Why Agents and Editors Attend Conferences

Posted on Tue, Feb 6 2018 2:27 pm by Dawn Frederick


Recently, Red Sofa Literary completed a three-month period of being closed to queries. For anyone who hasn’t found themselves in the position of reading hundreds of queries, while also attempting to get other work done, it’s a constant balancing act in the agent and editor world.

First and foremost, we want to ensure that our authors are taken care of, while also keeping our minds (and slate) open for new ideas that reach our desks. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and at some point we have to sleep. So we close for queries intermittently.

There’s another reason why we may close to queries: we’re getting ready for a busy few months of conference travel. Yes, writers’ conferences. It’s one of my favorite things to do, as I get the chance to visit other cities in the company of other book folks. There’s the adventure and book talk; this is why it’s a delight to attend them.

In order to ensure that we’re ready for these conferences, we’ll plan any classes that we plan to teach at the conference, while finishing any reading from our query inboxes beforehand. The goal: to have both the time and the room on our lists to potentially work with any writer who presents a fun and exciting idea at these conferences.

The organizers of these conferences are promising their attendees that the agents and editors will be available for book pitches. It’s our responsibility to be receptive to these ideas, and to provide the education to anyone who may need to fine tune an idea. While every writer may not find their perfect agent/editor match at a conference, it’s important those agents and editors in attendance provide the critiques and education that will result in finding a future match (maybe through the inbox or at a different conference).

While there are thousands of books published a year, the number of people working in publishing is a much lower number. By providing support to authors at these conferences, we are helping both the authors and their future agents/editors. This is a work of love, as every interaction with a publishing professional should help any author move from creating the concept to—hopefully—publication.

Sometimes authors will mistakenly put all their proverbial eggs in the basket of one conference, only gauging success if an agent or editor match is made. That’s a high-end goal, as most conferences having a larger goal—generally, to ensure authors are educated on many aspects of the publishing process. And if being able to practice pitches with industry professionals (who may want to see your idea afterwards!) is part of the experience, then I highly recommend it.

We participate in conferences to share our knowledge, and to share in the geekery of the book life. We are not the conference, the authors are—the agents and editors in attendance are simply honored to be a part of the overall experience.

So if you have the opportunity to take a weekend “residency” at a writer’s conference, do it. Not only will there be classes on improving your craft, but you’ll also be connected with many different facets of the publishing industry. This is a priceless experience in your writerly life, but equally valuable on many levels in the immediate (and future) goals of your writing career.

 Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner & literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. Red Sofa Literary is a celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our publishing community. Dawn’s previous experience reflects a broad knowledge of the book business, with over a decade of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores, an editor for a YA publisher, and an associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. Dawn earned a BS in Human Ecology and a MS in Library & Information Sciences from an ALA-accredited institution. She is also one of the founders of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, which brings writers and publishers together over a monthly happy hour. Red Sofa Literary was voted as one of the Best 101 Websites by Writer’s Digest in 2012 and 2013. Dawn will be taking pitches at the Loft's upcoming Pitch Conference this April.