An Agent’s Perspective: Why You Should Be Attending Conferences & Workshops as a Writer

Agent Justin Wells of Corvisiero Literary Agency shares his opinion on why conferences and workshops are absolute musts for writers today, whether it’s a big or small event.
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Writing conferences and workshops take on many different forms. There are massive ones, such as the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, Thrillerfest, or Romance Writers of America; and smaller conferences that might be hosted by your local writing guilds and other outlets. No matter the size, conferences and workshops can be important tools in your arsenal as a writer.

This guest post is by Justin Wells. Wells is an agent apprentice at Corvisiero Literary Agency. He has been with the agency since April 2016, where he started as an intern. Alongside being a full time agent, Justin is also a senior in college working toward the completion of a B.S. in Mass Communication with a focus in public relations and a minor in writing. Justin has long been part of the book world, having been a book blogger nearly seven years (across YouTube and traditional blogging), and also worked in publishing before moving into his current role. Photo by Chelsea Anderson.

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Conferences and workshops allow you to connect with fellow writers and gain insight from industry professionals that will help you throughout your writing career, regardless of whether you’re currently a beginner or a veteran of several books. This is important, because it helps to highlight the fact that regardless of where you are in your writing career, there is always something new that you can learn at writing conferences and workshops.

Hundreds of people will be traveling to New York City in August for the 2017 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, which is one of the largest writing conferences in the United States. There will be more than 50 agents from some of the best agencies in attendance. This is a huge number of agents one place, which makes it a holy grail for writers—it allows writers the opportunity to pitch and meet agents face-to-face.

Being able to pitch agents at conferences is one of the best ways to get noticed. It allows for you to have a conversation with the agent you are pitching. Regardless of the time allotted for your meeting at the conference, meeting an agent face-to-face facilitates the opportunity to forge a connection and create a feel for what that agent might be like to work with. I always hear success stories from in-person pitches, because not only do the agents get to hear about your work and discuss it with you, they also get to see your personality and enthusiasm.

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Not everyone is going to be able to attend and pitch agents at conferences like WD’s, and that is fine. There are many smaller conferences and workshops across the country. Check with your local writing guilds, and see if they host any events. For example, in Missouri there are several conferences put on by the writers guild. The MO Writers Guild has their annual conference, and there is also Gateway Con, which is a writers conference planned by the St. Louis branch of the MO Writers Guild. Missouri also has the All Write Now! Conference hosted by the Southeast Missouri chapter of the MO Writers Guild.

Other organizations, such as RWA for romance writers and SCBWI for children books authors, have at least one chapter in almost every state. There are a ton of opportunities out there to attend events, so I strongly encourage you to reach out to your local writing guild chapters and see what they offer as far as conferences and workshops. The larger the state you live in, the greater the likelihood that there will be something for you to attend.

You will also find that some full service literary agencies also offer conferences, retreats, and/or workshops. In August, the Corvisiero Literary Agency will start hosting one-day writer workshops all around the US and Canada. These workshops will include the standard fare—pitching, speakers, and more. Many industry professionals will be in attendance, from Corvisiero agents (and outside agents), editors from major houses, and bestselling authors.

When attending a conference, if cost is a concern, look for opportunities where there might be a contest, special consideration, or scholarships offered. The Corvisiero Literary offers some of these assistance programs and incentive packages. Our agency also hosts a scholarship giveaway to a deserving writer for each workshop hosted by Corvisiero Literary Agency, which will allow free entry—including a free sit down with a literary agent and a query critique—to a workshop that in a local location.

Another great example of an event: the writers cruises offered by The Seymour Agency. Writers can register for a cruise that many industry professionals have been invited to attend. It’s a relaxing way to focus on your writing, see beautiful places, and connect with agents and editors.

It can be overwhelming attending these conferences and workshops. I’ve been on the faculty for several workshops after just a year in the industry and have spoken with many writers who have mentioned how nerve-wracking it can be. My best advice: Just be yourself when you’re talking to an agent. I know that sounds cliché, but you shouldn’t be afraid to talk to an agent. We attend these workshops and conferences because we love meeting writers and enjoy doing what we can to help you improve your skills. We want you to continue to follow your goals as a writer. Just remember that we are human, too. We are there because we want to find good authors to form partnerships with.

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When you are attending a workshop or conference, make sure you are prepared. Practice your pitches, make sure you are pitching to the agents you feel will be the best fit for your work. If you come to the events prepared, it will make you a lot less nervous and will allow us to help you more. Being prepared enables you to quickly pitch and leave more time for questions. You also want to make sure to attend as many speaking sessions as you can. Speaking sessions are one of the most beneficial parts of writing conferences and workshops, because they allow you to gain intimate insight from industry professionals in a smaller (most of the time) setting. These sessions often allow you to connect and ask the professionals questions.

No matter where you are in your career, it is important to try to attend as many writing workshops and conferences as you can. The networking is incomparable to anything else, and it will allow you to grow as a writer. If you don’t feel comfortable attending huge conferences right away, you can always start small. Look at local workshops and conferences in your state, and agency-hosted workshops. You can see a list of conferences all over the country that agents at Corvisiero Literary Agency are attending by visiting this link. These conferences cover a wide range of the possibilities that are out there for writers. Try to find something that you feel would be the best fit for you. I guarantee that there will be a conference or workshop out there that will be perfect for you and your needs as a writer.

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