I’ve just read through a thread on Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light in which she and others point out that perhaps pitching a novel at a writers’ conference doesn’t get you anywhere much, at least not much farther than you could’ve gotten through a query. They originally started out talking about a particular seminar/conference costing $600 (!) that’s set up for first novelists to meet agents and pitch to them, and pointed out that this thing is overpriced and probably not going to get you anywhere much. The discussion continued from there, and it seems that most people agree about pitching being a cargo-cult activity.*
* [Cargo cults arose on remote islands during, I think, WWII. Larger nations and organizations arranged to fly in regularly and drop supplies to the tribes as well as the missionaries/troops stationed in these areas. The members of the tribes had no way to understand what was happening, so they believed that the gods were gifting them with these CARE packages, and a cargo cult arose, making offerings to the gods around the time the shipments were expected. Of course, the shipments arrived, and the gods were assumed to be pleased. I can kind of see how this compares to, say, me and just about everything related to trying to sell fiction to NYC publishing houses.]
I’m bummed, because I’ve already paid the registration fees to go to the Southwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) convention here in Dallas in June, and was about to register for the RWA National Conference here in Dallas in July.
And I’ve already got my outfits planned. And had my transportation lined up. Was kind of excited about the two agents and one editor in my “pitch sessions.” However, now I feel guilty for using our household funds to sign up for the conference(s). Sure, it’s entertaining and inspirational to hear the panel discussions, and you do run into interesting people, but I’d intended to try to get the go-ahead to send novels out, and that is apparently not very promising, even if you DO get an OK. Melissa Singer says that sometimes they’ll just tell everyone they meet in those sessions to go ahead and send stuff, but it just goes into the slush pile unless the agent/editor has taken notes and actually knows that’s something he/she wants to see. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being nice and getting the writer off his/her back. It doesn’t really mean that they’re looking forward to seeing your stupid tripe. (sigh)
I had pretty much decided that because Miss Snark, Rachel Vater, and FangsFur&Fey have held those “sharpen your pitch” sessions, this meant we novelists were in the same canoe as screenwriters and now had to pitch our stuff as best we could or be rejected without a chance. I still think that the “pitch” in the query letter is a big decider for agents, because they SAY that they decide whether to request partials using that blurb.
But going to a conference to meet the agent/editor, trying to make a good impression, and doing a great in-person pitch just to get the privilege of writing “SOLICITED SUBMISSION” on the envelope of your partial now seems as hopeless as growin’ tropical plants in Michigan. Even if they take root, they don’t have time to blossom and thrive.
Now, if you already HAVE an editor or agent, I imagine going to a conference where you could meet them in person would be pretty cool. If you know people across the country who’ll be attending, then it’s worth going over there to meet them. The market news is probably fine. It’s just that the *main* reason that writers want to go to these things is to try to get that manuscript seen and let it have a chance. Everything conspires against this.
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“When I’m vacillating about taking some plunge in a new direction or other, I now have my own version of ‘What would Katharine Hepburn do?'”–
“Here’s what is totally unfair: I’ve struggled throughout an entire lifetime NOT to be fat. And now I am. Waah. And if I see another lollipop-on-a-stick-faced talking head announcing that all you have to do is quit drinking all that bad soda and snacking in front of the TV and you too can be thin . . . well . . . somebody is going to have a foot-long Coney dog stuffed down their throat, with a chaser of Cheez Whiz.”–
[Shalanna responds, sympathetically: Join the club. We have a T-shirt (“These Things Are Real”) and an ID Card (“I’m Retaining Water”).]
“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away.”–David Viscott