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Signing Off from the San Francisco Writers’ Conference

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

February 17, 2019

Whew! What a whirlwind four days, with more than 50 informative break-out sessions about publishing, skewed in tracks that included Self-Pub, Fiction, Nonfiction, Marketing/Biz, Children’s/YA, and Poetry. Overall, this conference was very well run, with over 80 volunteers keeping time, providing guidance, and ensuring attendees have what they need.

Of course, there were glitches. Not sure if the literary gods were against me, or I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time, but my Speed Dating experience Sunday at 11 a.m. was a complete bust. For those who don’t know what Speed Dating is, you pay to get three minutes with each literary agent seated in a large room full of about 10-15 agents. Each provides advice. There are preparation events for you to hone your pitch, so I was well-prepared. But my problem was genre.

I write literary fiction, in spite of my desire to call it “upmarket women’s fiction.” The latter is easier for agents to sell. My latest novel is actually a literary thriller, so with that genre fit, there were only four agents slated for the Speed Dating event who were good targets for my pitch.

Get There Early

When I got to the conference room, 20 minutes ahead of time, there was already a long line of about 40 other authors. Yikes. Lesson learned. Get there at least 45 minutes early.

Being near the last of the line meant I was going to have to stand in line for each agent, which I tried to see as a good thing so I could practice my pitch. My first targeted agent only had two people ahead of me, so I picked that line, mistakenly thinking I'd move on to the next three agents after I'd finished with her.

Goofy thing was, the first agent stopped me mid-pitch and said that she didn’t take any material that had violence against women in it. That somewhat stunned me, as thrillers have violence against BOTH genders, and have for centuries, but — had she let me finish — my novel has a plot convention that, well, I won't tell you the ending, but, as they say in the movies, no animals were harmed in the creation of my story.

I didn’t know how to reply to her views, so I gave her an obsequious thank you, got up, and headed toward the three other agents I was going to target. But guess what. Two of them were NOT EVEN THERE. Here they were advertised as agents we could pitch, and there were tables for them, but they were goners.

That left only ONE agent in the room who handled literary works, Annie Hwang, the same agent I had missed my paid consultation with, due to the scheduling system mistake. When I headed her way, her line had 18 authors in it, dastardly literary fiction types like me. At three minutes per pitch, that added up to more than time than the session (or my bad knees) would last. So, I was out of luck, and simply left.

Sadly, I lost bucks on this venture but decided this was definitely my last Speed Dating exercise. So much depends on which agents handle which genres, and you don’t know who will actually be there, until long after you’ve spent your money.

On the Good News Front

I received a refund for my missed appointment Friday. I also greatly enjoyed a marketing session about Amazon this morning, led by Penny C. Sansevieri, founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts. I had to miss her second session about getting book reviews due to the horrors of Speed Dating, but I’ve ordered an audio of the reviews session, and will follow up with her to see how much she charges for optimization of my varied online book marketing tools.

As I said, overall, this has been an excellent conference for authors, with friendly, helpful folks. I’m no spring chicken, but I ran into a gal named “Bette” last night at the gala cocktail party who was just gleaming. Bette is about 80 and walks with a cane. She told me that after her 15-minute paid agent’s consultation (not Speed Dating), she had been asked to submit her full manuscript for a romance. I hope she lands a publisher.

If you’ve ever avoided authors’ conferences because you are not young, never fear. There's a full range of ages. If expenses are an issue, there’s a very good conference in Austin, hosted by the Writer’s League of Texas. That conference is skewed more toward contacting with agents and editors, so if you have a finished manuscript, check out the Austin one. No, it’s not in San Francisco, but it’s one-half the price to gain exposure to more varied agents, longer consultations, no dreaded Speed Dating, and even the editors take pitches.

Again, many thanks for following me, and especially for reading and rating my work!

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