I need to go for my scholarly research at some point (I teach the fantastic in art and literature).

Karen, Remember that my couch is your couch for Colorado Gold!

Greg Wilson
04-26-2009, 07:37 AM
Toothpaste, thanks for encouraging me to attend WorldCon. I signed up for couchsurfers today--if I can find a place to stay--I'm so going to go (it seems priceline will be kind to me with airfare).

Greg, you've gone to the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts? I need to go for my scholarly research at some point (I teach the fantastic in art and literature).

Karen, Remember that my couch is your couch for Colorado Gold!

Yep, I've gone twice now. The academic/author angle is a good one--I teach courses in speculative fiction as well, so I was able to both read from my creative work and trade ideas with professors at the same conference. ICFA is also very responsive to feedback, and their reading system--in which they put up and coming authors with established ones on panels--is the best one I've seen, as it keeps people from cherry picking panelists and allows everyone to be exposed to newer writers. (And it allowed me to read on a panel with John Kessel and Dave Duncan, and get some leads on a project I'm working on with other authors in attendance, so that was worth the price of travel by itself.) And it's in Orlando, which is, you know, not a terrible place to hold a conference. :) ICFA and Readercon are the most "academic" of the conferences I mentioned, in my opinion.

As for Worldcon--I'll be going if I'm on a panel, final decisions for which haven't been made yet. I'd like to go just on general principles, but this one would be particularly great timing since my novel is due out in late June...so fingers are crossed.

Greg

payitforward
04-27-2009, 02:04 AM
Hi Peoples!

First, Foinah the super Mod has created a sticky thread just for Cons!! Woohoo. That way, we don't have to worry about the thread moving down and being lost to sight :)

Greg, thanks for your post. I need to start attending the ICFA conferences. Sounds like we have similar research interests--I teach the grotesque in art and literature, so that includes the uncanny, surreal, fantastic, the weird, etc.

I'm still trying to decide between WorldCon and the World Fantasy Convention--San Jose is certainly cheaper than Montreal.