“As an agent, what percentage of your new clients come from meetings at conferences vs. general email or postal proposals? Can you address the importance of conferences?”
Thanks to Scott for the question. It is a good one. Another way to frame it is “Where do you find new clients? Blind submissions or conferences?”
The answer, as always, is “It depends.”
Meeting someone at a conference is a marvelous way to get to know someone and hear their heart’s desires. In the beginning of my career as an editor it was the conference circuit where I discovered dozens of new authors. When I became an agent, I had already developed a number of relationships that helped build the client list rather quickly.
Today it is a mix. I recently signed a new non-fiction client that was done completely by email and phone. His writing is fantastic. He sent me his proposal via the recommendation of a mutual friend. What the author didn’t know is that I had been following his blog for quite some time so was already familiar with his skill as a writer.
The Writing Skill is Key, Even at a Conference
The relationship can begin at a conference but it is still the book itself that lands our representation. I’ve often met someone and am impressed. We can brainstorm ideas, but it is rare to be able to read very much of any manuscript while at a conference. There simply isn’t enough time. That is why the agent or editor will say “send it to me.” The agent or editor knows that it is back in the office when the manuscript or proposal will be properly evaluated.
I know of some agents who offer representation on-the-spot at a conference. I’ve done that too, but very rarely. Maybe a half-dozen times over the years. Yet I still prefer to read the material more closely. However, meeting that author at an event can help sway my opinion. I may think “This material needs work, but that author is a gifted communicator so I’m willing to work with them to make the book idea sing.”
Why a Conference?
We’ve written at length about conferences (a list of 54 articles can be found here) but the questions still surface.
Consider the conference expense as an investment in your future. A place to get a better picture of the scope of the industry and the variety of opportunities. So many come to a conference with book in hand hoping to land the big deal. They come away with a dose of reality but also an understanding of how big the industry is and that magazine or online writing is a great way to grow as a writer.
Rubbing shoulders with quality faculty and other veteran authors can only help your own journey. I’ve seen life-long friendships develop at a writers conference. It is a place to meet those who are wired just like you are. To learn that you are not alone in your calling.
And yet not everyone can afford the time or the money to attend. This is one reason I worked to form The Christian Writers Institute (www.christianwritersinstitute.com), a place where nearly 100 classes are available in various forms so that a writer can learn at their own pace, on any device, at any time.
In addition, there are myriad blogs that help educate writers. We have over 1,500 articles available on this blog alone.
There is virtually no limit to the ways to educate yourself on the world of writing.
Those who have been published, how many of you made your connection at a conference versus through the general submission process?
What about periodical writing? Which of you made the connection at a conference versus the general submission process?