Back in August, a friend asked me if I wanted to attend the Atlanta Writers Conference with her in November. Neither of us had attended a writers conference before but after looking into the details, we both decided to attend.
The conference is set up so that participants pay only for the sessions that they wish to attend. At the time of sign up, we were offered:
- a Q & A session with a panel of editors
- a Q & A session with literary agents
- a query letter critique
- a manuscript critique (first nineteen pages were to be sent in by early October followed by a fifteen minute critique session at the conference in November)
Even as early as August, we had to be put on a waitlist for a manuscript critique. Although I did eventually get offered a spot a few weeks before the conference, I decided not to take the spot as my kids’ novel needed some major work (specifically, I worry that I need to revise the point-of-view, as I am afraid I need to work on character development in its current state).
Two friends and I ended up attending the conference. They live closer to Atlanta than I do currently and made it down in time to attend the orientation on Friday. I had to work, unfortunately, and drove from North Carolina down to Atlanta Friday night, about a six hour drive from my town.
Although I missed the very beginning of the conference, I was able to check in the morning and received my schedule for Saturday. I signed up for the Literary Agent Q and A session and was able to also attend a few free seminars.
Literary Agent Q and A
This session was a great insight into the behind-the-scenes work that agents do once they receive a submission from a writer. They provided a lot of helpful feedback about query letters (keep them three to four paragraphs long, make your voice unique yet professional, include your credentials, etc.).
The most useful advice I gained from the session was learning how agents find writers whose work they’re interested in. For example, some of the agents mentioned finding writers by reading their blogs, scouting through Google searches, and paying attention to winners of literary contests.
The Seven Marketing Habits of Bestselling Authors
Grace Wynter is a romance author that led this session. She walked us through the different steps she takes to reach more readers, including building mailing lists and offering giveaways of her writing through Bookfunnel and Prolific Reader.
Critique Groups, Writers Groups, Hard-Won How-To Lessons
This session was conducted by Roger Johns, a mystery writer from the Southeast. He gave the audience lots of advice on how to create an author website, why you might want to create a newsletter for your readers, and tips for keeping a blog about your writing experiences.
As I mentioned earlier, I decided not to submit my unfinished manuscript as I felt it needed some major restructuring. However, my friends that participated in manuscript critiques received tons of feedback that helped guide them in taking the next step with their drafts. They were even asked to resubmit their manuscripts to the literary agents after they incorporated the suggested edits, which was promising.
Overall, the conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn about writing careers from professionals in the field. I also got the chance to meet many other writers in the region, including graphic novelists. The total cost of the conference for me was about 200 dollars, factoring in the $50 Atlanta Writers Club membership, $50 for the Q and A session, and approximately $100 for a hotel room and gas. For future conferences, I would definitely prepare a manuscript ahead of time so that I could participate in the critique, as I felt this process was a fundamental aspect of the conference.