This was my first James River Writers Conference October 10 to 11, 2008. I went with the idea that I would learn about the business of writing, meet some new writers, and if I had a meeting with an agent, well, that would be a plus.
She said she was looking for clients. Well, I am looking for an agent, so I did my best. My appointment was her third from the last on the second day, a timing I prefer when I have to make a sales pitch. “Always go last if you can,” my business mentor Chan Preston says. You’ll leave a lasting impression! I pitched my women’s fiction, Unintended Consequences, about a woman who comes out of retirement to take care of two generations in a dysfunctional family. Ms. Clark asked me to send her a query letter and the first 80 pages of my novel. I have done so.
To help once an editor buys your manuscript, draw up a formal marketing plan. Get to know your local indie and big box book stores. The indies are great because they hand-sell books. The big box stores are important because you need to sweet talk them into giving you, a new writer, precious shelf space. It’s a lot of smoozing and getting to know people who can help sell your books. But you all know that already. I asked if my backgound in marketing would be a detriment. One agent said he’d kill to have a client like me. Since I would rather live, I didn’t pursue him!
The only session that was disappointing was on the literary novel. Three panelists tried to define it. They lost me with “it’s like porn. I know it when I see it.” I expected better.
Would I go again? Yes. Did I find the investment in time and the cost of the conference worth it? Again yes. I recommend the conference to any writer, whether just starting out, changing genres, or seeking to broaden horizons as a published author.