Do Your Research: Writing Conference Success

Mary AndonianBy Mary Andonian

Plot Your Course
You just received your conference brochure in the mail. What to do? The first thing I’d recommend is go online and print another copy of the brochure from the conference Web site. This will be your working copy: the one you will dog-ear, mark up, highlight, and scribble on. Your goal this month is to profile the agents and editors listed in the brochure, and map out your workshops. If you already have your list ready, spend this month reading books on how to pitch. We’ll catch up to you in August.

Most conferences have a limit on how many pitches you can buy. Plan on picking four agents and editors and learn as much about them as you can. Here are a few sites to help you:

Part of Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Market is my favorite source of information. For a low subscription price ($30/year), you have instant access to a searchable database. Not only will you learn more about your target agents’ and editors’ needs, you will also be able to use Writers Market’s “submission tracker,” a neat organizational e-tool that helps you keep track of your queries and proposals.

HINT: If you don’t find your agents’ or editors’ names, try using their agency or imprint names.

Publishers Lunch is self-described as the most widely read daily dossier in publishing and known as “publishing’s essential daily read.” This is a free e-newsletter that gives you the latest, greatest info on everything publishing. My favorite part is the weekly deals. They describe who’s selling what, for how much, and by whom. Scan their weekly list. Is your targeted agent there? If so, what is she selling?

HINT: If you have the means, purchase a subscription to the companion of Publishers Lunch, Publishers Marketplace. This is a site dedicated to publishing professionals and acts as a clearinghouse. It is only available to registered members for a $20 monthly fee. Membership is month-to-month, so you can always use it short term to glean the most up-to-date info on your targeted agents/editors.

Bill’s List might take you a while to navigate, but once you figure out how to search on it, you will find information GOLD.

HINT: Check out the “No Dumb Questions” section to find questions (and their answers) you don’t have the guts to ask.

This is a wonderful site that acts as an industry watchdog. They reveal scam artists and other folks who would not act in your best interest if they should happen across your manuscript. Compile your target list and then go here to feel better about your choices. I just searched on my agent’s name and saw that she was “recommended.” I’m feeling better already.

HINT: If you can’t find the agency name, search for your agent or editor by their first name. As stated on their Web site: P&E lists agents by first name just like businesses because businesses don’t have last names.

Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. You can reach her at (

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