Sci-Fi Agents: Where are they gathering?

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.

Metropolis girl

I’d love to cosplay this character.

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.

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

In Conclusion

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!

Happy writing!

Writers’ Conferences

As the new year begins, I start to ponder what conferences I should go to this year, particularly since I have a new science fiction manuscript to start pitching. I’m a big believer in writers’ conferences for several reasons. They are great places to for learning skills and getting updates on the publication world. Also, everyday writing tends to be a solitary activity and attending one of these events allows me to swim in a welcoming, nourishing community of like-minded individuals. I always come home with contacts, ideas and a renewed energy for writing and marketing. Finally, I’ve had more success in pitching to literary agents during conference events than sending in query letters or tweeting during agent events. They come to the conferences looking for specific projects. If yours sounds like it matches, then they are highly likely to request more.

I’ve done some research on national, regional, and local conferences coming up in the next few months and want to share the info with you. The items below are not an end-all, be-all list but merely a starting platform. If you recommend one not listed here, please write to me and I’ll give it a shout out as well.

Note: The names are linked to websites for more information.

February

15-18: San Francisco Writers Conference. The website states that they have pre-and post-event master classes, 100+sessions. 20+ literary agents for speed dating, and 100+ attendees so it is a large conference. The price is $845, which is about right for a four-day event that includes multiple meals.

23-25: Genre-LA hosted by the West Coast Writers Conferences specifically focuses on sci-fi and fantasy work (among others). Looks well organized and it is not that expensive to attend. It includes 1-on-1 ProCritiques with agents and Editors. The only problem is that the information at the website still mostly lists the 2017 conference.

March

7-10: 2018 AWP Conference & Bookfair. This huge conference (12,000 attendees) is in Tampa, Florida. It is a true networking event for writers, teachers, editors and publishers. I’ve never been but it doesn’t strike me as a place for performing manuscript pitches. If you know otherwise, please let me know!

10-11: Chicago Writers Association Writers Conference features 16 guest speakers. This small, regional conference is dubbed “Let’s Just Write, An Uncommon Writers Conference” with the ticket price running around $300. The website does not list a lot of information.

22-25: New York Pitch Conference is not a conference in the traditional sense. It has an application process and keeps the attendance small. You meet with writing experts the first day and use your pitch to analyze your book. After that you get the chance to pitch to editors in the big NY houses. I’ve been to this event once and it was a nerve-wracking weekend. However, the information was great and I got two requests for my book from top NY houses. Unfortunately, I was still new to the business and the book wasn’t ready to be shopped around.

April

April 6-8: The Muse & The Marketplace is hosted by GrubStreet. They offer a Manuscript Market, which is a 20 minute critique session with an editor or agent, and Shop Talk Lunch for meeting professionals.

April 12-15: Pathways to Publication hosted by the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Writers’ Institute. They are featuring seven agents and a critiquing service. They also have an unusual offering for 30 writers who are willing to work with a coach for six months on a novel. This seems like an excellent opportunity for authors struggling with starting their book.

April 19-21: Las Vegas Writer’s Conference 2018 is hosted by the Henderson Writers Group. This regional conference offers little information (so far) at their website but the previous keynote speakers are impressive. This year they are offering a full day workshop with Jane Friedman.

April 27-29: Pikes Peak Writers Conference is hosted by a writer’s group of the same name. I went to this conference a few years ago. The people were warm and friendly. The sessions were extremely helpful and taught by real experts. It offers a prequel day, a query 1-on-1 critique session with literary agents and a contest. At the time I attended, the prequel day was aimed at research information for paranormal and urban fantasy writing. This year the focus is more on crime, space and the writing process.

National Conferences with Early Bird Prices

Thrillerfest, July 10-14, Advanced price ends Feb. 28, 2018

Writer’s Digest, August 10-12, Cheapest price ends Feb 6th and then they go up to the next cheapest level, which ends April 17th.

I’ll post more conferences as their time draws nearer. If you have one you want me to discuss, please contact me