Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is getting an agent as easy as attending a conference?

by John Feldman 

Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
Imagine you’re trying to find true love through a dating site. You’ve been on ninety-nine dates so far and have had no success—this site stinks, it can’t find me anyone. And tonight is your one-hundredth date. It’s the last one you’re going to try. After this, you’re done. You’ve got your Cancel Membership page already up on your computer at home, ready to go back and get a drink from your fridge, click the Cancel button—then subsequently the Are Your Sure? button—and try your very best to look forward to a long life of being single.
Now imagine taking that mindset into a writer’s conference. You’ve been to a few before and they were all letdowns, and you’re assuming this weekend will be—while fun—the same as the others. You’ll meet people—network, so they say—and you’ll follow each other on social networks, but then those connections will die out. You’ll write nothing of significance, nothing that sells, and then those folks will forget all about you.
Am I being the most depressing person ever? I feel like I am. And I shouldn’t be, because I’m only building up to what turns out to be something the opposite.
Let me change the tone here.
A few weeks ago I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference of 2016 in New York City. For my fellow writers and those in the industry, we all know these things are a six- to eight-hour event followed by drinks—sometimes even with drinks in the middle; we’re writers, after all. But what I found in between was some amazing insight.
For me, the most amazing sessions to attend were those related to the area of self-promotion and building a name for yourself. And also the ones geared toward giving the novice—oh, it hurts my fragile little ego to hear that term—writer the ins and outs of the publishing business.
Image courtesy of GoodBooks.Online
I’ll list some of my favorites below, but I cannot give out great detail, simply because Writer’s Digest is—I’m fairly certain—going to be posting these sessions for sale online. But please take my word for it, these classes are extremely valuable. Not that the others weren’t—you can only attend one of the five during each time slot so you can see how I might be leaving out some other greats—but the ones I’ll list truly were helpful.
Publishing 101: Understanding Deals and Contract Terms with Literary Agent Marisa A. Corvisiero
This session alone would have been a selling point for me. I never even thought of the notion of knowing the contract; I just assumed my agent would know. Which was my first reason for coming here: I need an agent. But Marisa, being not only an agent, but a lawyer, is someone I’d listen to very carefully. And listen to her carefully I did. A fear of every new writer’s is to not get screwed over, and I feel much better knowing that I’m knowledgeable on a fair contract.
This was the very first class I attended. Do you see where this is headed? I told you I’d take you on a positive turn.
Pitch Perfect with Chuck Sambuchino
We all know Chuck Sambuchino. If you’re a writer—especially an agentless writer—who doesn’t know him…well, you’d better get on the Internet and start doing homework.
Chuck is the Dalai Lama of the amateur writer. The expert. The go-to-guy. Why am I putting him up on this pedestal and marking him with a halo above his head? No, he isn’t my friend, and no, I wasn’t paid to do so. (I did see him at the conference and he asked me how I was—just saying.) But I only place this spotlight on him because for as long as I’ve been looking for an agent—only three years, though it seems to be pathetically longer—his information has been the most reliable and the most current.
Chuck Sambuchino spoke to us for an hour about how to pitch your book. Need I say more?

View John Feldman's Interview

How to be Your Own Best Publicist with author-and-then-some Emily Liebert
Emily has written several novels, among many other things, and has quite possibly gotten her face around more places than Stephen King. How did she do it before becoming a well-known author? Well, I can’t spoil anything for the webinar that you’ll most likely be able to see when Writer’s Digest releases it, but she was able to give us notes for an entire hour of How to be Your Own Best Publicist. Amazing notes.
Maximizing Your Business as an Author on Amazon with Jason Kuykendall
Jason’s current title: Senior Business Development Manager, Kindle Author/Agent Relations at Seems like a guy you can trust to lead you in the right direction, doesn’t he? And he was.
There were so many great things about this conference, but for the sake of keeping this post to a reasonable length I’ll just list them below:
Keynote Speakers: Kwame Alexander, David Baldacci, and Emily St. John Mandel
Dirty Little Secrets: Learn How the Publishing Industry Really Works in Order to Become a More Successful Authorwith Phil Sexton
Panel: Secrets to Succeeding as a Mystery Writer with Libby Cudmore, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jane K. Cleland, Evan Marshall and Paula Munier
The list goes on, and these don’t even include the Pitch Slam, which was a one-hour session with fifty-plus agents and editors in a room hearing your three-minute pitches. Or the social hour (hour and a half, wink-wink) with a bar and close to one thousand people ranging from writers of all levels, agents, editors, publishers, and any other people you can think of who love putting pen to paper.
I walked away from this conference with eight business cards from literary agents from major houses, and that’s after speaking with only those eight. The light shines down bright on this young man…who’s getting kind of older. I’ve been let down before by the harsh mindset that is Optimism, but after the Writer’s Digest Conference 2016, I’m feeling more optimistic than ever.

John Feldman is author of Bridgevine, a time travel novel with a twist.  To learn more about John and his novel, click on this link.


  1. Being an author today means wearing a lot of hats. As such you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the word out, including attending conferences.

  2. Great stuff. I will do my research and read their books.