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conference registration line

Writers signing in at the Writer’s Digest Conference registration table.

Although I spent less than 48 hours in New York, I learned several things about publishing that I had never heard of before, pitched to four literary agents, and made a few new contacts, all thanks to the 2019 Writer’s Digest Conference and Pitch Slam.

For the first time ever I learned about a genre called flash non-fiction. Have you ever heard of it? Also for the first time ever, I made a vlog of my experience at the conference! Take a peek when you can. I share a bit of my prep work for the pitch, bring you into the Pitch Slam room, and talk to a few other conference attendees.

Everyone who registered for the Pitch Slam was able to attend the Pitch Perfect session the day before. In Pitch Perfect, everyone gets a three-page highly detailed handout briefing them on the protocol of the slam, plus advice on how to pitch their book.

3 Tips on Pitching to Agents In-Person:

  1. Don’t pitch your dream agent first. This kind of falls in the same theory of my A, B, C, and D list plan for email querying agents. However, I purposefully ignored this tip at the Pitch Slam. Pitch Slam attendees get one hour in the room, and I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to meet my top choice. This worked out well for me–she requested a full read of my manuscript!
  2. Don’t pitch two agents who are with the same agency. I already know not to do this with email queries to agents…but I didn’t realize this was part of the proper pitch decorum at the slam too! Fortunately, since there are very few agents who have an interest in novels-in-stories like my collection, I didn’t run into this issue!
  3. Make three different pitches. Have a one-liner, one that focuses on character motivation, and another that focuses on character choices. After researching each agent, pick the pitch that best suits the agent. One of the agents had a bio that said she loves stories of family sagas. I stressed the multi-generational narrative of my collection and how the stories are inspired by my family history. Another agent likes unusual stories, so I shared details of two of the most unusual stories in the collection (like a man being trapped in an attic by his wife and children).

I also attended an Ask the Agents Anything panel. One of the attending writers asked,  “What five questions should a writer ask an agent before they sign a contract with them?” I share three of the five questions below, and you can read the other two questions in my next newsletter, which goes out later this week. If you are not already a subscriber, sign up for my newsletter for writers.

3 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign With Them

  1. Can I speak to two of your current clients? Pick the brains of the agent’s clients and see if this will be a good long-term match for you.
  2. How do you like to communicate? If the agent loves to text, and you want to have real-time phone conversations, it might not be the right fit.
  3. What’s your success in placing manuscripts like mine? Maybe the agent is treading new waters by taking you on, but you need to know that before you enter a legal agreement with them.

After the sessions, I met up with editor Jackie Cangro. You might remember her from when she edited my stories last year, my much earlier post about working with an editor, or her guest post about how to gain perspective on your story. She knows I love food, so we met up at Maison Kayser for sweet treats and a great conversation.

Mango mousse cake

Mango mousse cake at Maison Kayser.

Then Jackie and I parted ways and I made my way over to the Vessel at Hudson Yards. I learned about this new interactive piece through Instagram and had to go while I was in New York. For a Friday night, it wasn’t that crowded!

view from inside vesselnyc

Vessel at Hudson Yards

I strolled from the Vessel down The High Line, which starts across the street from Hudson Yards. I walked toward downtown until I got to the first stairway, which was 26th Street…the street where my sister works!

My sister has worked on the Rachael Ray Show for 9 years and I have always missed opportunities to visit her at work or see a show. Filming for their next season hasn’t started yet, so I got a behind the scenes tour instead. By the way, my sister won an Emmy this year for Most Outstanding Informative Talk Show!

two girls visiting Chelsea Television Studios

Writing Conference Rundown

Overall, I found this conference to be a success and the perfect fit for any writer who has a finished manuscript and feels ready to be represented by an agent. The sheer volume of exposure in the Pitch Slam makes it worth it. Even if you don’t find an agent at the conference who is interested in repping you based on your current manuscript, you now have a personal connection to reference should you ever pitch them in the future about a different project. For me, I pitched four agents and I got three full read requests and one partial. Those agents also rep other genres I’m interested in branching into…so not only did this trip feel good, but these connections feel good too.