A few days ago, I posted a message on the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers Facebook page.
Does anyone know about a writers’ conference that focuses on sci-fi and/or fantasy? I’m going to Thrillerfest in a few days to pitch my sci-fi book but I feel like it is the wrong venue.
The response I got was varied, interesting and in some cases disheartening. I’d like to share some with you and my thoughts on them.
The First Group of Responses
Many people focused on the “sci-fi” and “con” aspect and started posting multiple suggestions of purely fan-oriented conventions for that. As you know, I like entertainment cons as much as the next person, but it is not where I would go, pitch in hand, to search for an agent. First of all, to my knowledge, agents don’t have a reason to go as a professional to a general sci-fi/fantasy con. If they go, I would assume it is because they go for the love of the spirit of sci-fi and don’t want to be pestered with newbie writers. Like others enjoying the genre, they might just want to dress up, see some panels, and sing some filk.
The years (and it has been many years ago) that I’ve attended these conference, you couldn’t tell who a publisher, agent, artist, or writer was unless they were on a panel or in the Dealers’ room. It is not like they wear giant neon signs, arrows swaying over their heads, or even halos. Therefore, if they are there, how does a writer find them? Once the writer finds the agent, how do they go about “discussing” anything without seeming to be obnoxious? These are the things I worry about because I’ve very shy at crowded conventions.
On the other hand, when they go to organized writers’ conferences, they know they are going to be hit up with pitches. It is just another day on the job for them. When the same conference has a pitch fest, the event becomes a golden opportunity for writers to approach them in an organized safe way. This is best for both. Agents don’t want to be chased into the bathroom (as one person on the Facebook page related) or have their dinner interrupted with an overzealous author. At the same time, those authors that respect boundaries might have difficulty knowing when it is proper to approach an agent. I’m shy, generally speaking. At a pitch event, I can bring it on. When I’m standing in line for drinks at a conference break, I can’t. I honestly think the agent wants a break by then. So I try to abide by the rules of polite society and common sense, but that begs the question of when to approach them in a nonorganized way at a sci-fi convention.
The Second Group of Responses
I got some good recommendations for possible general writing conferences, most of which I already knew about.
- Pikes Peak Writers Conference: This is a very good regional conference and I enjoyed the one time I went. It wasn’t too pricey (as conferences go) but only had around six agents (can’t remember actual number) of which only four might be interested in my work. For all the cost of the registration fee, hotel, air flight, and more. I spent a lot of money to meet these folks.
- Thrillerfest (which I’m attending next week): This is a pricey national conference. The event is huge with lots of opportunities for learning, socializing, and pitching. I’ve gone four times before. I feel like I get good “bang for my buck” at larger, national conferences like this and the Writers’ Digest ones.
- Push to Publish: I’ve never been but it was recommended to me.
- Philia Writer’s Conference: I’ve never been but it was recommended to me.
- Writing Excuses week long cruise: I’ve never been. I researched it and it talked about a lot of famous authors, over three hundred attendees… and one agent. As much as it would be fun, it is not a good option, in my opinion, for meeting multiple agents.
K. Tempest Bradford, who is a media critic and writing instructor, stated that I should concentrate on the conventions that have a high percentage of agents/editors who won’t mind doing a little side business. Again, how would I know about these people unless they literally have signs on them? She recommended these general sci-fi cons. I only know about the one that I commented on.
- World Fantasy Convention
- Gen Con: This is a gaming convention with a huge writer panel. Authors show up at it and sign and sell books. To my knowledge, agents don’t bother.
Third Group of Responses
This was the disheartening group because it seemed filled with bitterness. I’ll paraphrase it as “Pitch fests aren’t worth it. The agencies only send their newest, crappy agents, most agents hate these events, etcetera.” I have no idea what agents think about these pitch fests. I’ve been to several in California, Colorado, and New York City and the professionals been wonderfully kind to me. I always walk away with at least three or more requests for pages. The bigger the event, the more requests I get.
I have also met a LOT of established agents and CEOs of their companies, thus blowing away the “newest agent” comment. As far as that goes, I have absolutely no problem dealing with a new agent as long as we have good chemistry. I’m in it for the long haul and looking for a partner that will support me and also tell me when I’m wrong
Ultimately, I was right. None of the science-fiction conventions appear to have the same setup as Thrillerfest, where they spend three days supporting writers and then two days celebrating fans. Although people on this Facebook page said they DO feel supported, the main gist of the advice was to go to mainstream writers’ conferences because “science fiction is different.” I disagree. Sci-fi is great with a huge body of supporters, writers, publishers, and agents. Yes, there are writing panels and workshops at places like Worldcon and the larger regional ones, but it stops there. So why can’t Worldcon have two days for writing and a pitch fest for those of us trying to become established authors? Why not support up and coming writers directly at some of the larger literary-oriented cons? It is the one way where we sci-fi people fall a little short of supporting our own.
Meanwhile I will be at Thrillerfest this week, pitching my feminist YA story about life for women in the Asteroid Belt where the Old West meets The Martian. Please wish me luck!