Reporting on the Writers' Conference

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Hi Writers,

I've returned from Los Angeles where I attended the Writer's Digest Writers' Conference as well as Book Expo America. Before I go into details I must apologize. I fully intended to post some entries from LA and give you updates about all the happenings there. Unfortunately I was just way too busy and wasn't a very good blogger. I hope you'll forgive me. Now on to the details

The Writers' Conference was great! Over 400 writers attended. The conference was packed. The day kicked off with a keynote address from Jaquelyn Mitchard, bestselling author of Deep End of the Ocean and throughout the morning there were workshops and lectures by Lisa Lenard-Cook (Mind of Your Story), James Scott Bell (Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self Editing), Bill O' Halon (Write is a Verb), and many others.

I spoke with Writer Mama author Christina Katz who writes the popular Writer's on the Rise newsletter for writers. Her forthcoming book Get Known Before the Book Deal (November) deals with growing your author platform. Christina is great at self promotion and I'm hoping to share more insight from her on this blog very soon.

Author and literary agent Donald Maass and I discussed his popular Writing the Breakout Novel Workshop series and his upcoming book The Fire in Fiction (Coming Spring 2009). Don has a lot of great insight about what makes good storytelling and makes a story really stand out. As Don points out, almost everyone has a good story to tell, but creating a great work of fiction requires passion and developing a compelling narrative voice. Check out his book Writing the Breakout Novel and the corresponding workbook.

The most popular event of the conference was the pitch slam where writers have the chance to pitch their story idea to agents. I moderated a room with seven agents and got to listen to writers giving their pitches, some good and some... well, not so good.

A successful pitch is concise and to the point. You should be able to explain your book idea and unique hook in under one minute. It's important to remember that agents are busy and may be turned off of a book idea when it takes too long to explain. If you attend an event where you expect to connect with agents or editors it's a good idea to practice your pitch. A short lead in (25 words or less) works well. If they want to know more, then you have your chance to go more in depth. Think of your pitch as a teaser. Give them just enough to get them interested.

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