This will be my third Romance Writers of America conference. For those of you who don’t have a clue what this means, imagine two thousand romance writers crowded into one hotel. There are workshops, books signings, famous author sightings and pitch opportunities. This is no cheap trip. Unless you live close to Atlanta, the entire trip runs close to $2000 including the $500 registration fee. Some end up paying much more due to shopping, drinking or the distance they are from Atlanta. Why do aspiring romance writers flock to the conference?
Many aspiring writers believe this is their chance to become another Nora Roberts. It makes sense since Nora Roberts was one of the founding members of RWA. The purpose of RWA is to help romance writers become published authors. No other genre has such a comprehensive group. This might be the reason agents and editors come to RWA to listen to anxious writers pitch their tales.
One popular writer mentioned at a previous conference that RWA flies in the agents and editors to bring in the money. It certainly works. Not only am I paying $500 to attend, but also the hotel jacked up all room prices on what was already an expensive stay. The rumor was that the agents all ask for your work so you have a positive feeling about the conference. This was easy enough to check.
I’ve been to two conferences so far and had full requests at each. Nothing came of it. The editor who asked for my story at the first conference left her position and sent my book back. The second conference editor returned my book two weeks later, stating she didn’t need any more vampire tales. It was about the Civil War, no vampires were included. As for the other attendees I asked, about 60% did get requests. It isn’t surprising since RWA chapters groom the writers and manuscripts for the romance novel industry. That particular rumor doesn’t have validity.
Agents are notorious for asking for your work and not calling. This rumor does appear to have some validity. Most of the writers I talked to never heard from the agents requesting their work. Not even to acknowledge they received the work. A few received an automated email. This is not a place to find an agent. Most people are not at their best trying to condense what they’ve done in the last year in an eight-minute pitch. The same agent might be more attentive in a less nerve-wracking environment. So the issue is, where do you normally meet agents? This is why people are willing to fork over the big bucks to meet an agent.
There is a ladder system in place too. Published authors who are making money meet the agents and editors first. These authors do not promise their firstborn nor do they dress up like a character from their story trying to be memorable. Their pitch focuses on the story.
Pitching your book is similar to attending a dance stag. The attendee’s goal is to dance with someone. Does the begging writer who blathers out her life story get to dance? What do you think? The rude writer who ambushes an editor in the bathroom never gets a request for a full. A writer who promises a potential agent with books she hasn’t written will find her life difficult, especially if the agent does request that unfinished manuscript.
Agents and editors are human. While you are pitching your book, stumbling over your character’s name, they might be thinking about how much they need to go to the bathroom or that they are hungry. They are trying to pay attention. It is hard to be interested with dozens of nervous people rushing through their stories, barely taking time to breathe. Be yourself. Take a breath. Be polite. Do not ramble about your children, trip or pets. Be interested in the person you are meeting. If you do these things, your meeting should be more pleasant for the both of you.
Tomorrow, I will address the benefits of attending, besides the pitch appointments.