Do Conferences Lead to Representation?

A reader asks:

Hi Jessica. Thanks for this opportunity. My question is this: “How often does a connection via a conference lead to representation.”

I am weighing  my options –  more conferences, classes, etc and how to optimize my chances at obtain an agent.
Thanks!

This might be an interesting poll for the blog. I can’t say for sure that I know the answer. I think it’s rare for an agent to walk away from conference pitch sessions with a new client. I can’t count the number of times we’ve all come home from a conference excited to see something that was pitched to us and then find the book doesn’t hold up to the pitch or worse, the author never even sends the book.

The biggest benefit of a conference comes to those authors who are comfortable networking or just talking to other people–authors, agents, and editors. While you might not walk away with an agent, you will likely walk away with more knowledge of individual agents (do you like them, what’s the gossip surrounding them, do they seem like someone you could work with). You’ll also walk away with a new network of author contacts, people with agents they might later refer you to or be able to give you insight into.

If you’re debating between conferences, classes, etc, you have to do what you feel comfortable with, but at some point in your career, the only way to know if a conference will do you good is to try one out. I don’t think it has to be a big one like RWA-National, WorldCon, Bouchercon, or the like. Try a small local conference, especially if you find out an agent you admire might be there.

Thank you for your question. Hopefully, I’ll see you at a conference one day.

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4 comments

  1. Having attended conferences over the past ~six years, I’ve received multiple requests from agents from one-on-ones. But I received more traction from queries, although nothing happened with my first two projects. I met the agent I signed with at a conference, but it was a brief meet at the evening cocktail party, which I used to personalize my query about a year later.

    I’ve found the value from conferences to be networking and the occasional craft talk (although conference sessions aren’t always long enough to deep enough into craft in a truly helpful way). But conferences are a great way to meet fellow writers and build up a personal community. One-on-ones have been helpful when getting a professional take on my work regardless of the outcome.

  2. Loved hearing this right now as I gear up to go to a conference in NY in July. I need to settle down and get ready to enjoy myself and meet people. <3

  3. I have pitched at conference, and funnily enough, have had as much luck through happen-chance at conference than the formal pitching (not that anything has led to an offer).

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