Writing conference not all I hoped it would be

I nabbed two business cards at the 2010 Writers’ League of Texas conference. I had one pitch session with an agent where I got ten minutes to tell her about my book, and she asked for pages. I pitched to another in the bar, and she requested pages, too.

However, the conference wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. Even during the cocktail parties where the conference literature said we could find the agents and do a short pitch along with everyone else, my friends and I couldn’t find the agents. We found a handful and spoke with them, but didn’t see more than half of them. We searched for an hour and a half. We asked for them. We met many writers who were also confused. Later, when the party was almost over and my friends and I headed out for dinner, we spotted one of the agents hiding in the bar, without his nametag on, watching the game.

I could see having enough of crowds, of not wanting to hear another pitch, but am I wrong in assuming his agency was paying him to be there to scout clients? What does it say about him and the agency he represents that he hid from conference goers? And where were the others? For most of the day, the agents were sequestered away, either giving those ten minute sessions I mentioned or speaking on panels that were mostly about marketing. It was very hard to find an agent to pitch to. In the end, we didn’t even see some of those listed in the conference materials. We started to wonder if they were even there.

And then, on Sunday afternoon at the last conference function, we were promised a “rapid fire” pitch session. All the conference attendees would sit at large round tables (seating nine) and the agents would go from table to table. Each person had one minute tops to pitch, and the agent would decide who he/she wanted pages from. Well, my friends and I were seated at a table with an agent who not only didn’t represent our genres, he didn’t represent those of the other people, either.

We thought it was no problem. Another agent would be along shortly. But then we were informed that there were “too many people” who wanted to participate and that our one agent was it. We had to vacate the table and the room, and they took our nametags so we couldn’t get back in. So, not only did we not get this “last opportunity to pitch” we’d been promised, we still didn’t see any of the agents we’d missed who represented our genres.

I was hopping mad. As a group, we’re writing an angry letter and hereby not recommending this conference to anyone ever again. Needless to say, I felt extremely ripped off. It’s not like we hid for most of the conference. We only went to our rooms to sleep. The rest of our time was spent searching for these agents, the reason we were there, the reason TO BE there if the conference literature was to be believed.

So, now I’m going to focus on the two cards I did score and get my first few chapters in order. Anyone else have any conference horror stories? Or how about some uplifting stories? I could use some good news to cheer me up.

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19 thoughts on “Writing conference not all I hoped it would be

  1. Sorry you had such a bad time. I’m behind you in all this, so I haven’t conferenced yet. I will put this one on my list of don’t-go-there for when I eventually do get my act (and stories) together enough to head off for one of these.

  2. Barbara,

    I feel for you. I had a 15 minute critique scheduled (and paid for) where the critiquer didn’t show until ten minutes were up and then spent the next five looking at his watch so he wouldn’t be late getting out and catching his plane.

    I think I got two coherent sentences out of him the whole time. Thank goodness he’d jotted down a note or two on my chapters before coming so it wasn’t a total wash.

    Best luck on those follow-ups with the two agents you nabbed cards from.

    sending warm fuzzies~

  3. That is a shame.

    I’ve been to a couple of WLT conferences. The first one was fantastic. I couldn’t say enough good things about it.

    The second one was disorganized. They were overbooked and cramming people into spaces too small for the venue.

    And like you, the organizers promised agents would show up at mixers while in truth very few did.

    It’s their nickel, if they don’t want to show up, but I resent the organizers promising something they can’t enforce.

    After what you’ve said here, it’s obvious WLT is going downhill.

    For what it’s worth, no matter what genre you write, the RWA cons, while expensive, are worth the money.

  4. I’d go w/you to a RWA conference…I’ve heard nothing but good things about their organization & support!

    And did you mention zombie erotica write-in in the plus column? Although I guess we could have done that at IHOP for a lot less!

  5. Sorry your experience was so horrible, even though your tale makes ME feel better. I’ve been down in the dumps over not being able to attend a conference again this year. I’ll just tell myself the one I was hoping to attend in September would be disappointing, too.

  6. Oh gosh I’m so sorry about how the conference went! How frustrating! I’ve never been to any of these conferences but I was hoping to try one out next year in the UK…

  7. Oh yuck… well, that sucks. Talk about frustrating! Well, at least you got cards for a number of people, and hopefully something good will come of that so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

    I’m hoping to go to an RWA conference next year, as some of the other commenters have suggested… maybe even the big annual one (in NY for 2011, I think). I’ve also heard it’s well organized.

    For the amount we pay for these conferences, they’d better be worth the cash!

  8. I’m still sad to hear that you guys had this experience. It’s the job of the conference coordinators to make sure that attendees get what they paid for, and unfortunately that didn’t happen for you guys. But don’t let it discourage you from attending other conferences and putting yourselves out there!

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