DFWCon 2022, a first time
This weekend, I attended my very first professional, in person, writers conference: DFWCon. Here's how it went.
First, let me say that this conference is run by the DFW Writers Workshop, and it is first class. Lunch is a catered affair with speakers/activities both days. There is breakfast (bagels, fruit, croissants, coffee, juice, etc) in the morning, and snacks (cookies, popcorn, granola bars, etc) in the afternoon. Dinner in the evenings is on your own, but both Friday and Saturday night, they had social gatherings. Saturday night even had door prizes and a limited number of free drinks. It was quite the party.
Every hour from 8am to 4 or 5pm had an array of classes, lectures, or activities led by authors, agents, or even publishers. Nearly every class I went to was equal parts entertaining and informative. There were also major speakers during our catered lunches: Julie Murphy and Heather Graham. The really big event at a conference like this, however, is the opportunity to pitch to agents. (For those who don't know, a 'pitch' is a very short 'what my book is about' and the agents are the ones who help authors get their books published.) At this conference, every attendee gets to pitch to an agent of their choice (they have about a dozen here this time), and the option to buy extra pitch slots with other agents.
So, I got eight minutes to pitch Thassodar Jax to Sue Arroyo with Camcat Publishing. She was wonderful, very friendly, and reminded me to breathe so I wouldn't pass out at her table. She's interested in the book, though concerned about the length, so I've got some revision and addition to do before I actually send it to her. Getting a request from an agent (or in this case, a publisher), is the goal at a convention like this, so couldn't have gotten a better start to the day.
I also bought eight minutes with Jennie Goloboy with the Donald Maass Literary Agency. I won't share all the details of that adventure here, because I prefer to save what little dignity I may have. (Suffice to say that the convention and the agents will bend over backwards to take care of you, even when the problems are your own fault!) In the end, however, she declined Thassodar (though she was very interested in his 'sidekick', Valentina, who will be the main character of book two!). It may have been the nicest rejection I've ever gotten, though, and I walked away feeling that I'd just had a lovely conversation.
I finished the conference by pitching Amy Collins with Talcott Notch Literary Services. I have to tell you, between the feedback from the first two pitches, the information I'd learned from all the classes, and what I'd heard of Amy herself, I felt woefully unprepared going into this pitch. Einstein said the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. I must have learned a lot this weekend, because I did not feel smart going in. However, Amy was just as warm and inviting as the other two, and I walked away with a 'Not Yet' but an invitation to reach out to her again when I felt things were ready, or with a different project.
Probably the most exciting part of the conference for most (other than the emotional rollercoaster of face-to-face pitching), is the Query Gong Show. Authors are invited to turn in their query (a one page letter to an agent introducing their book- think of it like a text-based movie trailer) for the show. During the show, a half dozen agents sit on stage with gongs and microphones, and a deep-voiced "movie guy" reader selects from the stack at random. As he reads the anonymous query, the agents hit the gong when they would stop reading. When/if it gets three gongs, they stop reading, and discuss why they hit the gong. Fun, exciting, and informative indeed! If/when a query survives to the end, the author is invited to stand up and take a bow. Some books have even been bought from this process!
Of course, it isn't all studying and lectures! I've made a lot of new friends and connections this weekend, authors and agents alike. I am already looking forward to going back next year!