Writer's Conference Success

 by Kate Penndorf
Kate is an editing client of Open Door Publications who is working on an exciting children’s fantasy novel titled, “Freya and the Dragon’s Egg.” Here is her firsthand report of her recent experience at the Backspace Agent/Author Seminar in New York City.
   I am excited to say that my experience at the 2009 Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in NYC was extremely rewarding! Never having been to a conference before, and not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, I tried to stay calm and I told myself to simply get as much out of the conference as possible. But I have to confess I was rather excited to see what the agents would have to say about my book, and so of course every night leading up to Nov. 5 I role-played in my head that an agent would actually request to see my first three chapters!
   The conference was broken down into two days; day one’s focus was to strengthen your query letter, and day two’s focus was to strengthen your opening pages. I chose only to attend the first day and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
   The conference was designed with one specific goal: to have authors and agents come together in a relatively stress-free environment. On the day I attended, authors were asked to bring copies of their query letter to share with agents and other authors during two small group sessions. So, prior to the conference I checked out every book and website on how to write a query letter in hopes that mine wouldn’t receive too much constructive criticism. I had been told that the agents at the conference were all actively seeking new authors and I didn’t want a poorly written query letter to dampen my chances of catching some attention.
   The program opened with six agents discussing “What Literary Agents Want” in a one hour panel, followed by the first round of query letter workshops. My small group consisted of nine other authors and two agents. Each author’s query letter was read aloud then critiqued by the agents. We were all nervous during our first sitting with the agents, although I must say they were polite enough to let us finish reading our queries before offering suggestions. Feedback included, among other items, shortening a book’s title, deleting unnecessary information, finding accurate comparisons for the genre, re-defining the book’s genre, and book length in regards to its genre. We then were able to make any desirable changes during the lunch break and print out fresh copies for round two of the query letter workshops where each group would be assigned to two new agents.
   As neither of the agents at the morning session took much interest in my story, I made a quick couple of changes to my query and kept my fingers crossed for a better response in the afternoon. And to my surprise, I had just that! Both agents in the afternoon asked to see my first three chapters, so here’s hoping and let’s see what happens! My revised query letter, although having caught the agents’ eye, was by no means a perfect example of what a query letter should look like, as I soon realized when the second panel hour of agents discussed “First Contact: Query Letters That Worked.”
The day ended with guest speaker Richard Krevolin offering secrets of good storytelling while giving a sort of pep talk directed at the authors who hadn’t managed to spark any interest among the agents.
   All in all, I really enjoyed my time at Backspace and I took away from the conference a lot of useful information not only about how to write a query letter, but also how the industry works.
Update: Kate quickly sent the first three chapters of her book to the two agents who requested it. Just before Thanksgiving she received a very positive response from one of the agents. The agent suggested several revisions to the work and asked to see the chapters again once those revisions were made.
Good luck, Kate!

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