Some people have asked me for an account of what it’s like attending a conference as an agent, and of course I’m only happy to oblige.
As you consider the agent conference experience, keep in mind that for the vast majority of the time I spend at work I’m sitting in front of a computer (or Kindle, as the case may be), performing mundane tasks like comparing and negotiating contracts, preparing submissions, following up with publishers on things that need to be done, etc. There are some exciting moments from time to time, but I ride the bus, go to work, go home, do a lot of reading… and there you have it.
So attending a writer’s conference can come as quite a shock. It’s seriously a trip to be recognized and to have people attending my panels and waiting in pitch sessions and all the rest. I really, really appreciate that people want to talk to me, and I don’t take any of it for granted, but seriously — it’s a shock to go from mild mannered agent working in front of a computer to someone who strangers say hi to. I guess it’s sort of like being a celebrity for a weekend, only I don’t have to be on The Hills and when I leave the conference it’s straight back to normalcy.
Every agent and editor who has attended a conference has their own favorite tale of being accosted by an overzealous conference attendee, but honestly, I’m always really impressed by the people who are able to come up and introduce themselves to me and be cool and just act like it’s the most normal thing in the world. How do these people do it?? I applaud the courage. So please, feel free to come talk to me at conferences — I may be rushing off to do something and won’t be able to stop, but we both came to the conference, so hey, why not chat?
Attending RWA was pretty great — everything was very well-run and organized, and everyone seemed like they were having a fabulous time. And, what with it being RWA and all, the innuendo was flying!
And of course, no conference would be complete without some old fashioned networking. I was able to have meetings with some really great editors, including one I have been chatted with many times in the past but hadn’t yet met in person, and I was able to meet up with some authors as well. Unfortunately I also missed out on meeting some people I was hoping to bump into… hopefully next time.
So overall, I never quite know what I’m going to get with a conference, and especially with pitch sessions, I never know how successful they are until the queries and partials start showing up in my inbox. But I really enjoy conferences and it’s a great time to remind myself that even though I stare at a computer most days, there are plenty of cool people behind those queries. Thanks again to everyone who attended my panel and session and it really was great to meet blog readers!
Margaret Yang says
I’ll be at the Pike’s Peak conference in April. I hope I can say hello to you then.
Sounds like a great time.
Nathan, don’t be ridiculous, you know you’re not a celebrity until someone installs a jellyquarium in your home.
However, I’d think riding the bus gives you plenty more opportunities to be accosted by the general public as opposed to deranged writers such as ourselves. Though perhaps they accost in a different manner?
Travis Erwin says
I just read the first comment and found out you are attending the Pike Peak conference in April. I plan to as well. Hope I get the chance to buy you a beer, or an overpriced bottle of French water if you are one of those health conscious Californians.
Either way i owe you that much for all the great info you’ve shared over the last year or so I’ve been reading.
Nathan Bransford says
Margaret and Travis-
Awesome!! We’ll definitely have to meet up in lovely Colorado Springs.
Margaret Yang says
I’ll meet you in the bar.
Margaret aka Original Bran Fan (but not in a weird stalker way)
Kristin Laughtin says
It’s seriously a trip to be recognized
Gah, it’s like that at any conference, but I’m sure it’s even more escalated for you since your blog is so friendly and you’ve got your picture right on it. But as long as you enjoy it, it’s all good!
Nathan, I was reading through your list of what you’re looking for, and romance isn’t listed.
Is romance now one of the genres in which you’re interested?
Thanks for this blog, Nathan. I’m going to refer back to it the next time I go to a conference, because I’m one of those folks who just will not approach an agent or an editor at a con. It’s not just that they’re a stranger to me – though there is that. Mostly, it’s that they’re a stranger who has to know that I want something from them. That’s always made me too uncomfortable to go for it. Thanks for what amounts (to me) to a pep talk.
Kim Kasch says
I went to my first conference a couple years ago. I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But, I made friends that I still get together with occasionally for coffee or at least I send an email every now and then.
It’s a great experience – thanks for being so open to us wannabe writers, it makes the experience fun instead of scary.
Keri Ford says
Glad you had fun, Nathan! I hope you attend more in the future.
Anon 4:54, I don’t know about Nathan and romance, but as a member of RWA, I can tell you that it’s a great place for writers of ALL genres. Romance crosses so many genre lines, that it’s kinda one of those things where you can have a finger in every pie.
RWA it self is, in my opinion, set up wonderfully to help writers who are in all stages of their careers. Whether you’re just starting out with only 10 pages on your first manuscript to having sold dozens of books. With close to 10,000 members worldwide, you something is going right.
I really, really encourage anyone to join. There are many chapters across the world plus numerous special interest chapters (that are on-line through email) that are just gems to be members of when it comes to research and learning your craft.
Jessica Faust of BookEnds spoke of joining RWA even if you don’t write romance
If anyone wants to know more about what RWA offers, I’d be happy to answer with my experience.
Kelly Pollard says
Thanks Nathan for a peak inside the agent’s perspective. They can seem so intimidating sometimes. I’ll be at East of Eden in September, I’ll try not to scare you will accosting you.
Conferences seem at once intensely interesting and inescapably terrifying. I am interested to hear the discussions and see various presentations, but when it comes to being in large groups of people and having to be relatively sociable… I run and hide in the corner. (Barely made it through university lectures in a room full of strangers, and all I had to do there was sit and listen!)
I really like reading authors’, editors’, and agents’ experiences of the conferences. It is like I can live vicariously through them.
Check out the Santa Barbara conference in June.
Does this mean you might start accepting queries for Romance?
Adaora A. says
That sounds like a lot of fun. Great opportunities….
I really wish they did one of these things in Canada. Like, Toronto to be exact. Honestly, we don’t bite over here and we certainly don’t live in igloos!
Nathan, it is almost commonplace knowledge (at it is with blog readers) how to become a published writer, but how does one go about becoming a literary agent like you?
Jess Riley says
It was great meeting you, Nathan!
(And Keri Ford hit the nail on the head about the benefits of joining RWA…)
I attend the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference each year- this year it’s on Oahu- I know it’s been a huge help in my career- as other writers say the networking is invaluable- meeting other writers and editors and agents and hearing them talk on panels.
Hey Nathan – don’t make any plans for ’09 labor day week and come to Oahu for next years conference!
Nathan Bransford says
I definitely want to attend the Maui Conference in ’09!
I attended Murder in the Grove in Boise two months ago. I sent ten pages of my manuscript to the agent I would be meeting with. I anticipated many things from him, a statement about my writing, and book idea compared to what’s aleady out there. When we met, this agent told me he hadn’t read my work because it must have been stapled to someone else’s work, therefore he couldn’t respond to any of my questions. He did quickly read through three pages, said I was a good writer and that was it. It left me feeling cold and unwelcome, and as a writer who is looking at the prospect of many rejections before an acceptance, I amost wanted to quit.
Nathan Bransford says
This stuff happens all the time; you just have to roll with it. E-mails get lost, pages get stapled together… that’s just life for an agent. Can’t take it personally — agents are busy people, and mistakes happen.
Nathan – thanks again for your blog. The information has been the best!
I will be querying you with my narrative nonfiction WIP when it is ready!
hang in there tdwriter – I had a bad experience with the Murder group too and didn’t even end up attending. I entered the contest and sent a SASE for return of my copies WITH comments. They sent me 4 rubrics with 1-5 ratings and NOT a single comment that was meaningful of helpful in anyway.
There are GREAT conferences out there and wonderful blogs like this one!
Keep writing 🙂